Pre-presidential Trump was a man of many faults and vices, but one endearing quality: He was no hypocrite. He exaggerated his wealth, his success, his physical fitness, but he never pretended to religion or morality.
Trump’s speech to the nation after the Las Vegas atrocity, however, was steeped in hypocrisy. He is the least outwardly religious president of modern times, the president least steeped in scripture. For him to offer the consolations of God and faith after mass bloodletting is to invite derision. “It is love that defines us,” said President Trump, and if we weren’t heartbroken, we would laugh.
Those who praised the speech, as CNN’s John King did, are reacting on reflex. This is the kind of thing we are used to hearing from Republican politicians; Trump is a Republican politician; therefore this is what he should say.
But whereas Vice President Pence could have pronounced those words with sincerity, or a convincing simulacrum thereof, Donald Trump looked shifty, nervous, and false. Speeches are watched as well as heard, and the viewer saw a president who wished he were somewhere else because he had been compelled to pretend something so radically false to his own nature.
For once, Trump read the speech exactly as written. Perhaps his aides talked him into it. Because Trump is not a good reader, he read the speech wrong. And because it sounded wrong, he looked bad.