Traumas and tragedies change people, at least briefly. They change lives for those closest; they emotionally affect those farther away; sometimes they change society as a whole.
One remarkable thing about President Donald Trump’s reaction to the massacre Saturday at a synagogue in Pittsburgh is how little it seems to have influenced him. As I reported over the weekend, his initial remarks were fairly detached; he later offered a more full-throated condemnation. But he seems incapable of compassion and consolation.
Moreover, he opted to move forward with a campaign rally Saturday evening in which he reprised a new line of attack this week: blaming the press for division in the country. On Thursday, before the FBI announced the arrest of a Trump admirer in a string of mail bombs, the president tweeted that the media was to blame for “a very big part of the Anger we see today.”
On Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, he said that “the media’s constant unfair coverage, deep hostility, and negative attacks … only serve to drive people apart and to undermine healthy debate.” He attacked journalists again on Saturday. And Monday morning, he tweeted this:
There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
....of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
These attacks are surprising insofar as the press is a victim of the attacks—at least one explosive device was sent to CNN—and insofar as Trump’s own rhetoric, as my colleague Adam Serwer explores, is a far more obvious touchstone for both the Pittsburgh massacre and the mail bombs.