President Donald Trump thought about calling off his Saturday-night campaign rally in Murphysboro, Illinois, to mourn and honor those who lost their lives that morning at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. In the end, Trump went ahead with the event, denouncing anti-Semitism and urging the death penalty for the alleged gunman.
“We can’t make these sick, demented, evil people important [by] changing around our lives and schedules,” the president said, to applause. He drew a parallel between holding the rally and how his friend Dick Grasso, he said, had insisted on opening the New York Stock Exchange the day after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But that hadn’t happened—the exchange had closed for three trading days and a weekend after airliners loaded with passengers had flown into the World Trade Center towers. Trading reopened on Monday, September 17.
So Trump might have waited to reopen the midterm campaign. But he decided to carry on after the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue left 11 dead in what the Anti-Defamation League said was most likely the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
After his slightly downbeat opening, Trump, obviously reacting to the shootings, told the faithful, “If you don’t mind, I’m going to tone it down just a little bit. Is that okay?” His loud supporters cheered in disapproval, as if to say they had come to a boxing match to see boxing, not arm wrestling. But Trump didn’t disappoint.