Updated on August 5, 2019 at 4:38 p.m. ET
In a moment when Donald Trump’s presumed task was to comfort and unify Americans, he instead risked causing confusion: His speech about the weekend’s pair of mass shootings undercut his own proposal for confronting gun violence that he’d tweeted just three hours before.
Consistency has rarely been this president’s strong suit, especially in the aftermath of tragedy. He often leaves Americans scrambling to understand which of his various statements reflect his sincere beliefs about the event in question. Should they look to his tweets as a framework for understanding how he thinks the White House should respond? Or should his more formal remarks serve as a North Star?
It has been less than 48 hours since the latest mass shooting in America, and already voters have heard Trump contradict himself on how the country should move forward. What he does next, then, could help clarify whether this administration will take any action at all to try to curb mass shootings. Given the hodgepodge of ideas Trump has tossed out in just the past eight hours, the question now is which one he decides to stick to—or whether he simply moves on.
“He’s willing to have a presidential moment and read a carefully crafted speech that hits high notes. He did so in Las Vegas after the mass shooting, for example,” a former White House official told us, referring to Trump’s remarks after the 2017 massacre at a music festival, where he spoke about the “comfort of our common humanity” in times of tragedy. “But many in the media won’t focus on the speech text, and he’ll find something he doesn’t like in the coverage, and then things will devolve quickly from there,” the official added. “If past is prelude, that sort of scenario plays out yet again.”