Soon after Saturday night’s terrorist attack in London, where seven were killed and nearly 50 were injured, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis was asked for his reaction to the deadly incident. “I don’t know enough about it yet,” the Pentagon chief said, adding, “I like learning about something before I talk. So let me look into it.”
His boss adopted a very different kind of posture.
Donald Trump, who has unlimited access to expansive amounts of intelligence, initially responded to the attack by retweeting an item from the Drudge Report. Soon after, the American president declared, “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”
What does the White House’s proposed Muslim ban have to do with the attack? I don’t know; Trump didn’t say. What “rights” have we lost that Trump wants courts to restore? I don’t know; Trump didn’t explain that, either.
As more information came to light, Trump wrapped up his Saturday night commentary by saying, “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there - WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!” It wasn’t the most elegant of responses, but the sentiment seemed appropriate.
“We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’
“Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!”
Trump then went to play golf for a few hours.
When deadly incidents like these unfold, they create easy-to-pass leadership tests. Donald Trump may not realize the degree to which he failed.
1. A failure of decency: The American president thought it’d be wise to whine about the mayor of London in the aftermath of a deadly attack in London. Heads of state usually know better – as does anyone above the age of 11.
2. A failure of context: Trump took the mayor’s comments out of context. London’s Sadiq Khan told locals there’s “no reason to be alarmed” by increased police presence, not by the brutal murders.
3. A failure of consistency: Trump, before hitting the links, insisted it’s time to “get down to the business of security.” This might be marginally more compelling if Trump had an FBI director, a FEMA director, and that amazing anti-ISIS plan he promised to share after the election.
4. A failure of substance: We’re not having a gun debate because, thankfully, the terrorists didn’t have guns. And that’s because restrictions on gun ownership in the U.K. are severe. I’m not sure what point, exactly, Trump hoped to make. Was he trying to remind us that Saturday night’s death toll could’ve been much worse were it not for British gun laws?
5. A failure of judgment: It’s hard not to notice the striking differences between Trump’s reactions to foreign violence like Saturday’s attack in London and domestic violence such as the recent attack in Portland.
6. A failure of leadership: Whereas most Western leaders responded to the London attack with dignified messages of unity, Trump responded like … Trump. It’s part of a pattern with him: Trump’s response to last year’s attack in Orlando – the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history – was depraved, and his reaction to the attack in Nice, France, wasn’t much better.
What’s become painfully clear is that this is an American president who doesn’t respond well to crises. There are few qualities worse for the leader of a global superpower.