US President Donald Trump walks after arriving on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 28, 2017.
SAUL LOEB

While slamming critics, Trump says his words ‘bring people together’

Updated

It was just two days ago when Donald Trump, delivering scripted remarks from a teleprompter, tried to respond to some recent mass shootings in an above-the-fray sort of way. “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside – so destructive – and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love,” the president said.

He waited a whole day before abandoning unity, devotion, and love by attacking Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) over his name and his standing in the polls. Evidently, the Republican doesn’t see partisanship as “destructive” after all.

On the White House south lawn this morning, as the president prepared to visit communities in Texas and Ohio still reeling from the mass murders, Trump stopped to briefly to talk to reporters. The president seemed eager, at least initially, to soften his tone.

“[Critics] are people that are looking for political gain. I don’t think they’re getting it. And, as much as possible, I’ve tried to stay out of that…. I think we have toned it down…. I would like to stay out of the political fray. […]

“I think my rhetoric is a very – it brings people together.”

How he managed to say this with a straight face wasn’t altogether clear.

But as part of the same brief remarks, Trump proceeded to twice point to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in relation to the Dayton shooter, criticize the Democratic mayor of Dayton, take another not-so-subtle shot at Beto O’Rourke, and wrap things up by calling Joe Biden “a pretty incompetent guy.”

And with that, the Republican left to bring comfort to grieving communities.

It’s a good thing the president likes to “stay out of the political fray.”

At various points in his presidency, Trump has been asked about what, if anything, he can do to help bring Americans together. In every instance, his answers suggested he didn’t understand the question.

As the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne explained in a column last fall, “For Trump and his enablers, national unity is not a noble goal but a dire threat to their political well-being.”

Alas, very little has changed.