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Even in an El Paso hospital, Trump's focus turned to crowd sizes

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump turns away from the cameras as he speaks at a town hall event in Appleton, Wis., March 30, 2016. (Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump turns away from the cameras as he speaks at a town hall event in Appleton, Wis., March 30, 2016.

Most of what we've seen from Donald Trump's visit to University Medical Center in El Paso yesterday came from the White House, which released a hagiographic 58-second video of the president's visit. Professional journalists were prohibited from covering what transpired.

But since it's 2019, and much of the public has smart phones, someone filmed this portion of Trump's comments to hospital staff yesterday, and shared the video with the local CBS affiliate. The president certainly started on a sensible note, praising the medical professionals who treated -- and continued to treat -- victims of the recent mass shooting in their community.

But Trump couldn't help being Trump.

After commending the staff's work, Trump pivoted to bragging about the turnout he received at a rally in the border city. "I was here three months ago," Trump said. "That place was packed... and we had twice the number outside."The president then squeezed in jabs about O'Rourke's El Paso rally held on the same day in opposition to Trump. "Then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot," Trump said.

The official line from the White House was that reporters weren't allowed to cover the event because it wasn't a photo-op; it was a solemn occasion in the wake of a deadly tragedy. We know from the many photographs the president promoted via social media that the line wasn't true.

It seems far more likely that the media was blocked because the president's aides are painfully aware of Donald Trump's propensity to act like Donald Trump.

In this case, Trump visited a hospital, met with medical professionals, and shared with them what was on his mind: the number of people who attended one of his recent events, which he insists was bigger than Beto O'Rourke's crowd at a competing event.

It followed a related tweet Trump published around midnight on Tuesday night in which the president also bragged about "beating" O'Rourke's crowd size.

To the extent that the details matter, what Trump said wasn't actually true. But on the list of things that made the president's comments ridiculous, that isn't at the top.

Alas, the incident also isn't isolated. In August 2017, Trump visited a Texas area affected by a hurricane, and during a brief stop in Corpus Christi, he marveled at the size of the crowd of people who wanted to see him.

And, of course, on the day after Trump's presidential inauguration, he personally ordered the director of the National Park Service to produce photographs of his inaugural event in the hopes that it would convince the media that it was well attended.

No one should ever think about crowd sizes quite this much.