Woody Allen famously said “80 percent of life is showing up.” It may be one of the few conventional maxims that Donald Trump observes. When trouble happens, whether it’s Texas, Florida, or Puerto Rico, Trump knows enough to show up.
This isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. There are legitimate concerns about a president disrupting things and diverting resources from a disaster or tragedy. You’ve still got to go. Maybe not immediately, but promptly. This is part of leadership. It’s part of the job. It allows the person responsible to actually survey the situation, serves as a symbolic sign of respect and remorse, and prevents the perception that the POTUS is out of touch with the situation on the ground.
So if showing up is 80 percent, what about the other 20 percent? Here, what you do or say really matters. Donald Trump will never emote like Bill Clinton—he’ll never be called “consoler-in-chief.” One can only imagine what it might be like to be consoled by Trump. It is a grimly funny thought. Then again, most Americans—especially country music fans who might be predisposed to like Trump—would probably just be grateful that he came.
This was a week when Trump had not one, but two, groups of Americans to console. The national media panned trump’s Tuesday trip to storm-ravaged San Juan. He attacked the mayor of San Juan, observed that the disaster could hurt the budget, and compared the death toll to Katrina. This raised the stakes for Trump’s visit to Vegas, allowing for the possibility of a d0-over.
Perhaps this is why, as the president and First Lady visited University Medical Center, there was no media present.
Afterwards, he addressed the press. “We met patients that were absolutely terribly wounded,” he said. “We are with you 100 percent …We are a great country and we are there for you.” He praised the “professionalism” of the doctors and nurses who treated them, the police department, and the victims who sought to help others.”
He declined to talk about gun control. Of the shooter, Trump said he was “a very sick man” and “a very demented person.”
Mostly on message during the talk, Trump opened the door for the media to nitpick. “Believe me, they are very lucky to be here,” he said of the victims. (He meant this as praise of the hospital and doctors and nurses, but who would say someone is “lucky” to be at a hospital.)
During a moment of levity, he noted that he had invited some of the people he met at the hospital to the White House. This gives the impression that the honor of a White House, in the wake of this tragedy, visit is somehow a big deal. It’s always about Trump.
On his way out the door, he took a swipe at NBC News, claiming that their report about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling him a “moron” was “fake news.” (NBC News stands by its reporting.)
We live in a crazy world. This is 2017.
At least he showed up.