This is where I am with Donald Trump.
Long before he stepped in front of the cameras and hot mics on Monday in an awkward and uncharacteristic attempt at being the balm the nation turns to in dark times like this, I had reconciled that there was nothing Trump could say — because of what he has been saying — that would help me cope with the at least 58 killed in the Las Vega mass shooting carried out by a deranged American terrorist living in a Nevada retirement community.
When George Bush addressed the nation in the aftermath of 9/11, he was my president, despite all of the slow-to-heal and unaddressed issues America remains burdened with to this day. Say what you will about him, but Bush never inserted his ego into everything, never put himself ahead of the interests of the nation. So when Bush addressed the nation after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the plane that terrorists forced to crash in Pennsylvania, like him or not, Bush had not created a leadership crisis that disqualified him from executing what had to be done as president.
This is part of what Trump said yesterday, none of it credible coming from him.
“In moments of tragedy and harm, America comes together as one, and it always has. We call upon the bonds that unite us — our faith, our family and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community and the comfort of our common humanity,” Trump said. “Our unity can not be shattered by evil, our bonds can not be broken by violence, and though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today and always will forever.”
I heard one CNN host laud the president for beginning his address by saying, “My fellow Americans.” CNN chief national correspondent John King called his speech “pitch perfect,” and countless others on television lauded him throughout the day for doing the only thing any president could do in such a moment.
But Trump is not those sweet and syrupy words that he uttered on Monday, and to act as if they ring genuine is simply television news acting, nothing more.
Who he is — and who he will always be — is the man who castigated the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, her only crime being begging the homeland for help amidst the complete destruction of her town by back-to-back hurricanes. He calculated his attack on majority Black NFL players as “sons of bitches” who regularly take a knee in protest of police brutality, contorting the reality of their protest into what his political base needs to hear in order to fuel its persecution-by-minorities fantasy — that these are high-paid and ungrateful Blacks spitting in the eye of patriotism that is justified in not valuing Black life as much as it does white. Trump has created safe spaces for white supremacists by equating them to those who protest these vermin, even after they have left an innocent woman dead.
His history is replete with the mocking of a handicapped reporter for the New York Times. He made light of Senator John McCain, a war hero diagnosed with the worst form of brain cancer, and said he was not a war hero because he was captured. Trump, meanwhile, used five deferments to avoid going to Vietnam. Four of them were for college and the last, after he could no longer use the college excuse — bone spurs in his heels.
There was a time when the president was given the benefit of the doubt because, well, he was the president. Richard Nixon lost this after the Watergate scandal that ultimately forced his resignation.
The Russian investigation looms for Trump and that may or may not prove to be his undoing. But he has already undone any chance that he should be respected simply by dint of the fact that he occupies the White House.
The handicapped, veterans, the disenfranchised, all Americans he has disparaged in a manner beneath the office of the presidency, in a way that no other modern president has done, forced me and millions of other Americans on Monday to look somewhere else in a quest to reconcile the ugliness of Las Vegas.
He lost that authority long ago.