It seems that every single time President Donald Trump has the opportunity to act “presidential,” he summarily mucks it up. Post-inauguration, when the country could have benefitted from genuine calls for unity? Trump was focused on the (dismal) size of his inauguration crowd. When terrorists attacked and murdered people in the streets of London? Trump tried to pick a Twitter fight with the mayor of London. When white supremacists marched on a Virginia city, killing a counter-protester? Trump equated the two groups of demonstrators in a staggering, seeming-defense of neo-Nazism. And now, as Hurricane Harvey continues to pound the Gulf Coast, leaving an untold number of Americans dead and displacing thousands in what could shape up to be the worst natural disaster in American history? Trump’s back again on his crowd size.
During a visit to Texas Tuesday, the president took the mic and remarked, “What a crowd, what a turnout” to the first responders and others affected by the disaster who had assembled. As the city was consumed by tragedy, the president was predictably again obsessed with his top priority: himself.
His nearly laughable responses to every important moment of the last nine months have led to some of us just begging for a solitary moment of sanity from the president. All he had to do in Texas was offer (even seemingly) genuine concern, give out hugs to victims, listen to their stories; instead he came off as cold, callous and unbelievably out of touch. The danger could be when he does finally meet that low standard of human empathy; in a country so starved for actual leadership, any successful attempt to bring a basic level of humanity to the office may be celebrated far more than it should.
We shouldn’t be looking for just some hugs and kind words from our president. Every time Trump fails to fulfill the most foundational expectations of the presidency, he should be held to an even higher standard at the next opportunity, tasked with digging himself out of the hole he made. His outrageous antics are causing many to lower the bar in an effort that one day, maybe, he’ll hit it.
But let’s resist calling for just basic civility and decency from our president. Americans deserve more.