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Donald Trump fears he won't be idolized. Democrats fear he might get normalized. Thus, everything always will be about him.

That goes even for great national tragedy.

I hate to think, and hesitate to invoke, what would happen if another 9/11 occurred during the Trump presidency.

The nation didn't think much on Sept. 10, 2001, of George W. Bush. But it rallied behind and rooted for him. We were briefly one people under frightful attack, and he was the leader we had.

That was a healthier time.

On an occasion when every other modern president would have consoled the nation--be it Bush in the rubble of 9/11 or Ronald Reagan after the Challenger explosion or Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing or an eye-moistened Barack Obama after Sandy Hook--Trump instead raged aboard Air Force One en route from Dayton to El Paso about his unadoring media portrayal.

Democrats were getting more media attention for criticizing him than he was getting for visiting mass-shooting victims and receiving the adoration of at least some of the people he was meeting.

Democrats were criticizing him on a day they probably shouldn't--or normally wouldn't, if he was a normal president. It's because they believe the nation is increasingly on their side on the vital point that Trump is personally unfit. They believe suburban independent women will lean their way as long as Trump appears the incorrigible child he is.

I mean, my heavens, Trump retweeted on Saturday a raw conspiracy theory implicating the Clintons in Jeffrey Epstein's death.

You needn't be a Clinton defender to prefer a time when presidents were decent, or at least tactically circumspect, or generally sane.

So Democrats dare not give Trump even a day's hall-pass to take his best shot at human empathy, a capacity he seems to lack.

Maybe they should have left him alone for those visits last week to Dayton and El Paso. They didn't because they thought El Paso, at least, was inspired by his irresponsibly divisive behavior and rhetoric.

They couldn't let him get away with playing a healer.

If Trump becomes normalized, voters in the center in swing states will gravitate toward him because the Democratic presidential field is badly flawed. Democrats understand that. They recognize that Trump seeks at once to incite for the right wing and then normalize for the swing voters--to start the fire and then fight the fire. They are determined not to let him execute the straddle.

It's not a pretty politics.

Trump is so thoroughly megalomaniacal that Democrats, at once, can criticize him for bad behavior and incite him to more of it.

The Democratic criticism and media play on it caused this president to explode on Twitter and to his staff. He was irate that the way he was getting presented on the television screen--on The Truman Show in which he lives--wasn't about the warm and admiring way people in the Dayton hospital had treated him.

So a White House aide put aside dignity and tweeted that people were loving their great president.

The message was not that the president was loving them.

The White House put out a photo of Melania cradling the infant orphaned when his parents shielded him from the racist Walmart shooter in El Paso. And there stood the president beside her, grinning and giving a thumbs-up sign.

For ... what, exactly?

A baby's parents were dead, and the president was indicating something victorious ... that the imagery might make him look heroically empathetic, perhaps?

It's no longer a matter of which comes first--Trump's bad behavior or Democrats' incessant harping. By now it's all jumbled together in a permanent vortex and thoroughly dysfunctional American culture.

Democrats typically shouldn't beat up a guy as he flies as president to sites of American tragedy. But a typical president wouldn't tweet like that, and incite like that, and self-obsess like that, and exploit like that, and further divide like that.

But there is now this odd circumstance: Trump's megalomaniacal fealty to his own idolatry is not necessarily a negative thing in all circumstances.

It appears possible that Trump--by watching television and sensing the heroism opportunities in the national mood for stronger background checks, and upon political advice that it's a worthy calculation to risk offending the NRA and his base a little to please suburban independent women a lot--will embrace an incremental advancement in background checks.

The likeliest bill would add gun shows and Internet sales.

That may be the magic place where everything being about Trump does some good.

Democrats would celebrate the policy and worry about the president normalizing and picking up suburban independents.

But they could surely trust that, in a few hours, Trump would be acting the fool again.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 08/13/2019

Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Even now, it's about him


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    August 13, 2019 at 6:49 a.m.

    The complete ignorance of our president in El Paso will fly over the heads of many of his base, especially the trolls in here. Past presidents have hugged and comforted those in sorrow or despair. Our current president treats the events like a rally about him rather than the community. Thumbs up for a photo op with an infant who was orphaned by a shooting about race? What decent human being would do such? Maybe one day Trump will learn to grieve with the rest of the nation. Maybe one day.

  • WGT
    August 13, 2019 at 7:06 a.m.

    We’ve had no President since President Obama left Office. Should another horror occur in the effect of 9/11, the people of this nation will instinctively partner with a person of substance, one with a clear definition of leadership, rather than follow this tragically flawed personae occupying the Office at the moment. Who that person of integrity may be, will be lifted to the occasion by the will and compassion of the people. It most certainly will not be what now disgraces the nation presently. This ugly chapter of American citizens retalitorially choosing such a sick human to be at the helm of political influence, will pass, and the repair, the healing, from the willfully inflicted damage done, will begin. Thank you John.

  • Rightside
    August 13, 2019 at 8:12 a.m.

    Democrat Senator who ask Trump if he can go into hospitals with the president than comes out and calls him a Racist and in bed with the gun lobby and media says Trump can't hit back.
    He retreets a african american comedian's video and left media losses it. Late night TV talk show host hit Trump every night the left and some colmunist love it.

    Tito Anchondo, who described himself and his slain brother as Trump supporters, told the Washington Post in an interview published on Friday that he felt consoled by the president's visit and denied that Trump was there "pushing any kind of political agenda."
    Anchondo said he chose to take his orphaned nephew, baby Paul, to the hospital to meet the president, and said others were politicizing his family's tragedy. The infant suffered two broken fingers in the shooting, but had since been discharged by doctors.

    Columnist, media and democrats still have not got over their queen Hillary loss, so 90 percent of stories have to be negative about the president. Left-wing media acting the fool again. Hate controls everything the media touches when it comes to Trump.

  • Waitjustaminute
    August 13, 2019 at 8:13 a.m.

    We've had no President since President Reagan left office. His VP wasn't up to the task, and the slide to the bottom began with Bill Clinton, who rejuvenated his reputation after his horrible speech at the Democratic convention by going on one of the late night shows to play the sax. I thought at the time that was beneath the dignity of someone who wanted to be taken serious as a potential President, but boy, I hadn't seen anything yet.
    - - - - - - - -
    Both Clinton and Obama were elected on the basis of their charm. They were the first two 'celebrity Presidents.' The problem with Obama was, he came in promising to be a uniter, but only drove the divisions deeper with remarks like "elections have consequences," "the police acted stupidly," "if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon," "before you Christians get on your high horses," "if you have a business, you didn't build that," and so many others. Along the way, many people were also alarmed that government was growing larger and more unaccountable, and the left wing becoming more militant. Forcing Catholic organizations to pay for birth control for its employees against its religious beliefs. Forcing bakers to make wedding cakes for gay couples against their religious beliefs. Businesses being boycotted over the religious beliefs of their owners.
    - - - - - - - -
    And in response to all that, we now have a different kind of 'celebrity President.' Brummett is on the mark with this column. Trump is toxic, and hateful, and divisive. For the first time in my life, I left the Presidential section of my ballot blank, because I knew four years of Hillary was nothing more than a third term for Obamaism. But Trump won by being the backlash aimed at both political parties, elected by voters who were fed up with what was going on in D.C.
    - - - - - - - -
    So while I agree with Brummett's sentiments, those of you who bash Trump while pretending your leftward power grab of the Obama years isn't responsible for creating him can just go jump in the nearest lake. To paraphrase RBear, maybe one day you liberals will learn a little humility. Maybe one day.

  • KimGartman
    August 13, 2019 at 9 a.m.

    The Trump presidency is Obama's legacy.

    August 13, 2019 at 9:02 a.m.

    Great column, John.

    And another delicious Trumpster trigger.


  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    August 13, 2019 at 10:08 a.m.

    It's hilarious how narcissistic leftists are.

  • hurricane46
    August 13, 2019 at 10:33 a.m.

    Of course it's about him, it always has been.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    August 13, 2019 at 10:36 a.m.

    It's awesome and it has been from day one.
    What a ride.
    What a long row yet to hoe!
    lawd lawd!
    Steam Train Comin!
    All these people hummin
    Steam Train Comin!
    Lawd lawd!

  • Packman
    August 13, 2019 at 10:40 a.m.

    The choice in 2020 will be to vote Republican/Trump or for socialism. Our President may win 40 states.