Presidents are measured by their responses to crises. And in his response to Saturday’s terror attack in London, President Donald Trump came up small.
In a moment that called for sympathy and support, the president instead launched a storm of petty and peevish tweets. In one, he criticized the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a liberal Muslim with whom the president has had an ongoing feud. Trump tweeted: “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed.’”
Khan was indeed trying to calm his city, but Trump’s implication that the mayor viewed the horrific event as “no reason to be alarmed” was a gross manipulation of what the mayor said and did. The mayor told the BBC that he was “appalled and furious that these cowardly terrorists would target” innocent people and promised, “we will never let them win, nor will we allow them to cower our city.”
Once again, Trump simply lost control and blasted away on Twitter without measuring his words.
He even used the tragedy to huff and puff about how “we must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people.” He added later, “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of security.”
Oh, yes, the travel ban – the one aimed at six predominantly Muslim countries that’s been repudiated in U.S. courts.
If only had Trump stopped with the one tweet that was appropriate: “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U.K. we will be there.” But he didn’t.
This attack of course prompts heightened concern worldwide, and should. And it will undoubtedly focus attention on a need for the civilized nations of the world to redouble anti-terrorism efforts, although they’ve never backed down from concentrating on that ongoing crisis.
Trump is in a position to lead that anti-terrorism campaign, but when he politicizes a horrible tragedy such as this to push for his travel ban, he weakens himself. Rather, he should focus on working with other countries in a position to help the United States root out terrorist cells and destroy them forever. That will take cooperation with allies and it will be accomplished with diplomacy, not the kind of bullying rhetoric to which Trump seems addicted.