On the 17th anniversary of the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in American history and with a monster hurricane bearing down on the East Coast, the President of the United States woke up on Tuesday morning and tweeted this:
“‘We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia, absolutely zero, but every day we get more documentation showing collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign, foreign spies & Russians, incredible.’ @SaraCarterDC @LouDobbs”
That was one of three tweets Trump sent early Tuesday morning in which he quoted from guests or anchors on either Fox Business Network (that’s where Dobbs’ show runs) or Fox News channel. Trump also quoted Dobbs maligning the Justice Department and did some bashing of the department himself by insisting more should be done about the text messages sent between former FBI employees Peter Strzok and and Lisa Page.
Trump did send a few tweets referencing the 9/11 anniversary – although they were decidedly self-referential.
First, he retweeted a post by White House aide Dan Scavino noting that Trump had signed a proclamation designation today “Patriot Day” and adding “#NeverForget #September11th.”
Then, he offered this “remembrance” up: “Rudy Giuliani did a GREAT job as Mayor of NYC during the period of September 11th. His leadership, bravery and skill must never be forgotten. Rudy is a TRUE WARRIOR!”
Next came a picture of himself and First Lady Melania Trump in front of the White House with this text: “Departing Washington, D.C. to attend a Flight 93 September 11th Memorial Service in Shanksville, Pennsylvania with Melania. #NeverForget.”
Finally, this: “17 years since September 11th!”
(The exclamation point. Why????)
That tweet about departing for the Shanksville service is the only one even close to the sort of thing that a traditional president might consider sending. And upon arriving at the event, Trump flashed a celebratory smile and pumped his fists as he greeted supporters on the tarmac in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Compare and contrast how Trump handled the 9/11 anniversary this morning with how other politicians did:
* Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: “No political or cultural content from me today. Just solemn reminder of a day we will never forget the innocent victims and the heroism of fire, police, and other 1st responders to whom we owe respect and thanks. #Remember911”
* Former President Bill Clinton: “Today we honor all those who lost their lives 17 years ago in NY, VA, and PA, their loved ones, and the brave first responders who risked their own lives to save others. The best tribute we can pay is to live our lives in a way that redeems the years they could not have.”
* New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “Seventeen years ago, as the world witnessed a heinous act of barbaric terrorism, we also saw the best of our nation as thousands of firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes selflessly rushed to Ground Zero to answer the call of duty.”
* Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: “Today is a day for remembrance and quiet reflection. We will never forget the heroes and victims of September 11, 2001.”
Hell, Paul Levesque – the professional wrestler known as Triple H – had a more “presidential” approach to the day than Trump, tweeting:
“With every passing year we will #NeverForget:
Those we lost…
Those who showed extraordinary courage…
Those who work every day to protect us. #September11th”
I’ve always maintained that the best way to get a true sense of what Trump cares about and what is occupying his mind is to pay attention to his Twitter feed. And what his Twitter feed makes plain is that the President of the United States spent some decent-sized chunk of his morning watching a taped show by a conservative anchor who has emerged as one of his biggest defenders. (Dobbs’ show on Fox Business Network runs live at 7 p.m.)
Trump’s bows to the solemnity of the 9/11 anniversary feel forced and perfunctory. (Seriously, why is there an exclamation point at the end of that final tweet? And why did Trump feel the need – after his three previous tweets – to send something out noting that today is the 17th anniversary of that terrible day?)
In his Twitter feed Tuesday, Trump had yet to make mention of Hurricane Florence – a Category 4 storm that had already forced the evacuation of more than 1 million people on the eastern seaboard. It’s worth noting, however, that Trump sent three tweets on Monday night detailing the preparations he, his staff and governors in the potentially affected states are making, as well as a warning that “my people just informed me that this is one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast in many years. Also, looking like a direct hit on North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!”
Trump defenders will insist that all Tuesday morning’s Twitter activity reveals is that the President can focus on a bunch of different things at once. He can attack his own Justice Department while also remembering 9/11 – albeit in his own very unique way. And of course he is keeping his eye on Florence – even if he isn’t tweeting about it.
Maybe so. But to start a day like today – with the emotional significance of the 9/11 anniversary and the very real urgency of a major East Coast hurricane – by banging the same drum about “NO COLLUSION” and how the Justice Department has its priorities all screwed up speaks to a tin ear for the moment and an inability to focus on what matters to the country as opposed to what matters to you personally.
For Trump, the presidency isn’t about the country. It’s about him. And with every tweet, he makes that more and more clear.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correctly identify Fox Business Network.