Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He hears you, he said.

Trump held a "listening session" today with preselected victims of school gun violence. The White House event was scheduled against a day of protest in Tallahassee by many of the student-survivors of the Parkland mass murder.

Trump's struggle to show empathy is most noticeable in times of tragedy. He has gotten into nasty feuds with grieving widows and parents of servicemembers killed in action, jovially tossed paper towels at hurricane victims (before blaming them for their misfortunes), and asserted the likely innocence a man his own staff had fired over accusations from two ex-wives that he had beaten them. When he met with first responders to the Parkland mass murder, he offered them "congratulations" and gave a grinning thumbs-up sign for the cameras--a photo he liked so much that he made it his Twitter banner.

Presumably this is why his staff felt obliged to write down talking points for him that included a reminder to say "I hear you." 

Encouraging Trump to practice "reflective listening," as it is known, was good advice. The Complete Idiot's Guide To Clear Communication says that it's especially useful in emotionally charged situations.

Trump did more than listen, though. He spent a considerable amount of time telling his audience that "your problem" could be solved by arming teachers. This is not a new position for Trump, although admitting it is.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's bad if the president needs to be reminded of how to act like he's listening.
  • Presidents should not lie about their policies.
  • Presidents should not use tragedies to advance political ends.
  • Mass murders committed with guns are the president's problem, not just the survivors'.