In addition to whatever else is produced by his first overseas trip as president, Donald Trump is getting an education on reacting to breaking news quite literally on the fly.
Trump’s first opportunity to respond to the horrific news of the suicide bombing in Manchester occurred in Bethlehem, literal birthplace of the Prince of Peace, and a place where he happened to be meeting with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. His response was a bit goofy (he repeatedly referred to the then-unknown perpetrators of the massacre as “evil losers,” presumably the worst insult he could think of) but did not mention “radical Islamic terrorism” — the term he kept insisting Barack Obama use — or even “Islam.”
After a visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, where he succeeded in appropriately confining his remarks to the Holocaust, Trump made some general statements of remorse about the Manchester attacks during an event with Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. There were no bursts of Trumpian wrath toward Muslims, immigrants, refugees, or weak-kneed liberals, either.
By the time Trump arrived in Italy today, in preparation for a series of meetings at the Vatican, his tweets were echoing comments from Pope Francis, who called the Manchester atrocity “barbaric” and expressed “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.”
No thundering against the horrific Islamic menace, no chastening of European or American progressives for letting down the gates to terrorists.
Again, Trump’s reactions were probably tempered by the fact that he was about to meet with a global leader who has vocally disagreed with his tendency to scapegoat immigrants and refugees, and with his Islamophobic gestures as well.
There is no telling what Donald Trump will say when he returns to America. But for now, he’s on his better, if not best, behavior.