The president of the United States visited those injured in the Las Vegas shooting and said that “they are very lucky to be here.”
A sorrowful George W. Bush attended the memorial for the victims of the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, in which 32 people died. Barack Obama cried after the vile murder of 20 elementary school children and six adults at Sandy Hook School in 2012; he took to the pulpit in 2015 to honor the nine churchgoers murdered in a Charleston church; and a year later paid tribute to the 49 victims of the massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, condemning the toxic interests and political maneuvering that prevent guns from truly being regulated in the United States. Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn. On Wednesday, he traveled to Las Vegas to pay tribute to the 59 dead and more than 500 injured in the deadliest shooting in the country’s recent history.
Unlike his predecessors, Trump has a real problem with empathy. He doesn’t know how to comfort people by showing care and compassion. He himself has said he suffers from germophobia, a pathological aversion to germs and dirtiness, which would explain why he avoids hugs and is so stingy with his handshakes. This disorder was made evident in Puerto Rico. Trump went to an aid distribution center for people affected by Hurricane Maria and started tossing paper towel rolls at them as if he were playing basketball, instead of listening to their stories and giving them a bit of physical warmth.
A little while later, in an interview with Fox News, he praised his administration’s “incredible” response and said he was “very proud” that hundreds of lives weren’t lost like in “a real catastrophe” (in reference to Katrina), as if the devastation in Puerto Rico were insignificant. This attitude isn’t new. During his visit to flood-stricken Texas, he didn’t meet with any victims or set foot in the flooded neighborhoods and towns, an absurd move from a public relations standpoint.
This time, the president, who traveled to Las Vegas accompanied again by his wife, Melania, went to a hospital to visit those injured in the shooting. “It’s a very, very sad day for me, personally,” he said before boarding the plane. But once again, he spent more time praising the “bravery” and “professionalism” of the doctors and police officers than comforting the victims and, by extension, the country. “We met quite a few people. And believe me, they are very lucky to be here,” he said, referring to those injured, and added, rhetorically: “We will never leave your side.”
He didn’t want to talk about gun control laws, following the script of the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party, which defuse attempts to reopen the debate every time there’s a massacre, accusing those who do so of wanting to politicize the tragedy. “We’re not going to talk about that today,” he said.
While the president was visiting the city, investigators were still trying to clarify the motives that led 64-year-old retiree Stephen Paddock to perpetrate such a massacre at a country music festival. The authorities are investigating his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who was in the Philippines when the shooting happened. Her sisters have told CNN that Paddock was the one who urged her to leave the country for a few days. “She was sent away so that she will be not there to interfere with what he’s planning,” they told CNN. At the moment, the police don’t believe she was involved in the crime.
But there’s no doubt that the killer, who Trump described as “a sick man, a demented man,” planned everything out meticulously. When he arrived at the Mandalay Bay hotel, he hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign outside his door to make sure the cleaning services wouldn’t come in and discover the arsenal he kept in the suite. Then he managed to put two surveillance cameras in the hallway and another in the peephole of the door, to watch out for the possible arrival of the police or hotel management. Inside he had 23 guns, many of them semiautomatic rifles, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.