Hello, friends. Your usual guide through the jungles of Trumpland, my colleague Aubrey Whelan, is in Las Vegas reporting the aftermath of one of the most deadly mass shootings in U.S. history. She jumped off the plane Monday evening, catching up with a Bucks County couple who had a window on the killing field. The horror touched Philly and Pennsylvania.
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– Thomas Fitzgerald
Today, let’s talk about presidenting.
It is a measure of how far he’s lowered the bar that President Trump was hailed for a “pitch perfect” response to the Las Vegas massacre on Monday, when he managed to follow the basic script of past presidents: a quote from Scripture, praise for first responders, a plea for national unity.
“I know we are searching for meaning in chaos, some kind of light in the darkness,” Trump said. “The answers don’t come easy.”
What he didn’t do: Jump to conclusions, or rail against Islamic terrorism while speaking/tweeting in bellicose terms to convey his toughness. During the campaign last year, Trump once even congratulated himself for “being right” in guessing that the Orlando Pulse nightclub mass shooter Omar Mateen would turn out to have been inspired by ISIS. Of course, a 64-year-old white guy who is a professional gambler doesn’t fit the usual profile POTUS reaches for in these cases.
The local angle
Trump’s calm tones followed a weekend-long tweet storm about the “politically motivated ingrates” in Puerto Rico who did not express proper thanks for the “great job” the administration has been doing to help the island recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The president was holed up at his luxury New Jersey golf club at the time. He reserved special contempt for San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who on Friday accused the administration “killing us with the inefficiency” after the storm. She begged the president to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” and appealed for help “to save us from dying.”
The plight of Puerto Rico, home to 3.5 million U.S. citizens, has resonated deeply in the Philadelphia area, with nearly 160,000 boricuas living in Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. alone. Much of the island has no electric power or clean drinking water , and food is scarce, two weeks after the storm hit with winds in excess of 150 m.p.h.
President Trump landed in Puerto Rico a short while ago, on a trip to survey the damage for himself. Before he left, he defended the job his government is doing there. And after he visits the Caribbean commonwealth, Trump is scheduled to travel to Las Vegas to meet with families of those killed in the shooting and survivors.
What they’re saying
“The mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.” – President Trump, on Twitter, ripping Carmen Yulin Cruz.
“What is your death count as of this morning, 17?” – President Trump, to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello as he visited the island Tuesday, adding that the governor should be “proud” it wasn’t as bad as Katrina.
In other news…
- Tom Petty, a sometimes underappreciated singer-songwriter who blended Cali rock and Southern roots music, died Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 66 of cardiac arrest. His hits ruled the radio for decades.
- POLITICO reports that Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican and one of the last of the moderates, is considering running for governor and leaving behind an increasingly dysfunctional Senate. Her opposition to recent last-ditch GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare highlighted her lonely position in Washington.
- Why did the Las Vegas shooter do it?
- Congress has let the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program expire, disrupting health coverage for 9 million children low and moderate-income kids nationwide.
What I’m reading
- Buzzfeed rounds up all the fake news spreading in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting.The Atlantic unloads on Google and Facebook for allowing it to spread, mostly unchecked, in the hours after the shooting: “These companies are the most powerful information gatekeepers that the world has ever known, and yet they refuse to take responsibility for their active role in damaging the quality of information reaching the public.”
- Speaking of fake news: The New York Times Magazine, on how exaggerated reports of a juvenile sex crime involving Syrian refugees upended an Idaho town during the 2016 election.
- The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up a case in which it could decide just how much partisan gerrymandering in legislative districts is too much. The case is being closely watched in Pennsylvania, which has by some measures the most gerrymandered congressional districts of all.
A non-political palate cleanser
This is a purely uplifting story, of how Tiffany Wright, a woman from Washington, D.C. whose father was shot on his doorstep during the crack epidemic became a Supreme Court clerk, pretty much the equivalent, for lawyers, of being drafted into the NBA.