President Donald Trump mourned the dead and forcefully condemned anti-Semitism on Saturday after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead. But faced with another national tragedy, he did not long turn his focus away from the midterm elections or himself.
Nine days from elections that will determine the control of Congress, Trump stuck to his plans to appear at an agricultural convention and a political rally. Throughout the day, he expressed sorrow, called for justice and bemoaned hate, getting regular updates on the shooting. But he also campaigned for candidates, took shots at favorite Democratic targets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Elizabeth Warren and made jokes about his hair.
At a massive rally in southern Illinois for US Rep Mike Bost, Trump condemned the shooting as an “evil anti-Semitic attack”. But he said cancelling his appearance would make “sick, demented people important”. He pledged to change his tone for the evening and did cool some of his most fiery rhetoric.
The slaughter at Sabbath services followed a tense week dominated by a mail bomb plot with apparent political motivations and served as another toxic reminder of a divided nation. It also again underscored Trump’s reluctance to step into the role of national unifier at tense moments as well as his singular focus heading into elections that could dramatically change his presidency.
Trump acknowledged the weight these moments carry, telling reporters that experiencing such events as president, “it’s a level of terribleness and horror that you can’t even believe. It’s hard to believe”.
The White House said Trump was getting regular briefings on the attack. He spoke with the governor of Pennsylvania and the mayor of Pittsburgh. He also spoke with his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who are Jewish.
Shortly after returning to Washington late Saturday, Trump ordered flags at federal buildings throughout the country to be flown at half-staff until October 31 in “solemn respect” for the victims.[Source: News24]