Amid a Rising Death Toll, Trump Leaves the Grieving to Others

President Donald Trump speaks during press briefing with the Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — One morning this week, President Trump called food sector executives. That afternoon, he met with corporate leaders at the White House. The day before, he paraded small-business owners in the East Room, and the day before that, he showcased executives from retail giants like Walgreens and Walmart in the Rose Garden.

As he presides over the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic collapse, Mr. Trump has hosted or called many people affected by the devastation, including health company executives, sports commissioners, governors, cruise boat company heads, religious leaders, telecommunications executives and foreign heads of state. One category that has yet to make his list: Americans who have lost someone to the pandemic.

As the death toll from the coronavirus over eight weeks surpasses the total American military casualties in eight years of major combat in Vietnam, Mr. Trump has led no national mourning. In his daily news conferences, he makes only perfunctory references to those who have died as he stiffly reads opening remarks, exhibiting more emotion when grieving his lost economic record than his lost constituents.

Empathy has never been considered one of Mr. Trump’s political assets. He views public displays of sadness as weakness and has made a point of stressing resolve, even at the risk of overlooking the deep pain afflicting so much of the country. His favorite words in his televised appearances of recent weeks are “powerful” and “strong.” He talks of “incredible” days ahead without dwelling on the miserable days of now. He plans fireworks while Americans plan funerals.

The contrast with his predecessors could hardly be starker. President Ronald Reagan captured the emotions of the nation with his poetic eulogy to the crew of the space shuttle Challenger after it exploded. President Bill Clinton channeled the country’s anger and grief after the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building 25 years ago.

President George W. Bush shed tears and shared hugs with the families of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even the famously stoic President Barack Obama wept openly after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and sang “Amazing Grace” at a service for black churchgoers killed by a white supremacist in Charleston, S.C.

“I can think of many presidents whose finest hours included times of mourning,” said David Greenberg, a presidential scholar at Rutgers University. “In these and other times, the president binds us as a nation by acknowledging and giving voice to our shared sense of loss, grief and pain and pointing the way to better times ahead. Trump hasn’t shown himself capable of this, in my view.”

Indeed, Mr. Trump appears reluctant to talk about the more than 62,700 people who have died in the United States from the coronavirus. He mentioned a few times that a friend of his, Stanley Chera, a major New York real estate developer, had been infected and later died, but did not dwell on it for long. In response to a question this week, the president said that he had also lost a few other friends and had spoken with families of other victims, but he quickly shifted the conversation to distance learning for children.

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Source: Dnyuz