After a man drove onto a bike path in New York City and killed eight people, Trump used the attack to promote his "extreme vetting program" on Twitter. Whereas attacks committed by white men, such as the Las Vegas shooting, only prompted "thoughts and prayers" from Trump, this atrocity is producing a much different reaction.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a series of messages that began with "In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!" Already, his prompt response seemed more intense than his responses to other attacks perpetrated by white American men (think Las Vegas and Charlottesville). After sending New Yorkers his thoughts and condolences, Trump then tweeted:
I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!
Firstly, a measure that's grounded in a non-xenophobic attempt to keep Americans safe wouldn't be politically incorrect. If you look at the facts, white American men pose a larger domestic terror threat than Muslims immigrants do. Yet, Trump's tweet suggests he's disproportionately (and irrationally) focusing on immigrants — namely, Muslim immigrants. To say that's not "politically correct" doesn't even begin to sum up the problem.
The important question here, as Twitter user Todd Breasseale suggested, is "Who's next?" The answer is simple: Trump is taking every opportunity he can to target Muslim immigrants. If that wasn't true, the Las Vegas shooting and Charlottesville white supremacist rally would have elicited proportional responses from him. And the attack in London, for which ISIS took responsibility, wouldn't have prompted him to promote his travel ban on people from six majority-Muslim nations. “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist,” he tweeted at the time. “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific – but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”
But when responding to the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people, Trump released this statement:
Look, we have a tragedy. What happened is, in many ways, a miracle. The police department, they’ve done such an incredible job. And we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on. But I do have to say, how quickly the police department was able to get in was really very much of a miracle. They’ve done an amazing job.
And after the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rallies occurred, Trump twice blamed "both sides" for the violence, even though the man who killed peaceful counter-protester Heather Heyer was a Nazi-sympathizer.
I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.
Trump had also previously said, “You also had some very fine people on both sides." That's including the side that was holding up neo-Nazi and confederate flags. If those attacks were committed by Muslim immigrants, on the other hand, I bet his responses would have been much more intense.
And frankly, the fact that Americans are being prompted to compare horrific attacks on innocent people is disturbing. Every attack, no matter who commits it, begs for action to be taken. Every attack should warrant a proactive, rational response that's meant to prevent such atrocities from occurring again. At the moment, an attacker's nationality seems to be what grabs the president's attention — not the attack itself, or the loss of life. And that disproportionate focus will never produce the safer America Trump has promised to create time and time again.