At some point, embarrassingly late begins to verge on something more disquieting.
President Donald Trump has silently planted himself in that space.
Nearly a week has passed since two India-born engineers were singled out and shot at an Olathe bar, presumably because they were immigrants, darker in skin tone and possibly viewed by the shooter as unwanted foreigners.
People around the world were immediately and rightfully horrified.
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But our president?
Mum. Not a word has been spoken, tweeted or prepped for Trump’s teleprompter.
Trump has offered no words of condolence for the grieving widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who died from his gunshot wounds.
The president has expressed no sympathy for Kuchibhotla’s best friend, Alok Madasani, who continues to recover from bullet wounds and the trauma.
Trump usually loves to celebrate all-American heroes. But he’s passed on commending Ian Grillot, a bystander who leapt to take the gunman down before anyone else was harmed. Grillot was shot, too.
Surely the White House team could have cobbled together a statement of some sort, a response to at least address growing fears that the U.S. is unwelcoming of immigrants, or worse, that the foreign-born need to fear for their lives here. The deadly incident in Olathe has resonated across the country and even around the globe.
During such moments of crisis, people look to the president for strength and guidance.
They need to hear their moral outrage articulated, the condemnation of a possible hate crime and the affirmation that the U.S. values everyone’s contributions, whether you’re an immigrant or native-born. For Trump, this was a crucial opportunity to condemn such hateful acts and to forcefully declare that this is not who we are.
Others grasp that role. On Monday, Hillary Clinton tweeted a Kansas City Star story recounting the plea from Kuchibhotla’s widow for a U.S. response to hate crimes.
Clinton goaded Trump, writing: “With threats & hate crimes on rise, we shouldn't have to tell @POTUS to do his part. He must step up & speak out.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has faced questions about the president’s response to the Olathe shootings. Spicer termed the murder “tragic.”
But when Spicer was asked about any correlation between the shootings and Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, the White House press secretary proclaimed the assertion “absurd,” shutting down further discussion.
Tuesday night, the country and the world will be watching when Trump addresses a joint session of Congress. He should use the opportunity to thoughtfully —and belatedly — address this brazen act of violence.
Because with each passing day, Trump’s silence is even more telling.