On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed the Monday night terrorist attack in Manchester. Trump’s comments, which came during a joint press conference in Bethlehem with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, were typical of his style: bellicose and combative, drawing attention to his particular brand of nationalistic bluster.
Trump expressed his “deepest condolences” before noting that the United States “stand[s] in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom.” That’s as close as he got to acknowledging either the national confusion of the Manchester attack or the individual pain and suffering rendered by a bomb that has left 22 dead, including 18-year-old Georgia Callender and 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos.
Trump instead intoned on the “many, young, beautiful, innocent people enjoying their lives,” adding that they were “murdered by evil losers in life.” He continued:
I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term...they would think that’s a great name. I will call them...from now on...losers, because that’s what they are—losers and we’ll have more of them but they’re losers—just remember that.
The White House said that the use of the phrase “evil losers” in reference to the perpetrators of the attack (ISIS has taken credit) was Trump’s own personal flourish. The Associated Press notes that, including ISIS, other losers identified by the President include Rosie O’Donnell, Cher, and a handful of American Senators. There are also the “haters and losers” a group that is composed of whoever strikes Trump as such at any moment.
The label “loser,” used by the President with such arbitrary vagary that the choice to label the death of “beautiful... people” (another favorite phrase of Trump, particularly to describe victims) as an act perpetrated by “evil losers” strikes as not simply insensitive but an unnecessarily aggressive dulling of the pain of others. Perhaps it’s anger, but given Trump’s penchant for these stock phrases—beautiful people, losers—it seems more like a poor imitation of any kind of real feeling and more like another opportunity for Trump’s particular fondness of the spectacle of language. Pain seems to demand more, it requires a particular eloquence born of empathy and reflection of which Trump is incapable.
Indeed, that lack of reflection seems to be Trump’s particular theme of the day. During a speech at Yad Vashem’s Hall of Remembrance, Trump described the Holocaust in such terms. He referred to the “millions of beautiful lives,” ended by the atrocity before laying a wreath to honor the dead. To mark his visit, Trump, like previous presidents, added a message to the guestbook. “It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends—so amazing + will Never Forget!” he wrote, his signature and Melania Trump’s beneath the message.
In comparison, a reporter for the Times of Israel shared the message President Obama left in 2013, a message of humility and hope for the future.
If anything, Trump’s comments today, combined with his yearbook-like message at a Holocaust memorial site, act as an occlusion of the pain of others in favor of a glib and aggressive labeling of “evil losers.” It’s indicative of his worldview—a place occupied by “beautiful people,” victims who are undeserving of his reflection, and the “losers” who occupy his attention.