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Most Americans agree: Trump is terrible at handling national tragedies

Americans give Trump poor marks when it comes to how he handled Charlottesville, Hurricane Maria, and mass shootings in Pittsburgh, El Paso, and Dayton.

By Dan Desai Martin - August 19, 2019
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Trump gives thumbs-up in El Paso following a mass shooting.

Trump does a spectacularly poor job handling national tragedies, according to a new poll out Monday from NBC News/Wall Street Journal. The poll asked how presidents from Bill Clinton through Trump handled tragedies on their watch, and Trump was far and away the worst.

And it was not even close.

An overwhelming majority of Americans (84%) approved of the way Clinton handled the Oklahoma City bombing, and George W. Bush saw similar numbers for his handling of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Barack Obama received high marks (74%) for his handling of the 2011 Tucson shooting that almost killed Rep. Gabby Giffords.

The only national tragedy that received poor marks before Trump took office was Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina, with 48% approving and 48% disapproving of his response.

But when it comes to Trump, Americans are united in thinking he does a terrible job of handling tragedies.

Trump’s worst marks come from his reaction to the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump gave aid and comfort to rioting neo-Nazis and white nationalists, claiming the racist rally had “very fine people” among them. Heather Heyer, a young woman protesting the presence of torch-carrying white supremacists, was murdered that weekend.

Only 20% of Americans approved of how Trump handled Charlottesville, while 55% disapproved.

Trump’s reaction to Hurricane Maria devastating Puerto Rico garnered similar marks, with only 29% approving. After the hurricane hit the island, Trump regularly attacked the residents of the island territory, bullied the mayor of San Juan, and then refused to believe the island’s massive death toll. In subsequent months, Trump fought against providing aid to help rebuild the island.

When it comes to mass shootings, Americans are not comforted by Trump. After the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the back-to-back shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Trump mustered just 37% and 36% approval, respectively. In the El Paso shooting, the gunman used racist language attacking immigrants that mirrored Trump’s own racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“Americans typically rally around their president in times of national tumult and tragedy,” Jeff Horwitt, one of the pollsters, told NBC News. “Yet again in his response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, we see that Americans view Donald Trump and his reactions to national tragedies far differently.”

In yet another break from the norm, Trump cannot even bring the country together in the face of tragedy — except to agree that he handles himself poorly.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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