In the wake of a devastating mass shooting and impending hurricane, presidential hopeful Kamala Harris is speaking out about president Donald Trump’s inability to show empathy with the suffering of US citizens.
The presidential election is heating up, and if you’ve even taken even a cursory glance at the headlines, or dipped into the Democratic debates, you’ll know there’s no shortage of social issues that are hot topics right now. From immigration to climate change, healthcare to gun violence, the state of play in the US has come to be one of the most polarising periods in American history.
This week alone, the US is reeling after seven people were killed and at least 22 injured in a devastating mass shooting in Odessa, Texas. As the country grieves for innocent civilians who have fallen victim to the lack of gun control, another crisis looms in the form of Hurricane Dorian, a Category 3 storm which is currently wreaking havoc in the Bahamas before it heads for the south east coast of the US.
Maddeningly, even in the wake of the tragedies, president Donald Trump doesn’t appear to be concerned. Instead of responding to matters of major national importance with appropriate political action, he resorts to Twitter feuds and endless rounds of golf.
Kamala Harris isn’t going to allow Trump to get away with that behaviour, though. The presidential hopeful, who is blazing a trail in the 2020 Democratic debates with her powerful questioning and progressive views, criticised the POTUS at the weekend for his inability to react like a human being in the face of tragedy.
Speaking at a Labour Day event, the California Senator slammed Trump’s apathetic attitude towards the Texas shooting and the impending hurricane.
“He just does not have the ability to really have a sense of empathy for people who are enduring hardship or enduring pain,” she began.
“We have to acknowledge that this President really lacks - I don’t know, there’s just something missing. He lacks the ability to have empathy or sympathy or concern.”
It’s not the first time Trump has demonstrated a wholly inappropriate reaction to a national crisis, as Harris pointed out. Last year, when the Category 5 Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, the US administration’s response was widely criticised as slow and inadequate, while one unforgettable image from aftermath of the disaster showed Trump carelessly tossing paper towels into a crowd.
“Recall that when he went to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, he threw paper towels at people. And now he’s talking about - to deal with a hurricane, just nuke it. What is wrong with this person? The President of the United States should be in the position of saying ‘I will always work in the best interest of the people and their well-being and their safety,’ not ridiculing and throwing things at people and picking petty fights.”
“This is a moment, especially in a moment of crisis, for leadership,” she continued. “And this President is lacking in the ability to lead.”
This time around, Trump has pre-empted Hurricane Dorian’s arrival with a series of tweets attacking the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, and detracting from the emergency at hand with a speculative rant about how the country is “one of the most corrupt places on earth,” as well as strangely declaring himself to be “the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico”.
Time will tell if Trump is able to locate some basic human empathy for those in need. But in the meantime, he could start by demonstrating an awareness that Puerto Rico is part of US territory, and the government has just as much responsibility to protect its people in the face of a federal emergency.