Donald Trump has a history of being disrespectful about the 9/11 attacks
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Just one day. That was all that was needed - one day off from the usual Donald Trump diatribes to pay respects for the lives lost in the September 11 attacks 17 years ago. Nearly 3,000 lives were taken in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.
But the president couldn't even manage that. He started the day, as he usually does, by watching cable television news and logging in to social media. His first tweet was not the commemorate the victims of 9/11, but to attack the Russia investigation after watching Lou Dobbs Tonight on Fox.
When he did address the 9/11 anniversary on social media, they were self-referential. He retweeted a post by White House social media director Dan Scavino about Trump signing a declaration, designating the day as 'Patriot Day'. And then seven minutes later, he was back to attacking the Justice Department and the FBI.
The president praised his own attorney - and former New York mayor - Rudy Giuliani for his response to the attacks in 2001, calling him a "TRUE WARRIOR". Before setting off to a memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania - the site of the Flight 93 crash - he tweeted a picture of himself and First Lady Melania Trump in front of the White House.
Finally, he managed to post something that was not an attack nor self-promotion on social media. His tribute, however, was only five words: "17 years since September 11th!" Yes, exclamation mark included.
Compare his "tribute" to the words from former presidents. Bill Clinton tweeted: "Today we honor all those who lost their lives 17 years ago in NY, VA, and PA, their loved ones, and the brave first responders who risked their own lives to save others. The best tribute we can pay is to live our lives in a way that redeems the years they could not have."
Whilst George W. Bush's post was only short, it was still respectful. “This is a day I will certainly never forget. This morning we pause to say a prayer for the lives lost," Bush wrote. The 9/11 attacks happened during his presidency.
Trump's predecessor Barack Obama posted: "We will always remember everyone we lost on 9/11, thank the first responders who keep us safe, and honor all who defend our country and the ideals that bind us together. There's nothing our resilience and resolve can’t overcome, and no act of terror can ever change who we are."
Trump's Twitter feed later included a video of a speech he gave at the Flight 93 memorial site. "America's future is not written by our enemies. America's future is written by our heroes," he said in Shanksville. "As long as this monument stands, as long as this memorial endures, brave patriots will rise up in America's hours of need and they, too, will fight back."
Finally, the right words, but it had taken him many attempts to get there. CNN argues that the president has all of his "priorities screwed up", and he "speaks to a tin ear for the moment and an inability to focus on what matters to the country as opposed to what matters to you personally".
When disembarking from Air Force One to attend the memorial service in Pennsylvania, the president was photographed pumping his fists in the air (pictured).
It was an unpresidential morning, but it was hardly a surprise. Trump's track record on 9/11 has not been respectful. Following the attack in 2001, he bragged to a television news programme: "Forty Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was, actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest. And then when they built the World Trade Center it became known as the second-tallest, and now it's the tallest."
For Trump, it was always about Turmp, even on 9/11, the Washington Post argues. "Even as the smoke was literally still rising from the World Trade Center, he saw a terrorist attack against America as an opportunity for self-aggrandisement and self-promotion. He eventually turned it into a weapon of political hate, but in the immediate aftermath, Trump saw it as an opportunity for brand enhancement and wasted no time," they write.
The weapon of political hate came when he falsely claimed that Muslim Americans were celebrating the attack in New Jersey. Trump said that he watched “thousands and thousands of people” on rooftops in New Jersey “cheering as that building was coming down". Police and journalists investigated this rumour, and found no evidence of it. He was using the tragic and painful events to fuel his political campaign built on fear and hatred.
It was not the only lie he told. The president said he witnessed people jumping out of the Twin Towers on 9/11 from the view in his apartment. At least 200 people are believed to have jumped after the planes struck the towers. According to CNN, Trump lived in the 5th Avenue Trump Tower since before the attacks - that's more than four miles away from the World Trade Center towers once stood.
He also claimed to have "lost hundreds of friends" at the World Trade Center. When journalists contacted his presidential campaign about it, they were unable to produce even a single name of a friend that the former businessman lost on that horrific day.
When Donald Trump failed to get the tone right on the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it was not surprising considering his history of disrespect. As commander-in-chief, he is also supposed to be consoler-in-chief - something he failed to do once again.