In “The Trump Disaster Chronicle” Ms. Collins tells us that nobody knows empathy like The Donald. Here she is:
It’s natural to wonder how our next president would respond, on a human level, to a disaster like Orlando. The candidates have been pretty clear on policy, but how would he/she relate to a community, and country, in pain?
We ought to have some clues, since both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were New Yorkers when the World Trade Center towers came down on Sept. 11.
Clinton was a U.S. senator at the time, so her script was pretty clear. She comforted the afflicted, joined hands with political adversaries for a show of unity, fought to get aid for the city and the survivors.
We obviously wouldn’t have expected all that from Trump, who was a private citizen. But a very rich, important one — he must have done a lot for the city and survivors, right? He once boasted to The Times’s Mark Leibovich that as president, he’d be great at reaching out in a crisis. Empathy, he said, “will be one of the strongest things about Trump.”
Trump apparently was at his apartment in Midtown Manhattan during the attacks and their aftermath. However, he has occasionally relocated himself to ground zero. He told people at a rally in Buffalo this spring that “I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11.”
It was probably the only time in history that a presidential candidate confused an epic disaster with a convenience store.
People, do you think it’s unfair to make fun of Trump’s verbal pratfalls? This week he told the crowd at another rally that “Belgium is a beautiful city.” Could be an endearing foible. Could be a symptom of a supreme indifference to reality in all its forms.
Trump also claimed that on 9/11 he saw “thousands and thousands of people” in a New Jersey area with a heavy Arab population “cheering as that building was coming down.” When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pointed out that nothing like that happened, Trump said: “It was on television. I saw it.” Nobody else did. But we can be confident that if a disaster fell upon us during a Trump presidency, he would somehow blame it on American Muslims. If there was a hurricane, it’d be their fault for not issuing advance warning.
I asked the Trump campaign what the candidate had done to be helpful in the wake of 9/11, and this is the list:
■ “Allowed people to use 40 Wall Street to store equipment, stay in the building, etc.” This is a 72-story skyscraper that Trump owns. When the government began a program to encourage businesses to stay in Lower Manhattan after the attack, he managed to milk $150,000 for 40 Wall Street, which was not going anywhere.
■ “… donated massive amounts of Trump water to those working at ground zero.” This would presumably be Trump Ice, the bottled water he plugged during a campaign news conference.
■ “Mr. Trump visited immediately after the attacks with a group of construction workers.” This seems a more likely description than the one he gave at that Buffalo rally, when he seemed to suggest he had actually been laboring at ground zero himself. (“… and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit. …”) Two days after the attack, Trump was interviewed near the site by a reporter for German TV. He was wearing a distinctly nonworkmanlike suit and volunteered, “I have a lot of men down here.”
So Trump helped by sending helpers? We would have no reason to question that story, except that he does have a way of claiming his “people” are doing things that aren’t actually happening. In 2011, when he was claiming that Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya, he told NBC’s Meredith Vieira: “I have people that actually have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding,”
We never did learn what those people found. Perhaps they’re still out there somewhere, sifting through evidence. Sending bills that history suggests Trump might never bother to pay.
Back to the list. Trump’s campaign says he:
■ “… made many significant contributions to organizations like the American Red Cross to be put towards the relief efforts.” The details are unclear. We’ll just have to wait until those darned tax returns become available, something I predict we can expect the very second hell freezes over.
■ “… made a $100,000 [contribution] to the 9/11 Memorial Fund after touring the museum.”
In the days right before the New York primary, he did visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. He would have walked past a wall celebrating benefactors who donated money to help build it. Donald Trump’s name is conspicuously not there. Finally, when he was running for president in 2016, he forked over a check.
By the way, if Trump had ever been to the museum before, or visited the two reflecting pools that now sit on the site of the destroyed towers, it was never publicized. Perhaps he did it very quietly, the better to allow for contemplation.
And perhaps I’m the Tsarina of All The Russias.