Last night, after a horrific suicide bombing in Manchester left at least twenty dead, my colleague Jeet Heer asked how Trump would respond to the attack.
The question is: How will Trump, amid his first foreign trip, respond to the Manchester attack? Will he once again shoot from the hip and blame “radical Islamic terrorism”? Or, under the guidance of aides like national security advisor H.R. McMaster, will the president rise to the occasion and offer solidarity and assurance to an American ally suffering from a heart-rending tragedy? If he somehow manages to do the latter, he must not be praised as “presidential.” No other response would be acceptable from the ostensible leader of the free world.
We got an answer on Tuesday morning when Trump issued his first public comment since the attack.
“I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack, and to the many killed, and to the families—so many families—of the victims,” Trump said. “We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom.
“So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life. 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. They’re losers. And we’ll have more of them. But they’re losers—just remember that.”
Trump basically split the difference between the approaches Heer described. The “losers” comment, seemingly ad-libbed, was a return to the more forceful rhetoric he used on the campaign, when every terrorist attack was used as an opportunity to project strength. But Trump has otherwise refrained from tweeting, and has thus far resisted the temptation to make this horrible attack about U.S. security, as he often did in 2015 and 2016.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack since Trump made his remarks, though it’s not yet clear if this was an ISIS-organized or an ISIS-inspired bombing. The names of two victims have been released—an 18-year-old girl and an 8-year-old girl.