The Deadliest Shooting in U.S. History Is Terrorism. Why Can't Trump Say It?

When it comes to terrorism by white American gun owners, Trump can't say the word. And won't

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US President Donald Trump walks away from the podium after delivering a statement on the Las Vegas shooting from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on October 2, 2017.
US President Donald Trump walks away from the podium after delivering a statement on the Las Vegas shooting from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on October 2, 2017.Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

No one loves America like the Americans who live in the rest of the world.

Americans abroad are watching the country they love being flayed open. They are watching as week after week, the president signals that it's time for the most deeply repressed, the most justly clenched, the most ferociously lethal of the nation's demons to burst forth, do battle with the innocent and the particularly vulnerable, and take one more step in the annihilation of the American experiment.

When Trump finally goes, exalting firearms and countenancing racism and recklessly saber-rattling at every turn, there may be nothing left of the America we dreamed of and hoped for.

>> Las Vegas shooting: What we know about gunman Stephen Paddock

It was morning in Israel when the horrible news began to come in from Las Vegas.

Details were sketchy, but there was at least one reliable clue that the gunman who murdered at least 58 and injured hundreds more at a music festival, was not a Muslim, was not black, was not a Hispanic immigrant:

Donald Trump had nothing to say.

It would take him six hours to come up with a statement of all of 19 words.

There had been a terrible shooting, he wrote. He sent his warmest sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families. "God Bless You!" he concluded.

An unnatural catastrophe, a manmade disaster, a terrorist act of historic proportion, took place Sunday night in the largest city in Nevada.

State law is clear about what the gunman was doing there on the 32nd floor:

"'Act of terrorism' means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to ... cause great bodily harm or death to the general population."

But not Trump. This is the man who, as a candidate, demanded, again and again and again, that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton condemn terrorism by Muslims. "When will President Obama issue the words RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM," he tweeted after the November, 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris.

"He can't say it, and unless he will, the problem will not be solved!"

Now we know for sure. When it comes to terrorism by white American gun owners, Trump can't say it. And won't.

He had his chance at a news conference on Monday morning. "A gunman opened fire," Trump began. A gunman, not a terrorist. "It was an act of pure evil."  Evil - not terrorism. Of course not.

Stephen Paddock could not be a terrorist. He was the wrong color. He did not pray on the floor. He was the very profile of the base. Male, white and over 60, Stephen Paddock was, with the exception of the mass murder, the core Trump voter.

Trump was talking directly to Stephen Paddock when the president spoke in Alabama late last month. That is, when he chose to mess around in a Republican Senate primary race, rather than deal with the needs of the victims of three monstrous hurricanes.

"If crooked Hillary got elected, you would not have a Second Amendment, believe me. You'd be handing in your rifles. You'd be saying here, here, here they are. [Booing] You'd be turning over your rifles."

He kept saying it. Trump. He kept saying "Our people." "Our convictions and our vision." Every American knew exactly which Americans were "our people." And which were not.

And lest there be any doubt, of the African-Americans in sports taking a knee in protest, he told his crowd of whites in Alabama, "That's a total disrespect of our heritage; that's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.

"I can tell you one thing, you are protected, OK? You are protected. Nobody is going to mess with our people. [Applause] "Nobody is going to put our people in that kind of danger."

No one loves America like the Americans who live in the rest of the world. No one grieves for America and what it is becoming like those of us who live in places of permanent tribal warfare and triumphalist, racist governmental incitement and the fast expiring trappings of democracy.

Trump's statement, no less than his silence, made it official: Donald Trump is not the president of the United States. He is the president of 64-year-old gun-owning white males.

It only makes sense. Trump became president by boiling the Constitution down to three words and one amendment. In Trump's new order, "We the people" is not followed by the aspirations and directives "in order to form a more perfect union, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare."

The whole of the Constitution consists of "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."

Thanks to Trump, there is no longer any doubt who "We the people" are. "We" are the people who keep and bear assault firearms, whose only purpose is to kill or maim for life vast numbers of human beings at the rate of 10 per second.

Trump was talking to Stephen Paddock when he said, "We cherish our magnificent Constitution, and we believe judges must interpret the Constitution as written, and that includes defending, as I just said, our great Second Amendment."

"I understand your values," he told his people in Alabama. "I love your values, and those are the values that I believe in. Those are the values, those are the values that made this country. Those are the values that made this country great."

"The future belongs to all of you," Trump declared. "But we have got to go out and take it.

It's a sickness, guns. It's the one true Republican religion. And the one entirely incurable American epidemic.

Donald Trump could not have known about Stephen Paddock two weeks ago when he told that crowd in Alabama, "And I will tell you, the world is starting to respect the United States of America again."

But it was already untrue. And, after the Las Vegas atrocity, it's not respect that the world is feeling for America right now.

Those abroad who love America are many. Their love is real. So is their distress. Under Trump, America itself is in peril. There are many who worry that when this president is gone, there will be nothing left of what once actually made America great.

The world is mourning a horrific tragedy. More than that, though, the world has begun to mourn America itself.

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