Trump responded to the NYC attack exactly like you thought he would
Posted November 1, 2017 12:17 p.m. EDT
(CNN) — Once again, it's all about President Donald Trump.
Less than 24 hours after a terror attack that killed eight people on a New York City bike path, Trump is doing precisely what you expected of him: blaming others, talking tough, scrambling the facts -- and making himself the center of attention.
The behavior is familiar to anyone who's followed -- and who, even if they wanted to, could avoid it? -- the first nine months of his inescapable presidency.
Trump's opening volley of tweets, late Tuesday afternoon, telegraphed all that's followed.
"We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere," he wrote, capping off the message with his signature exclamation, in this case: "Enough!"
After then offering his "thoughts, condolences and prayers" to the victims and their families, Trump announced --- at 9:26 p.m. ET --- that the days of "politically correct" anti-terror policy were over: "I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program," he tweeted, reviving talk of what might have sounded like an existing program. But there is no such thing as a proper "Extreme Vetting Program."
Perhaps he meant the travel ban? Or changes to the US refugee policy? Asked about the term Monday by Fox News host Laura Ingraham, chief of staff John Kelly was unable to give a strict definition. No matter, it had us asking.
By early Wednesday, Trump was up and parroting Fox News talking points, tagging @FoxandFriends in his tweets, and attacking New York's senior senator, the Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
At issue, what Trump called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," an immigrant entry path Schumer supported back in 1990 but, in pushing for an ultimately doomed comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013, would have written out of the law.
Lame duck Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the "Gang of 8" that pushed the legislation through the Senate, reminded the President of this in a tweet of his own:
Asked on Wednesday during his first on-camera appearance since the attack to explain "how the diversity program fit into (the alleged terrorist's) plot," Trump skipped past the nut of the question.
"They say he came in through that program, so we'll see, we're looking at it," Trump replied. "But they say he came in -- I don't want, look, it's very simple, what we are demanding is merit-based immigration."
Earlier in his remarks, Trump blustered about his plans for the alleged New York City terrorist.
"We have to come up with punishment that's far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now," he said. "They'll go through court for years. At the end, they'll be -- who knows what happens?"
Again, the President here crafted a kind of ominous mystery -- who knows?!? -- where, in fact, there are some very distinct, and defined, possibilities. The suspect could be charged and convicted, for one. But that might have sounded, as Trump might put it, weak. Instead, he delivered something out of his campaign speech.
First calling for a system that delivered "quick justice" and "strong justice," because what "we have right now is a joke and it's a laughingstock," he suggested more deliberative measures might've been to blame. "No wonder," he said, at close of his lament, "so much of this stuff takes place."
Then, as a reporter pressed for more information on rumors the administration would seek to send the suspect to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Trump, as if it to insist to the world that the decision was his alone, left the room hanging.
"I would certainly consider that, yes. I would certainly consider that." Trump said. Then, without breaking for air, he declared, "Send him to Gitmo," before pausing to add, again: "I would certainly consider that, yes."
Was it confusing? Certainly.
Surprising? Not in the least.
From the time he entered office (and really, well before that), Trump's behavior has been predictable in at least one way: when the cameras are on and the country, if only by habit now, turns to the White House for some kind of guidance or authority, there stands Trump -- front and center.