Donald Trump’s Empathyectomy

Just over a week ago, I wrote a post on Facebook about, among other things, the political abuse of homicide rates in Chicago. On Saturday, Donald Trump went out of his way to prove my point.

Here’s my post (please note that I in no way speak for City Year, AmeriCorps, the Chicago School District, or anyone but myself):

And, just a week later, here are his thoughts on how he might personally benefit from one of the tragic shootings that occurred Friday:

I also note that the original version of the first tweet was from Android — usually indicating a personal tweet from Mr. Trump — and misspelled Dwyane Wade’s name. The corrected version and his condolences were sent from an iPhone and an iPad, which generally means it was from his staff, leading to the inescapable conclusion that about four hours after his initial tweet, his staff deleted it… only to replace it after coming to the conclusion that the only problem with it was his typo.

As an additional point of reference, I’d like to include this, his reaction to the terrorist attack in Pulse in Orlando, FL:

I think the generous reaction to these tweets is to assume he is merely somewhat tone deaf or uninhibited, and that this is more or less the reaction of all politicians and they simply hide it better. This is a dangerous misunderstanding. What we must accept is this: Donald Trump is almost totally devoid of empathy, and is therefore only capable of readily understanding events in terms of his own benefit or loss. This explains his reaction at Turnberry to the result of the Brexit referendum, when he pointed out that the pound’s crash might economically benefit him by drawing more tourists to his golf resorts (despite the serious costs it imposed not only on British citizens but also American citizens who, for instance, lost money from their 401(k)s). It’s why his immediate, instinctive reaction to Khizr Khan’s speech at the DNC was to “hit back” — and appear completely oblivious to the pain and loss that was readily apparent to any other observer. His advisers always come in later to provide the mandatory “condolences” and insist that he has done the same, but it’s a purely pro forma exercise; the first and only reaction from the candidate himself has always been crass opportunism and nothing more.

To some extent, of course, it is true that politicians see news events, including tragedies, in terms of personal impact. That’s both natural and unavoidable. The difference is that self-interest is the primary, if not the only, lens through which Donald Trump appears capable of understanding the world around him. Even if you are maximally cynical, and you believe that all public statements from politicians are driven purely by self-interest and have no element of empathy, consider the response of President George W. Bush to Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother of a soldier killed in Iraq:

Again, even if you truly believe that this is not genuine — or that the same is true of any of the many presidents who have had to make similar remarks — it is undeniably true that it is a profoundly different reaction than those that have been consistently displayed by Mr. Trump. My politics may differ from those of President Bush, and I may deeply disagree with some of his decisions as Commander-in-Chief (not least including his decision to invade Iraq). Despite that, I firmly believe that he felt the pain of that mother, and understood the weight of the decisions he made.

I believe that President Obama has the same appreciation for the consequence of his actions in office, and I think his decisions on, among other things, the use of drone strikes, our intervention in Libya, and our non-intervention in Syria must weigh on him heavily. Given his public reactions to multiple tragedies, does any one of us truly believe that the same is true in equal measure of Donald Trump? And if not, should that not immediately disqualify him from serving in the most powerful office in the world?

There are many reasons that I plan to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, and even more why I vehemently oppose Donald Trump in his candidacy, but at their core is a common theme: Through his statements and actions, Donald Trump has spent decades demonstrating that he is deeply lacking in empathy. He has unabashedly screwed investors and business partners, refused to pay contractors and small businesses, and played on racial prejudice through a dangerous, demagogic fear mongering, thereby (in my estimation) posing a serious threat to the strength of our union.

I could have brought up many other criticisms of Donald Trump (I barely scratched the surface on the racial element to his rhetoric, including his recent “appeals” to minority voters, and his foreign policy is as dangerous and incoherent as his domestic policy), but even absent all of that, I could never in good conscience consider casting a vote for a man who has so consistently and repeatedly demonstrated that, if he was born with any empathy at all, it was removed quite thoroughly and successfully at a very young age. In short: Donald Trump is not worthy of your vote. He deserves nothing more than your contempt.