But it wasn’t until Monday — some 48 hours after the deadly events — that Trump made a bid to assume the role of “empathizer-in-chief,” reading out publicly the names of those who had died while directly condemning the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Trump’s initial wavering was seen by critics as a political nod to a base of supporters who helped lift the Republican last November to the White House. It also reflected something seen throughout Trump’s presidency: His natural instinct has been to respond with force to terrible events, saving the compassion for his surrogates or private interactions.
“He’s missing an empathy gene. It’s just not natural to him,” said former George W. Bush White House speechwriter Peter Wehner. “When people who don’t have empathy try to fake it, it doesn’t come across very well.”