After the horrific events in Orlando over the weekend, there was the usual rush to judgment as to the causes of such a heinous crime, well before any kind of thorough investigation had been conducted. And while we expect such things from the media, what we found this time was that the two major party presidential candidates were all too happy to join the bandwagon. Their chosen narratives were well suited to the early details that trickled out, and with great pomp and conviction, they told America just what was wrong and how they would fix it.
The trouble is, both of them are now proving to be quite wrong.
These are the tweets of the three leading presidential candidates in the immediate aftermath of the Orlando shooting. Read them carefully, because the difference in what makes a person ‘presidential’ is right in front of you.
In the aftermath of Orlando, while Hillary was lamenting the ease with which someone could buy an AR-15 “assault rifle”, a ‘weapon of war’, it turned out that the weapon the shooter used was in fact a Sig Sauer MCX, not an AR-15. And neither one is actually a military weapon, they just look like one – a factor that no doubt figures into the mind of someone who is about to commit an act of terror when purchasing it. Hillary also stated that anyone on a no-fly list shouldn’t be able to get a gun, but Mateen wasn't on one. And while she was suggesting that the state and local authorities don’t get access to necessary intelligence to stop ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, it turned out that Omar Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI, and discarded as a suspect because authorities believed his co-workers were racist. So there was no intelligence on him.
So while Hillary swung for the fences on gun control and expanding the surveillance state, Trump played on the pernicious xenophobic fears he has fostered throughout his campaign, saying he would prevent all immigration from countries with a history of terrorism, despite the fact Mateen was born in the U.S. to parents whose nationality was not tied to terrorism until well after his birth. And now, it turns out, Mateen may not have been an Islamic terrorist per se. What it is also possible is that Mateen was a closeted and deeply conflicted gay man who could not reconcile this fact within himself and could not gain acceptance, and the internal discord he faced led him to turn to violence. He could gain approval with ISIS in death that he never found with others in life. Yes, that is sick and tragic.
Now much of what I have just written is speculation at this point. It is all still under investigation, and there is still a great deal that we do not understand about this damaged human being and why he did what he did. Which makes it all the more concerning that our two leading candidates had all the solutions ready for public consumption in just one day’s time, especially when it is wholly unlikely that they had any access to investigators. The truth is, they were not reacting to the events that happened in Orlando, they were fitting those events to their existing narratives.
Hillary has campaigned on more gun control, more surveillance and international intervention. Donald has campaigned on building walls and targeting Muslims – even peaceful ones. Given a Muslim with a gun, they each took the ball and ran with it – to the wrong end zone.
In the midst of all of this was another candidate, one asking us not to rush to judgment, not to politicize, and just to come together and mourn. Despite Gov. Gary Johnson’s beliefs or what his platform may say about the 2nd Amendment, LGBT equality, or Islamic extremism, he was the only one asking America to stand with the community and who did not begin to divide us. That is what leadership is, that is what being presidential is.
Read those tweets again, and ask yourself if you want a leader who takes advantage of limited information during crisis and carnage to advance their pre-existing policy objectives. Or, do you want a leader who brings us together as a country while the facts get sorted out, and then takes action as appropriate. Because to me, with that in mind, it is pretty clear what the only option is.