Hours after a train derailed in Washington state, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to sound off on it.
"The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly," tweeted Trump. "Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!"
That is a somewhat remarkable tweet from a president given the fact that emergency crews were still sorting through the rubble, several people had been killed in the accident and 77 people had been taken to a variety of local hospitals.
Trump followed that first tweet with a second, more traditionally presidential one 11 minutes later. "My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the train accident in DuPont, Washington," Trump tweeted. "Thank you to all of our wonderful First Responders who are on the scene. We are currently monitoring here at the White House."
What do those two tweets tell us? That Trump's first instinct is always to look for an angle that benefits him or, even more ideally, proves he is right about something controversial he has said in the past.
This is hardly the first time this has occurred.
On the same day that 49 people were killed in a shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Trump tweeted this: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"
A day after a terrorist ran down and murdered eight people last month in New York City, Trump tweeted: "The terrorist came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,' a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based."
None of the above is to say that other men who have held Trump's job haven't had politically calculating thoughts in the immediate aftermath of tragedies. Of course they have. They are politicians, after all. It's what they do.
But what none before Trump did was jump into the politics right away. They held off a day or even a week until the full details of the tragedy were known and people had a chance to grieve. They sent that second Trump tweet first -- and, in most cases, didn't send the first one at all.
Nor is Trump wrong, broadly speaking, about the need to spend more on infrastructure in America -- particularly on many of our long-failing bridges, roads and tunnels. President after president has insisted how important infrastructure spending is to the country's future but has struggled to make it actually happen in any major way.
The problem here is that Trump is putting the cart way before the horse. Even while people continue to wonder whether their family members are safe, Trump is tweeting about how this just goes to show we need to spend more money on infrastructure.
It's not the wrong message. But it's definitely the wrong time for that message.
His past history suggests Trump is willing to play politics almost immediately after tragic events.
Maybe that is the new normal given the pace of news cycles and the relentless focus on partisan side-taking. But either way it's definitely new.
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