As president, Donald Trump has struggled to play the role of consoler-in-chief. After calling a pregnant widow, she said he couldn't remember her dead husband's name and "made her cry even worse." After Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, he bashed the Mayor on Twitter and hurled paper towels at the victims like he was playing a game. And after the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, he posed with the first responders for a photo, grinning, with two thumbs up, like he was cutting the ribbon on a new hotel.
Time after time, President Trump has shown a stunning lack of empathy. This trend continued when he met with the teenage survivors of the Florida shooting for a listening session. It's commendable that the President met with the kids, whose powerful voices have ignited a passionate national debate about gun control. However, the cameras caught a glimpse of his cue cards, which included prompts to say basic things like "I hear you." Critics slammed him for needing a cheat sheet to simulate human reactions.
At the Parkland massacre, Stoneman Douglas High School senior Samantha Fuentes was shot in both legs, and still has shrapnel lodged behind her eye. In an interview with The New York Times, she says that President Trump visited her in the hospital, and she had "never been so unimpressed by a person in [her] life."
"He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up.
"Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest."
She adds that Trump called the gunman a “sick puppy” and said “‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.”
It sounds like the President could have used his Cliff Notes.
To be fair, Trump also visited Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, died in the shooting, and the grieving father had nothing but good things to say about the experience:
"He showed us nothing but love. The guy really cared, you know? He flew us in, he had a bus waiting for us, he made time for us.
He took pictures of my daughter that we brought, and he said he was going to look at it every day.
He’s a regular guy. I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t think he cared."
Another participant in the White House listening session, 18-year-old Sam Zeif, said he felt stung by the President's cue cards and cold body language:
"Everything I said was directly from the heart, and he had to write down ‘I hear you.'
"Half the time during that meeting, his arms were crossed — I kept wanting to say, ‘Mr. President, uncross your arms.’ To me, that is the international sign for closemindedness; it’s really just a big ‘no.’”
"He may have heard us, but he’s never going to feel what we feel, because his kids are protected by the people that came to save me and my classmates that day."
For a man who strives to be so impressive, stamping his golden name on glitzy buildings, he's sure lacking in some ways.