- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Faced with the first tragedy of national proportions since taking office, President Trump commanded the occasion Wednesday, delivering words of comfort and a call for unity after a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers, wounding four people.

The president described the attack on Republicans preparing for the annual congressional baseball game just miles from the Capitol as an assault on American democracy.

“We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” Mr. Trump said in a speech delivered at the White House.

“We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified, and when we work together for the common good,” he said.

The shooting that wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a lobbyist, a GOP aide and two Capitol Police officers shocked the country and tested Mr. Trump’s leadership. For the most part, he rose to meet the challenge.

“Everyone on that field is a public servant: our courageous police, our congressional aides who work so tirelessly behind the scenes with enormous devotion and our dedicated members of Congress who represent our people,” he said.

Mr. Trump avoided partisanship in his remarks despite evidence that the shooter, who was identified as James T. Hodgkinson, appeared to be motivated by hatred of Republicans.

He offered the country’s prayers to Mr. Scalise and the other wounded, and he praised the bravery of the Capitol Hill police officers “who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault.”

American presidents often have been called upon to console the country during difficult episodes, including Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing, George W. Bush on 9/11 and Barack Obama after the Fort Hood shooting.

After the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing the seven astronauts on board, Ronald Reagan postponed a State of the Union Address scheduled that night and instead delivered a message broadcast form the Oval Office.

“I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery,” Reagan said. “It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

Unlike these other tragedies, however, the shooting Wednesday did not result in deaths other than the gunman’s.

Still, Mr. Trump’s response followed the precedent for such occasions. He canceled his scheduled events for the day, spoke to the country to provide an update and give comfort and quietly coordinated with federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security.

In giving an update, however, Mr. Trump took on the unusual role for a president of announcing that the gunman had died after being shot by Capitol Police at the scene. He made the announcement within minutes of a briefing by law enforcement officials who did not disclose that the gunman had been killed.

It was unclear whether the president’s announcement had been planned.

Mr. Trump said that he and first lady Melania Trump were grateful for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers, who were there as a security detail for Mr. Scalise.

He said that he and Mrs. Trump would keep all the victims in their prayers.

The president also spoke hopefully about Mr. Scalise’s recovery. At the time, Mr. Scalise was undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound in the hip and was believed to be in stable condition. Later, after surgery, he was in critical condition at the hospital.

“Congressman Scalise is a friend and a very good friend. He’s a patriot and he’s a fighter. He will recover from this assault,” said Mr. Trump. “And Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you, but of an entire nation and, frankly, the entire world.

“America is praying for you, and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting,” said the president.

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