Politics & Policy

Picking which Tragedies to ‘Politicize’ Based on Politics, Politicizes All of Them

President Trump at the White House in October. (Reuters photo: Joshua Roberts)
I’m certainly not singling out President Trump on this one.

Many people have noticed how President Trump’s response to the Islamic terror attack in New York City is different from his response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas — namely, when it comes to “politicization.”

Of course, it is true that the responses have been different. When he was asked about possible gun-control legislation in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, President Trump said, “That’s not for now.” This message was consistent: When Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was later asked about it, she reiterated that the White House did not believe it was the time to have political conversations, explaining that “there’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country.”

And this time? Well . . . this:

Now, to be fair, I’m certainly not singling out President Trump on this one. All politicians do this — it’s how their game works. The most relevant example is probably Senator Chuck Schumer himself, who hit President Trump for “politicizing” the New York City tragedy even though he had used the Las Vegas massacre to call for gun control.

I’m also not making a judgment about what’s right or wrong in terms of calling for policy changes after tragedies, because I think that that’s a complicated question. What I am saying, however, is this: The way we currently talk about “politicization” and how we define what it does and does not mean to “politicize” is wrong. The truth is, if you’re picking which tragedies to “not politicize” based on politics, then your calls to “not politicize” are also inherently a form of politicization — and it’s time for more people to recognize that fact.


NR Editorial: Confronting the Terror Threat

What Does ‘Extreme Vetting’ Mean?

Sure, Go Ahead and Politicize Tragic Events

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online.

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