“In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!” This was President Trump’s statement delivered via tweet about the terrorist attack in New York City on October 31 in which Sayfullo Saipov, a 29 year old man from Uzbekistan, mowed down approximately twenty people with a rented pickup truck. Ultimately, eight people died. Saipov committed this act in the name of ISIS, inspired by their ongoing war with the United States and the West; in a cruel twist of irony, six of his victims were actually foreign nationals.
October 31 was a difficult day for many Americans as they mourned people who died for simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Moreover, attacks like this make us question our safety in our own cities and towns—a horrible, unnerving itch that is hard to shake. The president was no exception to these emotions and was spurred to action. He issued a statement two hours after his first tweet: “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”
This tweet is problematic for a number of reasons. The most apparent is Trump’s choice to discuss political correctness, or, rather, lack thereof, in this context. This sounds like an echo of Trump’s travel ban and a continuation of Trump’s push for harsher immigration policies. Trump chose to use this attack in New York City as “evidence” for his claim that we should be extremely hesitant letting people of certain nationalities into this country because they could potentially be terrorists. Moreover, it deserves to be mentioned that Saipov was from Uzbekistan, a country not targeted by Trump’s travel ban. This debate over immigration is very partisan; however, many would classify this tweet as not only as not politically correct, but as discriminatory towards people from the Middle East. It is also highly questionable whether this response to a terrorist attack was the appropriate time to address the issue.
However, there was an additional, non-partisan issue present in this tweet: Trump never did what he said he was going to do. Since October 31, no changes to the vetting procedure have been implemented. Moreover, following the attack, Trump also promised to get more aggressive with the military towards ISIS in the Middle East but failed to provide any actual plans or concrete proof of actually changing his strategy. This is a disturbing trend that is emerging out of the Trump administration: they talk the talk but we rarely ever see them walk the walk. Trump loves to tweet about national events but never seems to accomplish creating policy in response to them.
A brief chronology: In August 2015, Trump tweeted that he was outraged by the name change of Mount McKinley to Mount Denali and promised to change it back. Currently, according to Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, Trump has no plans to reverse the name change. Additionally, in June 2016, Trump tweeted about his support of the LGBT community. However, in July 2017, he tweeted his plan to ban transgender people from joining the military. Most recently, in September 2017, Trump tweeted a promise to support the country and to provide resources after it was hit by a category 4 hurricane. However, the United States’s actual response was slow and insufficient; Trump issued a statement blaming the Atlantic Ocean for this. However, the Trump administration continued to be ineffective in helping Puerto Rico, ultimately leading San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz to publicly beg for support from the federal government.
These are only a few example to illustrate that in the few years that Trump has been in the political sphere, he has made a habit of making false promises. This should be a major concern for everyone in this country, as it reflects badly on the entire nation if our leader is perceived as untrustworthy. In the case of the New York attack, it is particularly egregious to make empty statements when we as a nation are scared and looking to our leadership for real action and guidance.
Moreover, it is incredibly problematic that we don’t know what we can and can’t believe from Trump’s statements; in situations like these, if people have been mislead, they tend to not trust anything after that point. Thus, due to these tweets and other unactuated promises, Trump’s credibility is shot. We have to live in an atmosphere of extreme unease as neither the people of this country nor foreign leadership have any idea what Trump is actually going to do. If people don’t take the president seriously, then they don’t take this country seriously. In this highly globalized era, that reputation will impact our economy, our alliances and our standing in the world.
Trump’s statements matter more than anyone else’s in the nation—to waste that on empty words is a disservice to this country and everyone in it.
The featured image in this article is used under the Creative Commons license. The original can be found here.
Lucy Ritzmann is a first year prospective Political Science major interested in political media and law. Last summer, she interned at the Manhattan Borough President's Office. For winter quarter, she is a Fellow's Ambassador at the IOP. In her free time, she enjoys being with her friends and zumba.