Within seconds of reports Wednesday of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, discussion began at the White House over whether the president should visit the Broward County town and comfort the families over their losses.
According to the Broward County Sheriff's office, there were at least 17 deaths that resulted from the shooting Wednesday afternoon.
At press time, there was no word on any plans from President Donald Trump. But several of this reporter's colleagues who cover Trump suggested a trip to the site could be a way for him to move to the backburner such controversies as those involving the White House staff and the probe into Russian election interference by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller.
"A trip to Broward County would be a way for Trump to get away from all of this," is how one veteran White House correspondent put it.
Barbara Perry, presidential studies director at the University of Virginia's Miller Center, described the president's "comforter-in-chief" role as one of issuing "a formal condolence statement from the White House followed by a sacraemental ritual of visiting survivors and victims' loved ones and participating in public memorials."
Among examples cited by Perry were Bill Clinton visiting survivors of the 1995 federal building bombing in Oklahoma City, and Ronald Reagan speaking poetically in his 1986 farewell to the space shuttle Challenger's victims. She also pointed to Barack Obama reaching out to salve the nation's wounds after shootings in Tucson, Arizona, Newton, Connecticut, Charleston, South Carolina, and Orlando, Florida.
But there are doubts about whether Trump would be a proper comforter-in-chief.
"Unfortunately, Trump is not a Reagan or a Clinton or an Obama or a Bush," political scientist Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute told Newsmax. "He does not do well in situations where empathy is called for."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.