Hillary Clinton doesn’t know what the answers are, but Donald Trump believes the question itself exemplifies why he should be president.
As the nation once again finds itself reeling from a pair of fatal shootings of black men at the hands of police officers, the two candidates on Wednesday illustrated the divergent directions in which they would lead America if elected president, with Clinton as the pragmatist and Trump as the “law and order” provocateur.
Clinton first reinserted the issue of police reform and implicit bias into the 2016 campaign Tuesday morning during an interview with Steve Harvey in which she said the “horrible” Tulsa shooting of Terence Crutcher was “just unbearable and should be intolerable,” an unprompted remark she later echoed with a similar tweet that day.
Her relatively rapid response drew a swift swipe from Trump’s campaign Wednesday morning, as campaign manager Kellyanne Conway accused the former secretary of state of politicizing a high-profile death to score points.
“The loss of life is tragic, and I feel like we all should be looking at it non-partisanly, not even bipartisanly, if you will,” Conway told Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade. “But this is what she does. It’s like, she doesn’t pass up a moment to weigh in and try to score points or score votes.”
Clinton again thrust herself into the conversation Wednesday afternoon at the outset of what was billed an economic speech in Orlando, Florida, lamenting not only the death of Crutcher, but also Keith Lamont Scott, who was fatally shot by a police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday. Pastor Darrell Scott, meanwhile, gave Trump an assist when he broached the subject after the real estate mogul had spoken to a congregation of pastors inside a Cleveland church. Trump didn’t bring up the shootings during his rally in Toledo, Ohio, which came as Clinton spoke in Orlando.
Both candidates had tweeted about the shootings Wednesday morning, with Clinton calling for an end to such shootings and Trump suggesting that “the violence and unrest in Charlotte” cease amid his call for unity and leadership “to make America safe again.”
Clinton began her remarks by pausing to address “two very upsetting incidents” that have transpired over the past few days: the deaths of Crutcher, who was unarmed and had his hands raised when he was shot dead by a white female officer, and Scott, who police said was armed and posed a threat when he was killed by a black male officer.
A pragmatic Clinton named the victims, lamenting that Crutcher and Scott are “two more names to add to a list of African-Americans killed by police officers in these encounters,” and highlighted her relationships with mothers who have lost their children to similar situations.
“We’ve got to do better, and I know we can,” Clinton said. “And if I’m elected president, we will, and we will do it exactly together, which is the only way it can be done. Look, I know I don’t have the answers — I don’t know anyone who does — but this is certain: Too many people have lost their lives who shouldn’t have.”
Trump’s approach was different, to say the least. His tweets Wednesday morning suggested he could put an end to this lingering problem, and he failed to personalize the issue in the way Clinton had by naming the victims, thoughhe did express sympathy for Crutcher’s family.
When Pastor Darrell Scott asked Trump what he had to say about the recent police shootings of black men, the Republican presidential nominee first branded himself “a tremendous believer in police and law enforcement” and said that he’s “gotten the endorsement from so many different groups, and they’re great people,” before answering the question.
“Now, great people, you always have problems. You have somebody in there that either makes a mistake that’s bad or that chokes,” Trump said. “I must tell you, I watched the shooting in particular in Tulsa. And that man was hands up. That man went to the car, hands up, put his hand on the car. I mean, to me, it looked like he did everything you’re supposed to do, and he looked like a really good man.”
In the graphic video released by the Tulsa Police Department this week, a man inside a helicopter can be heard saying, “That looks like a bad dude, too” — moments before the video shows Crutcher lying on the ground dead.
Trump hinted that the officer who fired the fatal bullet may have choked and said he was “very, very troubled” by her actions. “Now, did she get scared? Was she choking?” Trump asked. “What happened? But maybe people like that, people that choke, people that do that, maybe they can’t be doing what they’re doing, OK? They can’t be doing what they’re doing.”
Speaking in Orlando, miles away from where Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, Clinton praised Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, calling her “a friend.”
“Sybrina says this is about saving our children, and she’s absolutely right,” Clinton said. “We need to come together, work together — white, black, Latino, Asian, all of us — to turn the tide, stop the violence, build the trust. We need to give all of our kids, no matter who they are, a chance to grow up safe and healthy in their communities and in our country. Now there are so many issues we need to take on together, and that’s why we’re here today. Because in just 48 days — can you believe it? Forty-eight days — Americans will go to the polls and choose our next president.”
For his part, Trump vowed to give his all in the final dash to Election Day to make America great and change the world. “All we have to do is turn out the doubters, the cynics and the naysayers, of which we have a lot of them,” Trump told supporters at his rally. “And I understand why we have so many: because they haven’t seen — it’s been all talk, no action for so many years by politicians. But just remember this: I’m not a politician, thankfully. I’m not a politician.”