I was right.

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Trump Can’t Rise to the Occasion

Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. She was a White House correspondent for Time, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and an editor at the New Republic.
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The only reaction to Donald Trump’s response on Monday to the slaughter at a gay nightclub in Orlando is: “Really, you couldn’t help yourself, with all the country is going through.”

He couldn’t. Even before he asked for a moment of silence for the 49 victims in Orlando, Trump was lighting into Hillary Clinton and “how bad a president” she would be. His authority on that is a former Secret Service agent, who “has seen her under pressure and in times of stress, has stated that she lacks the temperament and integrity to be president.”

QuickTake How the U.S. Elects Its Presidents

A campaign is an imperfect vehicle for judging how a presidential candidate would lead the country. It's as likely to inflame as enlighten.

The presumptive Republican nominee's reaction to Orlando, via Twitter on Sunday and in the speech Monday, gave a glimpse of how commander-in-chief Trump might behave in the face of a terrorist act. It wasn’t encouraging.

First, in his tweets, he seized on the attacks as an opportunity to talk about his strength and prescience and others’ weaknesses. The shooting, he said, brought all kinds of praise for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country: “I had been receiving tens of thousands of tweets, literally, tweets and calls and letters and everything. Because I’ve been the one that predicted it." Trump boasted. “And I’m the one that said what you should be doing. And I don’t want the credit.”

Trump is the master of taking in full daylight the thing he says he doesn’t want.  He went on to tear into Clinton for being too politically correct to call the enemy by its rightful name. When she uttered the phrase Islamic terrorism on Monday morning, Trump must not have heard because he didn't say the shift in language meant she was suddenly suited to be president.

His attacks on others at least were a little more fleshed-out than his proposals to prevent further terror strikes. His old hobby horse was dragged out. "The current politically correct response cripples our ability to talk and to think and act clearly,” he said Monday. His other advice centered on tightening immigration laws so that not just Muslims would be banned from coming in but all citizens from any country that has experienced an act of terrorism. Not only is that more impossible and inadvisable than his initial call to bar an entire religion but it would hardly be a solution for this horror. At times, he spoke as if the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, wasn't born in the U.S. As for Mateen's ability to obtain the AR-15 assault rifle that allowed him to shoot 100 people, killing 49, Trump said he would be speaking to the National Rifle Association, but not about changing the law.

Then Trump went back to his political beginnings. On Fox News on Monday morning he questioned the patriotism of President Barack Obama. who "either is not tough, not smart, or he's got something else in mind." In case he wasn’t clear, he suggested that the problem may be that the president is a sympathizer of radical Islam. Obama “doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands. It's one or the other.”

The performance should give second thoughts to Republicans who cling to the hope that Trump, after some stumbles, will grow into the role of presidential nominee and maybe even president. Even in the face of immense tragedy and continuing peril, he could not stop aggrandizing himself and maligning others, and showed no interest in the complicated national security questions that any president might be called upon to confront.

Once a birther, always a birther, and so much worse.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Margaret Carlson at mcarlson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net