(Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
 /www.washingtonpost.com

A traditional president would have reacted carefully to the London Bridge

terrorist attack by instilling calm, being judicious about facts and appealing to the country’s better angels.

But Donald Trump is no traditional president. He reacted impulsively to

Saturday night’s carnage by stoking panic and fear, being indiscreet with

details of the event and capitalizing on it to advocate for one of his more

polarizing policies and to advance a personal feud.

Before British authorities detailed exactly what happened on the London Bridge,

before they blamed Islamist extremism and even before they publicly concluded

it was an act of terrorism, President Trump fired off a tweet to his 31 million

followers: An unconfirmed bulletin from the Drudge Report.

“Fears of new terror attack after van ‘mows down 20 people’ on London Bridge . . . ,” read

the Drudge tweet, which Trump retweeted.

Before offering his condolences to the British people, the victims of

three gruesome attacks in as many months, Trump pecked out a second tweet.

“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough,” the president wrote, calling on

U.S. courts to affirm his administration’s travel ban on people from

six majority-Muslim nations.

Later that evening, Trump spoke

with British Prime Minister

Theresa May and extended

his support for America’s

closest ally. He tweeted, “Whatever

the United States can do to

help out in London and the U. K., we will be there —

WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!”

On Sunday morning, however, once the breadth of the horror

in London was clear, Trump was back on Twitter. He criticized

the city’s mayor — Sadiq Khan, a liberal Muslim and an old

Trump foil — for not being tough enough protecting his citizens.

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and

Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’ ” Trump tweeted.

Trump took Khan’s quote out of context. The mayor had urged Londoners,

in a BBC interview that was replayed, not to be “alarmed” by an increased

police presence in the city. He said that after condemning the “deliberate

and cowardly attack” as “barbaric.”

A Khan representative swatted away Trump’s taunt, saying in a statement 

that the mayor “has more important things to do than respond to

Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context

his remarks urging Londoners not to be alarmed when they saw

more police — including armed officers — on the streets.”

Trump also stoked the long-running and emotionally charged national

debate over gun laws by pointing out that the London attackers did not use

firearms. “Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s

because they used knives and a truck!” Trump tweeted.

Britain has some of the world’s strictest laws on gun purchases. The death

toll in London might have been higher had the attackers used the kind of

semiautomatic weapons that are more easily attainable in the United States.

White House officials did not respond

to questions about Trump’s

comments on Sunday.

With Trump spending another

day at his private golf club

in Sterling, Va., the

White House’s social media director, Dan Scavino, revived an old

Trump-Khan feud on Twitter and scolded the mayor to “WAKE UP!!!!

Chris Lu, who served as White House Cabinet secretary under

President Barack Obama, was aghast.

“The fact that the White House social media director is commenting

before the national security leadership has spoken is yet another

example of Trump’s ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ attitude towards

handling international incidents,” Lu said.

Historian Robert Dallek said Trump is exhibiting an entirely

new style of presidential leadership. “Trump rubs everything raw,”

he said. “He makes it more acerbic, more contentious.”

Dallek, who has studied former president Franklin D. Roosevelt,

who steered the country through Pearl Harbor, was unsparing in

his critique of Trump’s response to the London attack.

“There’s something so petty about this man,” Dallek said. “What

we’re dealing with is someone who is, and I think this is the best term,

an egomaniac. Everything has to revolve around him — he knows better,

he’s right, he one-ups everything.”

Trump’s supporters are likely to see his swift flurry of commentary as

evidence of strength and unwavering resolve — a leader dispatching with

political correctness and caution to deliver an assessment that is

authentic and immediate.

This is just how Trump behaved on the campaign trail. He was quick

to pounce on terrorist incidents in Paris and Brussels, as well as

Orlando and San Bernardino, Calif., with tough vows, even if

he was loose with his facts.

Last month, after a suicide bomber killed 22 others and injured

scores more at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England,

Trump labeled terrorists “evil losers” and vowed to obliterate

“this wicked ideology.”

Trump last week also prematurely called a deadly attack in a

casino in the Philippines a “terrorist attack.” Philippine President

Rodrigo Duterte later said it was not the work of terrorists but a “crazy” gunman.

Trump’s response to this weekend’s London Bridge incident won praise

Sunday morning from friend Nigel Farage, who as head of the UK Independence

Party led last year’s Brexit movement, which Trump supported and saw as a

precursor to his own election.

In an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends,” a show Trump

is known to watch frequently, Farage sharply criticized Khan and May’s

responses to the London attack as too timid and politically correct.

He also lamented that the city had become, in his assessment, a safe

harbor for Muslim “radicals.”

“We don’t just want speeches given outside 10 Downing Street,” Farage said. “We

want genuine action. And if there’s not action, then the calls for internment will grow.”

Trump echoed Farage’s broad sentiment, assailing political correctness

in the United States as well. “We must stop being politically correct

and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t

get smart it will only get worse,” Trump said on Twitter.

Although Trump and May have a relationship that both countries

describe as positive and productive, Trump has long tangled with

Khan, a member of the Labour Party who was elected mayor

last year, London’s first Muslim chief executive.

Khan has positioned himself as a moral and ideological foil to Trump.

During last year’s U.S. presidential campaign, Trump proposed

banning all Muslims from entering the United States, but suggested

he would make an exception for London’s mayor. Khan responded 

by saying Trump had an “ignorant view of Islam.”

In January, Khan criticized Trump’s travel ban on people from

seven majority-Muslim countries — it was later revised to six.

The mayor called it “shameful and cruel,” saying that the policy “flies

in the face of the values of freedom and tolerance.”

And just last week, Khan joined the chorus of foreign leaders denouncing 

Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark

Paris climate agreement.

After the London attack, Trump’s critics chastised him

for continuing his feud with Khan.

“I don’t think that a major terrorist attack like this is the time

to be divisive and to criticize a mayor who’s trying to organize

his city’s response to this attack,” former vice president Al Gore

said Sunday on CNN. “The terrorists want us to live in a state of constant fear.”