Trump on Wednesday was asked about the Sacoolas case after he noted that he had just spoken to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Here’s that exchange (bolding is mine):
REPORTER: “There was a case involving a car crash involving am American diplomat’s wife. Did you bring — did you talk about that?”
TRUMP: “So, what we’re going to do — it’s a very, very complex issue, as you know, because we’re talking about diplomatic immunity, which, in itself, is quite a subject, right? You people could lecture me on it, I suspect. But it’s quite a subject.
“A terrible accident occurred. The person driving the car — they know who it was, and they have it on camera. A young man was killed on his motorcycle. He was killed — sounds like instantly killed.
“The woman, through diplomatic immunity, left the UK, and came back to America. And what I’m going to try and do and see — because I understand where the people from the UK are. And, frankly, a lot of Americans feel the same way. We have — I was telling Boris, we have a lot of Americans that, you know, they side on the fact that, you know, you have two wonderful parents that lost their son, and the woman was driving on the wrong side of the road.
“And that can happen. You know, those are the opposite roads. That happens. I won’t say it ever happened to me, but it did. When you get used to driving on our system and then you’re all of a sudden in the other system, where you’re driving — it happens. Have to be careful — very careful.
“So a young man was killed, the person that was driving the automobile has diplomatic immunity. We’re going to speak to her very shortly and see if we can do something where they meet — it was an accident.”
So, yeah. “Opposite roads.” “Driving in our system.” “It happens.”
It’s hard to imagine that those words are terribly comforting to Harry Dunn’s parents, right? Well, the President of the United States has driven on the wrong side of the road and “it happens,” so….
There’s also this: Trump was asked directly whether he would support Sacoolas returning to Britain to stand trial. Here’s what he said:
“We’re going to speak to her and we’re going to see the person driving the car — the wife of the diplomat. We’re going to speak to her and see what we can come up with so that there can be some healing. There’s tremendous anger over it. It’s a terrible incident. There’s tremendous anger, and I understand the anger from the other side very much.”
Which, well, isn’t an answer at all.
It’s not clear why Trump felt the need to engage on the issue — particularly given that it’s clear his administration hasn’t decided how best to deal with it. Sure, he was asked the question. But to respond by explaining which side of the road you drive on in the UK vs. in the US is, at best, tonally bizarre.
This story isn’t as big a deal as the ongoing investigation into the Trump administration’s pressure campaign in Ukraine. I get that. But Trump’s unorthodox approach as President — of which his seeming total lack of empathy is one — is a major story and will have long and lasting effects on not only the way we think about the office he holds, but the way in which people treat one another.