Not a word from Mr. Trump about the threat of terrorism, or a shred of curiosity about motives and whether the Saudi officer was radicalized and by whom, or a thought about what Saudi Arabia could do to help investigate the shooter, or perhaps a lament that a pilot, a guest of the United States, would carry out such a horrific assault on his hosts, or even a worry about where the 21-year-old officer got the weapon. Mr. Trump quickly pivoted to say there were a lot of countries participating in the aviator training program. He often performs this pivot, a telltale dodge. “There are a lot of killers,” he said once when asked about a leader who dispatches assassins abroad. “I think there is blame on both sides,” he said after Charlottesville.
Mr. Trump has an inexplicable blind spot for Saudi Arabia. He has no trouble insulting in the vilest way people from other Muslim countries. He is hostile generally to people from “shithole” countries. After a terrorist attack in London, he said on Twitter, “These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!” But when a Saudi carries out an attack on a U.S. military base, Mr. Trump becomes a spokesman and apologist for the king.
King Salman has assured Mr. Trump, according to an embassy news release, that he has “directed Saudi security services to cooperate with the relevant American agencies to uncover information that will help determine the cause of this horrific attack.” Perhaps Mr. Trump thinks Americans have forgotten that when Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Mr. Trump and members of his administration vowed, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it, to pursue “a thorough, transparent and timely investigation, including accountability for those responsible for the killing.” This promise remains unfulfilled.
The king’s promises of cooperation might be more credible if he would direct his intelligence service, and the crown prince to whom it reports, to pay more attention to cases of radicalization and less to what seem to be the prince’s top priorities: silencing peaceful dissent, torturing women who campaigned for the right to drive, surveilling the relatives of the murdered Khashoggi. Mr. Trump might ask the king to make public who really ordered that murder and to free the writers and activists the regime has thrown into prison. That is, if Mr. Trump could see beyond his blind spot.