Our great national nightmare

As a cruel temporary diversion from the insanity of the Trump presidency that has gripped the country, now comes yet another mass schoolhouse murder in Florida.

Is anybody surprised?

The mayhem goes on despite Sandy Hook, Columbine and the other similar American tragedies that have afflicted this gun-plagued land. The obvious solution starts with keeping these weapons intended for warfare out of the hands of noncombatants of all ages. But don’t tell that to the gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association.

One of its proudest and most prominent members, Citizen Donald J. Trump, took to television the day after the latest shooting and accepted with solemn words the customary role in such times as the nation’s consoler-in-chief. He assured all school children they were loved by their parents and would be protected by them and their community.

But the president said not a single word about the shooter’s ability to get the rapid-firing AR-15 weapon with which he sprayed down and murdered 17 young victims. Nor did he utter a word about any presidential plan, broad or specific, to deal with it.

Prior to his televised condolence, however, Trump tweeted: “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disabled, even expelled for school for ‘erratic behavior.’ Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again.”

The latest slaughter, and the resultant televised scenes of weeping mothers and siblings and sober police officers doing their best to offer their solace to the victims and their families, is all too familiar. It comes amid the less dramatic but equally deplorable destruction of American political institutions by dysfunctional national leadership.

This deserved condemnation is aimed not only at the serial liar and self-aggrandizer in the Oval Office but at Congress as well. Too many of its members continue to mouth sympathies or callous defenses of the Second Amendment in the face of the innocent fallen.

The sheer volume and repetition of these schoolroom massacres should be a sufficient red flag demanding that the president and congressional leaders put aside their intramural squabbling and confront the gun lobby on such mass killing machines. The founders never had them in mind or knew of them in writing the Second Amendment.

But with a president preoccupied with trying to save his own skin against a range of allegations both personal and political, and the two major parties coping with identity crises of their own, the nation seems uncommonly adrift morally amid otherwise good times.

The Republicans who once proudly and stolidly stood for fiscal responsibility have now shamelessly fallen in line with Trump’s transparent raid on the nation’s treasury. His tax “reforms” dole out pennies to the poor while further enriching the already abundantly wealthy.

Meanwhile, the Democrats, who equally proudly created the concept of a social safety net after the miseries of the Great Depression, seem paralyzed as Republicans threaten deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for their largesse to the rich.

Seldom since that depression of the 1930s has this country seemed more morally adrift, under a leader who exhorts patriotism but betrays it with his own personal behavior, words and example.

Instead of calling on the best elements of our national nature, he continues to play the carnival barker outside the tent, peddling the phony rewards within.

Until the latest school massacre in Florida, what dominated the news? Beyond the investigation of Russian agents meddling in our elections and its threat to Trump’s presidency, there was the domestic violence allegations against one of his top aides and reports of hush money paid to a porn star with whom Trump had allegedly dallied.

Trump and members of Congress cannot of course be directly blamed for what happened Wednesday at the high school in Parkland, Fla. But the latest episode shouts again of the culpability of our leading federal officials in limiting their response to soft words of sympathy rather than legislative action to keep the guns of war out of the hands of schoolchildren and those who would harm them.