It’s been a heck of a week, so maybe you missed the report about Trump’s meeting with Harry Dunn’s parents. Dunn is the British teenager who was killed when his motorcycle was hit by a car driving on the wrong side of the road. Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat, was in the driver’s seat. Sacoolas promptly used her diplomatic immunity to flee the country. Dunn’s parents and British officials insist that Sacoolas should return to Britain and face legal consequences. So far, Sacoolas has not agreed to do that.
So Trump swooped in to fix things and make it all better. He invited Dunn’s parents to the White House to meet with a senior official. Much to their surprise, that official was Trump himself. They were further stunned when Trump announced that Sacoolas was also in the White House and ready to meet with them. Naturally, the couple felt blindsided. They refused the meeting. Who can blame them? This woman killed their son and then ran away. Can you imagine how angry and upset they must feel? According to people in the White House, Trump thought he could stage an emotional “hug and make up moment.”
These sorts of manufactured moments are common, of course, in one particular venue—reality television. I’m sure Trump has staged these moments before, but this is not an episode of “The Apprentice.” This is real life and real death and real consequences. Anyone involved in dragging the Dunns to the White House for this nonsense ought to be ashamed.
But Trump does not do shame. He does not do empathy. He does not do thoughtfulness. I guarantee he had someone standing by to videotape the hug. It’s beyond crass and Dunn’s parents weren’t having it. Charlotte Charles, Dunn’s mother, tried to explain it to Trump, which is generous given that he’s repeatedly downplayed the gravity of the situation by remarking that people drive on the wrong side of the road “all the time” in Britain. Dunn’s mother said to Trump, “If this was your son, surely you would be doing the same thing, you would be trying to get justice for him.”
Trump agreed that he probably would. It seemed like the first time he’d considered it from the perspective of a parent. That’s stunning. He has five children. Yet he never once put himself in the Dunn family’s shoes.
This whole mess is tragic. It would be tragic even if Sacoolas had done the right thing and stayed in Britain. The tragedy is compounded because she fled. Diplomatic immunity was not created to provide cover for a spouse’s reckless driving. British officials argue that Sacoolas waived immunity when she fled the country. The laws governing this sort of immunity are complicated. Countries tend to interpret them in ways that favor their own citizens. There is room for disagreement about what and who is covered. I’m not a legal scholar and I don’t know what the law requires in this situation, but human decency requires that Sacoolas do more than hide out in a White House greenroom and wait to be called up by the reality show director-in-chief. The Dunn family deserves better.