U.S. President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, meets at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department with first responders who reacted to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - HP1EDA41HLF5Z

Two catastrophes – one natural, the other man made – and two very different responses from President Trump.

On Tuesday in Puerto Rico, Donald Trump got it badly wrong.

He made a joke of how much money the disaster caused by Hurricane Maria would cost America; he was filmed tossing paper towels nonchalantly into a crowd of hurricane survivors and he told Puerto Ricans they should be proud of the death toll.

His point was that Hurricane Maria was nowhere near as bad as Hurricane Katrina which devastated areas around New Orleans.

It was meant as a jibe to President George W Bush who manifestly failed in his response to Katrina.

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Video:Trump hands out kitchen roll in Puerto Rico

And it was also designed to deflect attention from the President’s own deficiencies in reaction to Maria. And just imagine what the families of those who died in Puerto Rico made of the suggestion that they should have pride in the death toll. It was just an ill thought out comment.

But 24 hours later in Las Vegas, President Trump got it pretty much right.

His job here was to be consoler-in-chief to the injured, the families of the dead, and those caught up in the slaughter.

And he also had to pay tribute to the emergency services who attended the scene and risked their lives doing so. His tone was appropriate and sympathetic. He was clearly moved by the accounts he was hearing from those involved.

He said it made him “proud to be an American”. He even invited some first responders to the White House.

Donald Trump speaks in the company of Las Vegas police

Video:Donald Trump in Las Vegas with ‘heroes’

I know it played to Mr Trump’s strengths as a cheerleader for America and to his favourite themes of courage, patriotism and service. But credit where credit is due. He did what he needed to do.

What he didn’t address, of course, was the issue of gun control.

He has said it will be looked at “as time goes by” but it sounds a lot like he’s not only kicking the issue down the road, but he’s also flicking it into the long grass as well.

It suits him politically to do that. It suits his supporters – too many of them passionate protectors of not only the right to bear arms, but the right to bear arms of an absurdly powerful nature.

Whether it suits America in the long run is another matter altogether.

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