President Donald Trump declared in his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 2017: "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
As a lead-up, he bemoaned inner-city poverty, abandoned factories, inadequate schools and "the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential."
Despite decades of falling crime rates all over the United States, and economic revivals that occurred in big cities, Trump said repeatedly in the weeks and months leading up to the grim national assessment at his swearing-in: "A Trump administration will end this long nightmare of violence.”
Nightmarish episodes of violence continue.
In the past two years, we have witnessed: the biggest mass shooting of its kind in modern American history, in Las Vegas; the deadliest attack on Jews in American history, in Pittsburgh; the slaying of 17 at a high school in Parkland, Florida; and a jihadi's truck attack that killed eight in Manhattan.
Several incidents occurred so close together late last month that a killing probed as a bias crime in Kentucky drew only fleeting national media attention. A white gunman who killed two black people he didn't know at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, on Wednesday had tried to enter a predominantly black church minutes earlier, authorities said.
American soldiers continue to come under fire and lose their lives in Afghanistan, and gang-related slayings in such places as Chicago generate sporadic doses of political blame from the nation's tough-talking commander in chief.
Mail bombs sent last month to prominent Democrats proved nonlethal. But their back story was unique. Unlike anti-Vietnam war activists who set off bombs or right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh who struck Oklahoma City during Bill Clinton's administration, ex-New Yorker Cesar Sayoc allegedly acted not only against the federal government, but against detractors of a president he appears to have revered. Trump will take no responsibility for this.
Reality often differs from the mirages evoked in official speeches. At best this reveals a presidential promise unfulfilled.
In August, Trump was recorded warning political allies of "violence" if Republicans lose their majority in Congress in the midterm elections Tuesday.
Gang violence, terrorist attacks and school shootings of course preceded his incumbency. But so far, Trump makes no effort to explain the episodes on his own watch, or even clarified what he meant when he spoke of “this American carnage.”