And suddenly, with a click -- a trigger click, the first of who knows how many at the Pulse club -- the election campaign turned. And anyone worrying about Trumpian bankruptcies and buccaneering found himself isolated from the mainstream of discussion: To wit, how did it come to this, that yet another Muslim extremist could, with relative impunity, vent his rage against the customers at any kind of American bar, whether it be gay, straight, vegan, feminist, post-Confederate, libertarian, lepidopteran?
American: That would be the point, compassed by the laws and liberties of a country once clear-eyed enough to recognize enemies when it saw them emerging from dark places with dark intentions.
Powering the Trump phenomenon is considerable yearning for a time when government could be counted on to fulfill its basic duty toward its citizens -- the duty of protecting them from harm.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's rhetorical flailing after the Orlando massacre had various purposes, none of them so direct as Donald Trump's declarations.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate who occupies the Oval Office presented the Orlando job as an example of "homegrown extremism." Omar Mateen, by interpretation, could have been a Klansman or a tax resister.
Obama and Clinton condemned outrages against gays. The New York Times played the same hand, with a story about previous assaults on gay bars (none approaching the ferocity or thoroughness of Mateen's).
Both Democratic hierarchs sought to present the Orlando attack against the backdrop of other mass shootings. The obvious remedy, in their view: gun control.
While force is a necessary response, the two said, Americans must pull together. "We will love one another," Obama declared.
Some items to note:
--The late Mateen years ago came to the FBI's attention for radical views that aligned -- as he himself made clear -- with the views of Islamic extremists abroad. Though he grew up in Florida, he acted in the name of ISIS, not the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
--His attack on a gay bar tallies with traditional Muslim hatred of gays. Former Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, gay himself and an outspoken advocate of gay rights, found it necessary to point out that the Orlando massacre "reflects the virulence of the hatred (for gays) in this sector of Islam."
--No one outside the Obama speechwriting team supposes that gun control would impress maniacal terrorists or convince them to accept America's commitment to the lovey-dovey resolution of grievances. The death toll in Paris last year from the great Islamic onslaught was nearly three times that in Orlando, in spite of France's far stricter gun laws.
Unity and love seem likelier themes for funeral orations than for military planning exercises of the sort Trump seems to think should be underway, with ISIS as targets.
If Trump thinks he has caught the Obama-Clinton team red-handed in an act of political stagecraft meant to rally liberals and gays without alienating Muslims or committing the administration to undesired military exertions -- well, he just may have caught the varlets. And to his political profit.
Trump likely has no idea how to head off more Orlandos. An embargo on Muslim immigration, such as he has proposed, would not have stopped Mateen, who was born here. But his reading of the public mood seems far better informed than Clinton's.
Trump is one for cutting to the chase. He portrays the country's elites -- mostly sympathetic to Clinton if not actually in her pants pocket -- as intentionally dishonest. They don't tell the truth, in other words. "People understand that the game is rigged."
Voters don't like cover-ups. The Obama-Clinton approach on Orlando has about it the odor of an attempt to call out Trump at no cost to Democratic prospects next November.
Trump -- whatever excoriations he deserves -- has this virtue: He was not born yesterday. He knows what's going on. And he knows -- he thinks he does, at least -- what to do about it.
He had these decisive words about Islamic terrorism and his political opponents: "If I get in (the White House), it's going to change, and it's going to change quickly. We're going from total incompetence to just the opposite, believe me."