Opinion: Trump and Gold Star families

(AP)

Let me offer a few words in defense of President Trump — at least up to a point.

The president has argued, strenuously, that he had been respectful, polite and appropriate in a condolence call this week with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four U.S. soldiers killed two weeks ago in Niger. A Democratic congresswoman who overheard the call says that to the contrary, Trump was disrespectful and even callous to the grieving family. The widow herself — pregnant with child — and the soldier’s mother have said that they too felt the president was disrespectful.

Who’s telling the truth?

I think it’s plausible, even highly likely, that both parties are honestly describing their side of what had to be an emotionally difficult conversation. Every president makes those calls to grieving families; every president dreads them. Trump may have tried to express his sincere condolences and sympathy, while his native inability to empathize with others meant that it came across as awkward and insincere. Put another way, Trump’s intentions were probably honorable, even if his execution was poor. To that degree, his frustrations and anger at media coverage are understandable.

That said, however, it was Trump and only Trump who turned this whole thing into such a politicized mess. When asked why he had so far failed to publicly acknowledge the combat deaths of the four American soldiers, he could have and should have taken the opportunity to praise their bravery and sacrifice, and to express the nation’s gratitude to their families. Instead, Trump launched an unprovoked attack on President Obama and President Bush, claiming that they had seldom if ever contacted grieving Gold Star families and that he had done so in virtually every case.

What demon drives the man to do that, to escalate an opportunity for healing into a source of bitter dispute?

Both of his claims were demonstrably false, and the attack on his predecessors was so utterly beside the point as to be bizarre. It also led reporters to dig deeper into the question, turning up the fact that last summer, Trump had promised a grieving Gold Star father to write him a personal check for $25,000, then never kept that promise until the media reported the failure.

It is also telling that for the second occasion in his relatively brief time in the national political spotlight, Trump finds himself trapped where no leader ought to be, in a deeply personal yet public spat with a Gold Star family. (The first time came with his campaign-season feud with the Khan family.)

Again, how does this keep happening? It happens because Trump is incapable of understanding that in those interactions, it is he, the president — he, the great and mighty Donald J. Trump — who must humble himself out of respect for the enormous sacrifice that those families have made. In those circumstances, he is not the more important person, and if necessary, it is he who must suck it up and squelch his compulsion to “punch back twice as hard” against any perceived slight or criticism.

The idea that he has to place the welfare of others ahead of his own ego — the idea that leads soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice in the first place — is beyond Trump’s grasp, even in that sacred setting. The concept of servant leadership does not come naturally to him. And frankly, it’s that inability to see that larger picture, to respond under pressure with something other than lashing out viciously, that makes it so dangerous to have him as our nation’s commander in chief.

Reader Comments 0

764 comments
FloydLiberal
FloydLiberal

I have observed that as people age they tend to return to the religion and prejudices taught to them as children as being more sacred, more true than other life experiences. General Kelly by all accounts has been fair to those serving with and under him. His tirade against Congresswoman Wilson, calling her an empty barrel, impuning her character, was uncalled for, inaccurate and reeked of qualities in himself he has hidden until now. Trump does poison those around him or at least brings put their worst qualities.

Philo_Farnsworth
Philo_Farnsworth

Just saw the clip of Gen. Kelly.

You libs and MSM should hang your heads in total shame for exploiting military combat deaths for political Trump-sux purposes.

But you won’t. In fact, you’ll celebrate your ability to turn a tragedy into anti-Trump news cycle fodder.

No doubt toasts will be hoisted to the ditz in the sequined cowboy hat wherever she goes. Newsrooms across the fruited plain hang streamers and balloons.

Beyond pathetic.

carterjoseph1950
carterjoseph1950

Two wrongs never make a right. The congresswoman was out of line, and should have kept quiet. She made the situation worse. But Trump possesses not one shred of poise, dignity, empathy, or anything remotely resembling what he would call 'class'. He is as small as his ego is large. Just now, he gave himself a '10' for his handling of the catastrophe in Puerto Rico. What an effin' moron. And right now, General Kelly is covering his tracks. General Kelly has true dignity. Trump; not one teensy weensy bit.

gadem
gadem

Vindicator is a racist...

kitty72
kitty72

@gadem Vindicator is an idiot just like his president. You gotta pity him. Small, sad, and lonely life I bet.

kitty72
kitty72

@JohnnyReb @gadem Belittling other races to make you feel better about being white is one thing that makes a racist. 

straker
straker

vindicator - "a lying criminal phony"  And your evidence for this is? Note. Rightwing radio is not evidence.

honested
honested

@straker 

And he seems to miss the obvious fact, the lying criminal phony won.

Vindicator
Vindicator

@straker She's as dirty as a pig in excrement. What's the matter with you. Okay, now I get it. You voted for her and she lost. Everyone else got it. 

Brosephus
Brosephus

@Finn-McCool 

He's such a angry little winner, just like his choice for president.   He's the perfect little Trumpian.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Throw out all the Hispanics, take the vote away from blacks, the elderly and students, and all these despicable white losers will still be just that, losers.

 But they will still find someone else to blame besides themselves. They can look to their President for guidance on that personality quirk.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Finn-McCool

Where you getting that crap?

The only ones to be thrown out are illegals which could include more than Hispanics.

Now, based on the history of others voting there is a case for taking away their vote, but that's only a thought, not reality.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Finn-McCool @JohnnyReb  So, you actually believe that, IF whitey had his way, no one would be able to vote except for whites?  And, further, you actually believe that it could happen?

Brosephus
Brosephus

@DownInAlbany 

"IF whitey had his way, no one would be able to vote except for whites?  And, further, you actually believe that it could happen?"

Ummm, wasn't that how the country was founded?  I realized we've changed over the years, but it was wealthy white land owners who were the original voters.  Even white women were not allowed to vote.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Brosephus @DownInAlbany

Yep, started that way.

And there's something to be said for some version of that now.

We have a dangerous situation where people contributing nothing can vote.

They vote for people who give them more free stuff.

There is the danger of so much free stuff generating voters who only vote for the free stuff that the system explodes.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@JohnnyReb 

"How about you have to pay federal income tax to vote in federal elections."

Why do you hate the Constitution?

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.--24th Amendment to the US Constitution

Starik
Starik

@Brosephus @DownInAlbany Back in the '60s there were all-white Democratic primaries. Winning the primary meant you won the election. That's history.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@DownInAlbany 
What conspiracy theory?  You mean the one where Republicans have been rewriting voting laws while attempting to exclude as many non-Republican voters as possible.  The one fueled by Republicans attacking the Voting Rights Act.

I don't have to further anything. Republicans do a damn good job of it on their own.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@DownInAlbany 
LOL!!!  Now, there you go with the lame stuff...

I expect better than that, even from you.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Brosephus @DownInAlbany  So, you actually believe that the Republicans intend to abolish the voting rights of minorities.  I'll promise you this....IF that ever becomes a real threat, I promise to be on your side and fight it to the death.

Brosephus
Brosephus

@JohnnyReb 

You never cease to amaze me with your ability to put 10lbs of fecal matter into a 5lb bag.

The dangerous situation is that we are bordering on establishing an oligarchy, which runs counter to everything that the founders envisioned for this country.

You buy that crap about free stuff when it's being pushed by the people who want you to keep voting against your own interests so that the wealthy can continue to bleed this country dry.

I feel sorry for you to an extent because you've been fed that crap for so long that you can't see beyond the bulls**t now.  At the same time, I don't feel sorry for you because the information is there for you to find on your own, but you're to brainwashed to believe anything that doesn't come from right wing sources.