It can be stipulated that Donald J. Trump is a self-promoting vulgarian who, characteristically, demonstrated his lack of class by comparing his attentions to Gold Star families to those of past presidents. Trump’s clear implication was that he was being more solicitous of those families than former presidents Obama and Bush had been.
It can also be stipulated that Trump should never have engaged in a pissing contest with a member of Congress over the flag-draped coffin of a fallen soldier. The proper response to Representative Frederica Wilson’s charges was silence. Instead Trump played a part in turning a family’s intensely private time of grief into a sordid public spectacle.
But to apportion to Donald Trump the criticism he so richly deserves by no means lets various other people off the hook, chief among them Representative Wilson who, I believe, exploited her access to the family of Sergeant La David Johnson to smear the President. I simply do not believe that he was in any way disrespectful to the memory of a fallen soldier and his family. As it happens we have a full audio/video recording of a call made by Trump to another Gold Star widow, Natasha De Alencar. The President was nothing but gracious and sympathetic. He spoke to her for some time, praising her late husband as a hero and asking after her children. It strains credulity to suppose that he would have behaved differently in the case of Sergeant Johnson’s family.
So what actually happened? I think that after the call Wilson seized upon some turn of phrase that Trump had used, such as “he knew what he was getting into,” and pressed upon the grieving family her claim that the President had been disrespectful. In short, she employed cynical and heartless emotional manipulation to get someone in the family say what she wanted them to say.
Wilson’s subsequent behavior — a zany phone interview with the ladies of “The View,” her bragging that the incident had turned her into a “rock star,” her vile and baseless charge of racism against White House Chief of Staff (and Gold Star parent) John Kelly — gives ample grounds for doubt that she was acting in good faith. But since there’s no recording of the call, it’s safe for the Left as a whole to take her side, echoing her claims, defaming Trump and Kelly, despite a lack of evidence that the former was disrespectful or that the latter lied about anything.
Indeed we now know that the Left’s proclaimed solicitude for Gold Star families stops short of political expediency and Trump hatred. Though he lost a son in combat, John Kelly is being excoriated as a liar, a racist, a dishonorable swine by the likes of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, whose on-air rant against Kelly was a low moment even for these degenerate times.
This has been a sad week for those of us who wear or have worn the uniform. I believed with John Kelly that some things are still sacred, chief among them the honor and respect due to our fallen military members and their families. I happen to be a retired soldier whose daughter is an Army veteran of Afghanistan. Serving as an MP, she had a tough year over there but, thankfully, returned to us whole in body and spirit. Over the course of that year my wife and I did our best to keep a good thought. Still, the dread possibility of a knock on the door heralding terrible news was never absent from our minds. And now look what we’ve done as a country. Bad as that moment is for the families that do experience it, we as a nation, by our virulent partisanship, bad faith and disregard for common decency, have made it worse. Shame on us.