Obama tore the country apart and now, finally, Donald Trump is putting the country back together again, because he’s a uniter, not a divider. Donald Trump has united the country against Muslims and “Mexicans” and those Black Lives Matter thugs, who want to kill policemen, and Colin Kaepernick, and gays too, and urban hipsters and the fancy-pants experts and goofy scientists and “Hollywood” – whatever that means – and united the country against anyone who doesn’t consider Jesus Christ his or her personal savior – with the exception of a few Jewish folks – for now. Trump’s son-in-law is Jewish. His daughter converted – and Israel is where Jesus was born so those folks get a pass too. But no one else gets a pass. The country is finally united on that.
That’s the argument, along with the assertion that Trump has brought dignity back to the office – and he just called a Gold Star widow, whose husband had just been killed in combat, a liar for saying he was unsympathetic when he called her, to comfort her, which didn’t go well.
No one should have been surprised. Last year, Khizr and Ghazala Khan took the stage at the Democratic National Convention to accuse Trump of disrespecting the memory of their son, Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim American who had been killed in Iraq. Trump had just said that Muslims be barred from entering the country. They were pissed, and Trump decided to praise the Khans’ son, but he also said his parents had “no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”
He said he had the right to defend himself, so he tweeted this – “I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!”
This was just more of the same, and CNN’s Chris Cillizza sums up the situation:
Calling the widow of an American soldier killed in action is, emotionally speaking, absolutely gut-wrenching. Knowing that nothing you will say can bring true comfort. Knowing a life – and likely many lives – have been altered forever – facing down pure loss and pure grief.
As difficult as it is emotionally, it is just as simple politically speaking. You call – or write – expressing deepest sympathies and condolences. You offer any assistance you can. The end.
Which makes what President Donald Trump has done – and is doing – with Myeshia Johnson all the more appalling.
Trump was being Trump:
On Monday, in an interview with “Good Morning America,” Johnson, the widow of slain Sgt. La David Johnson, spoke for the first time in public about her phone call with Trump. She confirmed Wilson’s account that Trump had told her that her husband “knew what he was getting into” and added: “It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it. He couldn’t remember my husband’s name.”
To which Trump almost immediately replied via Twitter: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”
He couldn’t help it. He had to defend himself once again, but that had implications:
After spending the weekend attacking Wilson for allegedly lying about the nature of the call between himself and Johnson – even though White House chief of staff John Kelly confirmed last week the basics of Wilson’s account of the words Trump used – the President is now suggesting that the widow of a soldier killed in action is lying.
There’s simply no other way to read this. Johnson says Trump couldn’t remember her husband’s name. Trump says he used La David’s name “without hesitation” from the start of the call. Both of those things can’t be true.
Trump called the grieving widow a liar – he told the whole world that he thought that she was a liar – but Cillizza argues that this didn’t have to happen:
It is absolutely possible that, at root, this is all one big misunderstanding. Trump, awkward and unfamiliar with the empathy required to make this sort of call, came across as callous and uncaring to Johnson and Wilson in an entirely unintentional way. They were offended.
At that point, Trump could have made much – maybe all – of this go away by simply calling Myeshia Johnson back and saying something along these lines: “I’m so sorry our previous call made you upset. I struggle with every death of an American soldier and I simply am not great all the time at conveying how much your loss means to me and the country.”
Would Johnson be totally satisfied? Maybe not. But, it would be a respectful gesture to someone who has just lost a husband fighting for this country under orders from the commander in chief.
It would be taking the high road. It would be saying: Whether or not I said the right things, they weren’t received in the way I meant them. So I am going to admit that and move on.
Fine, but Cillizza then points out the obvious:
Doing that, of course, would mean not being Donald Trump. Throughout his life – in the business world and over the past two-plus years in politics – Trump has repeatedly shown a lack of empathy for people who are not him. And he has demonstrated, on a near-daily basis, that he will say and do anything in support of “winning.”
He attacked Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who spent almost six years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, as a war hero only because he was captured. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” (Trump received five medical deferments – including one for “bone spurs” – to avoid Vietnam service.)
He hit back at Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father who lost his son in Iraq in 2004, after Khan gave a speech critical of him at the Democratic National Convention. “Who wrote that? Did Hillary’s script writers write it?” Trump said of Khan’s speech. “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.”
And now this – perhaps the lowest Trump has sunk: Disputing the account of a condolence call with a recently widowed soldier’s wife.
Trump has not brought dignity back the office:
Consider only how badly Trump botched this from a political perspective. We are now on Day 8 of this story, which boils down to: “Trump calls widow of soldier who died in battle, upsets her, disputes nature of call.”
Politically speaking, this was a layup. Trump not only missed the layup. He threw the ball over the backboard and out of the gym. Then he went and found the ball in the hallway and deflated it.
It’s hard to imagine how Trump could have handled all of this any worse. And what’s amazing is that there is a zero percent chance he will admit that he mishandled it or try to make things even marginally better with Johnson… Instead, if past is prologue, he will continue on the attack and then use any public appearance in the coming weeks to insist events proved him right.
It may be that most Americans want him to just drop this, except for those who think that dignity is getting angry and getting tough, even at the slightest slight that doesn’t really matter much at all. Trump supporters call that maintaining dignity – demanding it and never letting even the slight giggle go unanswered without a devastating counterattack. Maintaining dignity is holding grudges and never letting them go.
But something else may be going on here, and the Washington Post’s Eugene Scott covers that:
Concerns about a Trump presidency were prevalent among black women long before he entered the White House.
In exit polls from Election Day, 76 percent of black women said they were “scared” of a Trump win. And in a Gallup poll the summer before the election, 72 percent of black women said they “strongly agreed” that they were afraid of what would happen if their preferred candidate did not win the election.
Since his win, the Trump administration has repeatedly found itself on the receiving end of criticism for comments and policies impacting women and people of color. And many black women are saying, “I told you so.”
“Black women tried to save you, America. You didn’t want to be saved,” former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Zerlina Maxwell wrote earlier this month in Cosmopolitan.
For many of these women, seeing President Trump tweet Monday that the widow of the sergeant killed in Niger was not being truthful felt like the latest reminder that he never had their best interests in mind.
So this is racial too:
Many black women feel like the attacks from Trump reek of sexism and racism in ways that Trump’s other attacks do not.
“At a time when black women bury their sons and daughters as a result of gun violence, police brutality and service to this country, the lack of respect from this president is unbearable,” Midway Charles wrote in Essence – a magazine that addresses issues relevant to black women. “Worse, he sets a dangerous precedent on how black women should be perceived and treated in America.”
When April Ryan, a veteran White House reporter, asked Trump in February if he would include black lawmakers in his meetings about urban policy renewal, he told the journalist to set up a meeting with the politicians after asking if they were her “friends.”
The White House was criticized for calling for the firing of ESPN anchor Jemele Hill after she called Trump a white supremacist, but Trump continued to attack Hill and her company for critiquing his positions on race.
Former national security adviser Susan E. Rice, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile have also found themselves on the receiving end of Trump’s criticism in ways that, some believe, are different than his hits on those who are not black women.
“Whether it’s a knowing choice from the president or it stems from his utter lack of restraint, the attacks reflect his twin contempt for women and nonwhites,” Slate’s Jamelle Bouie wrote. “Trump pushes back against most criticism, but when it comes from a prominent black woman, the response is more aggressive, more interested in making a spectacle – and an example.”
But no one should be surprised by that:
Trump did have some high-profile black women on his campaign, including his spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, a former congressional candidate, and Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who joined him in the White House. But the fact remains that only one percent of black women said the Republican Party has their best interests in mind.
Katrina Pierson famously told America that Captain Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq because of a cowardly change in the rules of engagement under Barack Obama’s presidency – “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagement that probably cost his life.”
She took some heat for that. Khan was killed in 2004 – when Obama was the new junior senator from Illinois – but black women can get things wrong. Everyone knows this. That may be why Trump was fine with calling the current grieving widow a liar. The black bitch lied – they all do. One percent of black women say the Republican Party has their best interests in mind. The other ninety-nine percent know the Republican Party. So does Donald Trump. Khizr and Ghazala Khan were both Muslim, not black, but Muslims lie too. White folks don’t lie. The Republican Party is their party.
It’s also their military:
Sen. John McCain never mentioned President Trump in criticizing the Vietnam War-era draft system that allowed the wealthy and connected to avoid military service.
But the Arizona senator didn’t have to as he blasted “bone spur” medical deferments, which Trump used to avoid service during the war.
“We drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” McCain said in an interview Sunday on C-SPAN’s “American History” program. “That is wrong. That is wrong. If we’re going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”
Rich white kids didn’t serve. They found a rich white doctor, which McCain says wasn’t right:
Asked on Monday if he meant Trump was a draft-dodger, McCain explained he was criticizing the draft as “one of the great inequities of the Vietnam conflict.”
“I don’t consider him so much a draft dodger as much as I feel that the system was so wrong that certain Americans could evade their responsibilities to serve the country,” he said during an appearance, alongside his daughter, Meghan, on “The View.”
Philip Bump adds additional detail:
In 1993, Christian Appy wrote “Working-Class War,” a look at the composition of those who fought in the Vietnam War, often after having been drafted into service. Appy’s data makes clear that McCain’s point was largely accurate – with an interesting caveat.
During the Civil War, the draft could be avoided by either paying someone to take your place or paying a commutation fee of $300, about $5,600 in 2017 dollars. During Vietnam, the price could be even lower, according to Appy. Even having braces on your teeth could result in a deferment, prompting dentists in the Los Angeles area to offer the service for as little as $1,000.
That sort of evasion – as well as having a doctor who’d be willing to attest to your heel spurs – wasn’t free. Nor was college, the other mechanism that Trump employed. “Census records show that youth from families earning $7,500 to $10,000 were almost two and a half times more likely to attend college than those from families earning under $5,000” Appy writes. What’s more, only full-time students were eligible for exemption.
The net effect is that nearly 80 percent of those who served in Vietnam came from working-class families. Those working-class soldiers were also more likely to be trained for combat.
They were also overwhelmingly black, not that this matters now:
Of course, the modern American military is all-volunteer. The government isn’t scooping up people to be sent to Southeast Asia to be killed in a quagmire of a war. McCain’s frustration at how service in Vietnam played out was conflated with his frustration at his nemesis Donald Trump. And, no doubt, his frustration that Trump is now the commander in chief of those armed forces.
That’s what worries John McCain, as it should, given a new survey in Military Times:
Nearly one in four troops polled say they have seen examples of white nationalism among their fellow service members, and troops rate it as a larger national security threat than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new Military Times poll.
The troops were surveyed about one month after white supremacist groups and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia.
They saw what they saw, something more dangerous than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but nothing’s that simple:
Concerns about white nationalist groups were more pronounced among minorities in the ranks. Nearly 42 percent of non-white troops who responded to the survey said they have personally experienced examples of white nationalism in the military, versus about 18 percent of white service members.
When asked whether white nationalists pose a threat to national security, 30 percent of respondents labeled it a significant danger, more than many international hot spots, like Syria (27 percent), Pakistan (25 percent), Afghanistan (22 percent) and Iraq (17 percent).
But a notable number of poll participants also bristled at the assertion that white-power ideology is a real problem.
That’s the Trump effect:
Nearly five percent of those polled left comments complaining that groups like Black Lives Matter – whose stated goal is to raise awareness of violence and discrimination towards black people – weren’t included among the options for threats to national security.
The poll did include unspecified “U.S. protest movements” and “civil disobedience” among the potential threats to America. But respondents’ concerns about those issues fell well short of the perceived white nationalist threat.
So, the white nationalist threat is a far bigger problem, but there are aggrieved white folks:
Singling out white supremacist groups irritated some of the troops surveyed.
“White nationalism is not a terrorist organization,” wrote one Navy commander, who declined to give his name.
“You do realize white nationalists and racists are two totally different types of people?” wrote another anonymous Air Force staff sergeant.
That staff sergeant was echoing Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville – there were “fine people” marching alongside the neo-Nazi white nationalists and white supremacists in Charlottesville. They were just proud to be white, and liked their heritage, and liked those “beautiful” old statues of Robert E. Lee – but they weren’t racists.
That’s a fine and subtle distinction, or someone’s lying, but these guys will do their duty:
More than 60 percent of troops who took the survey said they would support activating the National Guard or reserves to handle civil unrest arising from white nationalist activities like the Charlottesville event. In Charlottesville in August, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and activated the Virginia National Guard to help with crowd control and to deter violence.
More than sixty percent of them are fine with that. The other forty percent isn’t. That’s the Trump effect too, and there’s the other survey:
President Donald Trump enjoys far stronger support among members of the military than the American public at large, according to the latest scientific Military Times poll. Yet while Trump is especially popular among enlisted troops, officers have a much lower opinion of him. And women and minorities in the ranks share similar skepticism….
While almost 48 percent of enlisted troops approve of Trump, only about 30 percent of officers say the same, the poll shows.
Trump has not united the military:
One Navy lieutenant who asked to remain anonymous called Trump’s blunt talk distracting. The Trump White House “seems extremely reactionary, verging on whimsical, when it comes to matters of international politics,” the Navy lieutenant said.
“They are also creating unnecessary division domestically and revisiting political battles that have already been settled and accepted, such as reinstating the transgender military ban. It causes so much upheaval, stress and wasted resources, and has a real impact on morale at the deck-plate level.”
One retired Air Force colonel, who similarly asked for anonymity, called the officer-enlisted split shocking. “I never thought that you would have a disparity in the numbers like that,” he said.
He suspects that Trump’s unpredictability is both the source of enlisted troops’ attraction to him and officers’ reservations.
“When you have a hierarchy like we have within the military, part of it is that there is respect for the chain of command,” he said. “What Trump may offer is, it doesn’t matter. He’s just going to say whatever he wants to say, regardless of what the expected norms are for that position.”
So, Donald Trump has united the nation and brought dignity back to the presidency. Someone’s lying here, and it’s not that new widow.