In this whole Niger/condolence controversy, people are correct to point out that almost no one, certainly those in Congress who should have been in the loop, knew that the United States even had troops in the western African country.
The intelligence was so insubstantial that four US service members were killed, and that needs to be thoroughly invested. The body of one Green Beret, that of Sgt. La David Johnson, was not recovered until two days later, and that hasn’t been explained either.
I suspect General John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, advised the Donald not to make calls because he knew that wasn’t in his skill set. Kelly tells Trump the touching, inspirational words of his friend who said, “(your son) knew what he signed up for and he was surrounded by the best men in the world, doing what he loved.” The message goes in, comes out sideways.
Responding to media criticism, he calls the sergeant’s widow, Myeisha Johnson, quoting General Kelly’s words without any real feeling or personal experience and bollocks it up. At Mrs. Johnson’s request, her friend, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, was listening in, and later noted the insensitive response.
NOW he lashes back, and not with just with his Twitter war, when he refers to Rep. Wilson as “wacky” at least thrice, presumably because she always wears hats in honor of her grandmother. He claims to have proof that the member of Congress, and presumably Myeisha Johnson, are lying. Or as Borowitz satirically put it: Trump Says He Is Only President in History with Courage to Stand Up to War Widows.
Compare this response to that of George W. Bush, who accepted a grieving mother’s anger.
While condolences are being rush shipped out, he deploys General Kelly to the briefing room. As the New Yorker notes:
“The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.
1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military…
2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do…
3. Communication between the President and a military widow is no one’s business but theirs…
4. Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country…
“When Kelly replaced the ineffectual Reince Priebus as the chief of staff, a sigh of relief emerged: at least the general would impose some discipline on the Administration. Now we have a sense of what military discipline in the White House sounds like.”
The Weekly Sift quotes other critics of the general. “Vox’ Dara Lind compares his attitude to Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men… ‘He actively thinks that they have America wrong, and that they will never understand it in the way those who serve it will.
“Charles Pierce sees Kelly’s lying defense of Trump as ‘a terribly sad moment. Everything and everybody this president’ touches goes bad from the inside out.
“Matt Yglesias had another depressing thought. ‘Kelly’s performance… should be a wakeup call to anyone who still thinks there are ‘adults in the room’ who’ll save us.” We’re down to Mattis, I suppose.
Equally chilling is WH spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders who suggests that one ought not to challenge the word of a four-star general, even when he’s wrong. It’s part of the increasingly authoritarian response to criticism.
And THAT is what I think is another takeaway from this debacle.
THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH, OCTOBER 23, 2017 – John Kelly lies about a congresswoman while defending President Trump; Gold Star father Khizr Khan