Thirteen days after Sergeant La David Johnson was killed in Niger, and a day after Donald Trump boasted about his actions to console grieving families in contrast to his predecessors, the president called Johnson’s family Tuesday night.
Representative Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat, was with widow Myeshia Johnson when Trump called. “She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, ‘He didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part,” Wilson told MSNBC.
“He said, ‘Well, I guess you knew’—something to the effect that ‘he knew what he was getting into when he signed up, but I guess it hurts anyway.’ You know, just matter-of-factly, that this is what happens, anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. That’s the way we interpreted it. It was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”
I wrote this about the Republicans back in 2014:
The Republican voters - some of whom are genuinely nice in the real world, and hug puppies and feed unicorns whenever possible - have a problem: the Republican Party they're stuck with has the habit of talking and acting like assholes. There's no other way to describe this behavior...
...How can the American electorate respect or even like a Republican Party that shows no respect to others? How can there be any empathy or compassion for a political party that isn't even doing a good enough job faking compassion, or any emotions other than spite and hate?
trump's phone call to Johnson's widow echoes back to this problem: That the Republican leadership and the party as a whole simply lacks any empathy or emotional awareness at all...
In trump's case, it is as textbook a case of sociopathy you'll ever see in public. He obsesses over ensuring loyalty, attacks others for political points without even acknowledging his hypocrisy, and shows no respect for anyone he deems beneath him. As Graham noted:
It is not just that Trump claimed, falsely, that his predecessors had insufficiently consoled grieving families of service-members. He also spent most of the last month wrapping himself in the flag while waging a fight with NFL players and other athletes who have kneeled or undertaken other protests during the National Anthem. The athletes say these protests are a way of bringing attention to police violence and racism. But Trump has insisted that the kneeling “has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem.” The president has used his powerful Twitter account to pass along the idea that players who kneel are slighting the American military.
Even as he insists that NFL players are disrespecting the military, Trump did not make any public comment about the deaths in Niger until he was asked about it at a public press conference. Only after this prodding, and his bragging that he called every family he could, did Trump make a call to La David Johnson’s family. And when he did, he botched the call badly enough that he left Johnson’s widow in tears and his mother feeling disrespected. The president cannot be both the foremost patriot and the utmost consoler while at the same time dragging his feet on calls and angering military families.
trump fails at every requirement that the office of the Presidency expects from a leader.
A President needs to be wise, politically savvy, aware of current matters, informed on his administration's actions. We look to a President to be - and I'm going to gender-specific archetypes for this - a Father, or a Brother, or a Son, a Priest, an Educator, a Leader of the Community: in short, a Hero. Someone with charisma and style, a modicum of success, a knowing wink, a glad hand to shake, a dinner table of lively chatter with him as the provider of bon mots and sage advice.
trump is none of these things. His own resume speaks against being a genuine success: relying on the mercy of his father for his business starts, and the mercy of bankruptcy courts to rescue him from failed casinos and condos, and relying on a popular media that can't look away from his excesses and allowed him to revel in that. trump is no priest or teacher, and what he is as a Father or Brother has been clearly lacking in how screwed up his personal life is.
Whatever trump presents of himself as a leader is based on fantasy and lies. His place in the community comes from putting his name in big letters on every ad space he can get. His role in the community is never about serving others, only himself. Even when he shows up at charity events - that he gave no money to - it's all about putting himself at the center of attention, preening for the cameras before stealing off (either figuratively or literally with the charity's money pot).
There is nothing about him that makes trump truly Presidential. he cannot connect on an emotional level to anyone who's not a preening bully like himself.
Expecting trump to make phone calls to grieving families is like expecting Jack the Ripper to send Thank You cards to the British Suffragette movement.
It's just not going to end well. At all.