no, he doesn’t get credit for trying

I’m paraphrasing here, but this is basically what I heard today. “Trump can’t catch a break. He tried to do the right thing, calling the families [of the four soldiers in the 3rd Special Forces Group who were killed in Niger]. He’s not good at it, but at least he tried. You have to give him credit for that.”

And you know what? I very nearly did.

Let me start by talking about something that happened to my family a million years ago. When I was 15 years old, I came home from school to find two Marines standing at the door to my house. My oldest brother was a Marine serving in a Recon unit in Vietnam at the time. I went numb when I saw those Marines. I was about half a block from home when I saw them; I don’t remember walking the rest of the way. One of Marines said something like, “Son, we need to talk to your mother, but she won’t come to the door.”

I could see her through the window, sitting at the kitchen table, refusing to even look at the door. I’ve no idea how long the Marines had been standing there, waiting. I opened the door and invited them in. They told us my brother had been shot in the leg and in the back, that he’d been evacuated to a hospital ship. My mother asked if he’d be okay. All they could say was that his prognosis was guarded. I assumed that meant he was probably going to die.

One of the Marines made coffee. They sat down at the kitchen table, walked us through the likely process of my brother’s med-evac, referring to him by name. “Roger would have been stabilized and treated for pain at the site, his condition monitored en route to the hospital ship,” and so on. They stayed with us until my father got home. Then they went through the whole process again.

My brother was lucky; he lived, (it turned out he hadn’t been shot in the back at all). Nine other Marines and a Navy corpsman were killed on that same day in Quang Nam province. I’ll never forget how gut-wrenching it was to see those two Marines at the door. I’ll never forget how patient they were, and how supportive, and how quiet and respectful and calm.

I don’t normally talk about this stuff, but this is the basis on which I very nearly gave Comrade Trump credit for trying. I know what it’s like to get bad news. Having been a medic in the military, I also know what it’s like to deliver that news. It’s not easy. So a part of me actually wanted to give Trump credit for making those calls.

Yes, after the four soldiers were killed in Niger, he failed to even try to contact the families for almost two weeks. In fact, he hadn’t said anything at all in public about the four deaths — and I suspect he wouldn’t have said anything about them if he hadn’t been asked about it in public by a reporter. And yes, when confronted with his failure, Trump tried to claim other presidents had done less than he’d done. Which was a lie. But he said he would call the families of the soldiers. And he did. There’s that.

Before he called them, Trump apparently consulted Gen. John Kelly, his Chief of Staff, to find out what he should say. According to Kelly, he told Trump those four soldiers knew what they’d signed up for — they knew there was a chance they’d get killed or wounded in the line of duty. To Kelly (and most folks with military experience) that knowledge magnifies the level of commitment and the weight of the sacrifice troops are prepared to make. They knew the risks, but were willing to undertake them in the service of their country. There’s a terrible beauty in that.

From what we know of the conversation Trump had with the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, he apparently attempted to make that point, but did it in such a clumsy way as to offend the family. It’s been reported that he never referred to Sgt. Johnson by name, just calling him “your guy”. Trump is also alleged to have said, “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

Even though he fucked it up, at that point I was still willing to reluctantly give Trump credit for trying. Then the family spoke out about the conversation, saying he’d been insensitive.

Here’s another thing that happened a moderately long time ago. President George W. Bush — the president I disliked the most until Comrade Trump slouched into office — had visited a military hospital to speak with troops wounded in the war he’d started. One of the families of the wounded was present, and they voiced their anger and resentment about the war and about Bush. Bush just stood there, facing the family, and took it. As the Commander-in-Chief, Bush understood his duty — to the family, to the soldier, to the America public — was to quietly accept the family’s anger, because he was ultimately responsible for that soldier’s wounds and that family’s distress. I passionately disliked Bush, but I respected him at that moment.

Had Trump done the same — had he followed Bush’s example, had he just quietly accepted the Johnson family’s response — I’d have given him credit for trying to do the right thing. Even though he’d been sort of forced into and even though he’d bungled it badly, I’d have given him credit for trying. If only he’d handled it like an adult.

But he didn’t. Instead, Trump lashed out. Which is what he does when he’s criticized. He lashed out and he lied about what took place– just as he’s done against other Gold Star families who’ve publicly criticized him.

So no, I don’t give Trump credit for trying. I might have given him credit; I very nearly did. But in the end Comrade Trump again confirmed to me that he’s a despicable poltroon, with no native sense of decency, and no regard for the truth, and no real respect for the military.

Those two Marines who came to deliver the awful news to my family, they didn’t know my brother. But they knew his name. They knew other Marines just like him. They knew other families like ours. They treated us with patience and courtesy and dignity and deep compassion.

Those qualities seem to be completely absent in the president.

 

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17 thoughts on “no, he doesn’t get credit for trying

  1. You are right, he should have gone golfing like Obama did right after the American Journalist was beheaded. That would have been much more presidential.

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    • Then you’ll be happy to know that Comrade Trump was actually playing golf with Sen. Lindsey Graham on the day Sgt. Johnson’s flag-draped casket was flown into Dover AFB. Trump still hadn’t mentioned the deaths of the four Green Berets, though he’d found time to tweet that NFL players who took a knee during the National Anthem were being disrespectful of the military.

      As for President Obama, at least he’d spoken to the family of James Foley shortly after news of his murder was released. He also later apologized for golfing at what was certainly an inappropriate time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So what you are saying is Trump is NO DIFFERENT than any previous President of the United States except you don’t like him so you call him out for doing the same things all the previous presidents did. Can you at least be honest and admit that?

        Do you know how long it tool Obama to call fallen soldiers families? Do you know if he actually did call each and every one of them? If you do not know, how can you now hold it against Trump if you do not have precedence to compare it to?

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      • what you are saying is Trump is NO DIFFERENT than any previous President

        Lawdy, I don’t know how you read that into my response. But let’s clarify the two cases.

        James Foley was a freelance journalist working in Syria on a story for Agence France-Presse. La David Johnson was a member of the 3rd Special Forces Group, serving his country. Very different circumstances.

        Foley was kidnapped and held for ransom. President Obama authorized a rescue attempt that involved multiple special operations units from different branches of the US military. It turned out Foley had been moved, so the operation didn’t succeed. The White House and the Dept of Defense were in frequent communication with the Foley family, though US law forbids paying ransom to terrorists. When Foley was beheaded, President Obama called the Foley family within hours to offer his condolences.

        President Trump failed to comment at all on the four deaths of the Green Berets for nearly two weeks. He only acknowledged their deaths when asked about it at a news conference. He then called the families.

        To compare Obama’s response to death of a US citizen working for a French news agency with Trump’s response to a death of four soldiers serving their country is ridiculous. The only thing the two situations have in common is that both presidents went golfing. Only one of them had the grace to apologize for it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So then you have record of all of the phone calls and comments made by Obama on the deaths of all service men and women during his 8 years in office? I would like to know his average wait time before phone calls were made and before he made mention of those deaths publicly.

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      • Why do you think this fuss is about making phone calls to families? It’s not. It’s about the responsibilities of being the president. None of this would have happened had the White House simply issued a statement of condolence about the men who were killed and wounded in Niger. A statement of some sort was appropriate because of the unusual circumstances of the ambush.

        Nobody expects the president to call the family of every military person who dies in the line of duty. It wasn’t really necessary for Trump to call them on this occasion. It became politically necessary only because a reporter asked him about the deaths, and Trump’s off-the-cuff lies about what other presidents had done. But once he said he would call, it was incumbent upon him to do it with sensitivity and care. If his call didn’t go well, his job was to quietly accept the family’s opprobrium.

        This situation is entirely a result of Trump’s cascading bad decisions and his refusal to accept responsibility for those decisions.

        Liked by 1 person

    • But… but… but… Obama/Hillary is not a valid reply. Obama wasn’t by any means perfect but he’s a much better president & person in general, than Trump. Stop making excuses for the nimrod. it’s one thing to have voted for him, it’s another that now he’s in office you make excuses for his fuck ups. The smart Republicans are sick of his shit, too. He hasn’t done the majority of what he promised and he’s done the opposite of most of what he’s promised his “followers”. This idiotic thought that you have to blindly be loyal is just … sad.

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      • Much better president in which way? In the less than one year Trump has been in office:

        1. Illegal Immigration has slowed
        2. Record stockmarket
        3. Wage growth finally
        4. 3+% GDP
        5. Food stamps down
        6. Black unemployment down
        7. overall unemployment down
        8. U6 unemployment down
        9. Executive order repealing parts of Obamacare
        10. opening up coal mines and coal energy
        11. Consumer confidence at an all time high
        12. US manufacturing growing
        13. More positive outlook for US business

        I could keep going, but you get my drift here. While you think Trump is a dud he is doing EVERYTHING he said he would do in the campaign, imagine that, campaign promises being kept! Did Obama ever close GITMO? No? Thought that was happening right away.

        Oh, and I am not comparing Trump to other presidents, I am demonstrating your hypocrisy. 7 more years of Trump and we may have this nation back on the rails again.

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      • he is doing EVERYTHING he said he would do in the campaign

        Some of what you say is accurate. Some of it is misleading. Some of it is demonstrably false. For example, you say illegal immigration has slowed. That’s appears to be partly accurate. Trump has made the US significantly less attractive, which has slowed ALL immigration, legal and illegal. His ICE has radically increased the number of immigration arrests, but the rate of deportation has actually slowed because of the massive (and expensive) backlog of something like 600,000 cases waiting to be adjudicated.

        We do NOT have 3% GDP. We’ve had an average 2.6% GDP for the last 18 quarters, and that includes a 2.9% GDP in the 3rd quarter of last year. 3% has been predicted, but we haven’t got there yet. And by the way, we had a 5% GDP under Obama until the Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014. It’s diminished since then.

        You say ‘food stamps down’ like it’s a good thing. If poor folks were getting off food relief because they’ve found work, that would be a good thing. But what’s actually happened is that Congress and the States have made it more difficult for poor folks to get food relief. The reduction in food stamps isn’t a sign of improvement.

        The same is true of unemployment. The current rate of 4.4% is good. It was 4.8% in January when Trump took office. But remember that these numbers fluctuate. There were periods late in the Obama administration when the unemployment rate was 4.3%. Also remember how unemployment is defined. It’s not the rate of people who don’t have a job; it’s the rate of people who are looking for a job. The rate doesn’t count the people who have given up the search for employment (which includes retirees who’d like to supplement their income, but stopped looking for work after a while).

        As you said, ‘I could keep going, but you get my drift here.’ Comrade Trump isn’t an effective leader, isn’t an honest and truthful leader, isn’t a trustworthy leader, isn’t a disciplined leader. He demonstrates that every day.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I guess leadership is in the eye of the lead. Obama in my opinion failed at every aspect of his presidency. I did not vote for the man but had hoped for the best. He instead divided this nation between the haves and have-nots, the rich and the poor, the black and the white, the immigrant and the citizen, and those who love personal freedom vs. those who love a nanny state.

        The only accomplishment on record for him was Obamacare and nearly 100% of it was a lie and a bonus for insurance companies. My premiums alone went from $1200 a month to $2200 a month under him and I lost my doctors, all things he promised would not happen. It is one of the worst things forced on Americans. For the money wasted he could have just paid for the insurance of the supposed 47 million uninsured and left the rest of us alone.

        As for Trump, you guys are all the same, you bitch and moan about how he acts, how he talks but when it comes to getting shit done, the man does not quit, he is not like your regular politician who says “ok, this failed lets look at it again in 5 years”, no, he is trying to get things done now.

        How about instead of looking at the messenger you begin to listen to the message. Ask yourself why did so many people in this nation vote for him an why do nearly all of those who voted for him still will vote for him again?

        You guys act as if every previous president was pure as the driven snow until Trump was elected. You ignore so much because of your bias and hatred. You are just a party hack it seems. At least I can state that there is no real difference between a democrat or republican in office, they are all about keeping power and maintaining the status quo. That’s why both sides hate Trump, he is not status quo and that is a beautiful thing.

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    • Mr. Woody, did you not read these two paragraphs Greg wrote?

      “Had Trump done the same — had he followed Bush’s example, had he just quietly accepted the Johnson family’s response — I’d have given him credit for trying to do the right thing. Even though he’d been sort of forced into and even though he’d bungled it badly, I’d have given him credit for trying. If only he’d handled it like an adult.

      “But he didn’t. Instead, Trump lashed out. Which is what he does when he’s criticized. He lashed out and he lied about what took place– just as he’s done against other Gold Star families who’ve publicly criticized him.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Greg, your personal integrity makes each of these entries so meaningful, I am at once surprised to find any such thing on the Internet, and grateful for the Internet so that I can find them and use them to restore some faith in some people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your perspective on this presidency consistently blows my mind, Greg. And your opinions on him and his lack of decency echo those of the two Republican senators who had the guts (sans re-election bids) to speak the truth about him this week. Another supporter (a reporter) of his I know locally put up his mea culpa this week, about his mistaken support for the man during the election. More are seeing through, seeing the truth as we’ve seen it all along.

    Great, touching piece, man.

    Liked by 1 person

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