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Trump Wages War Against a War Widow

October 25, 2017
Plain English Version

Myeshia Johson, widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, at his casket.

U.S. President Donald Trump continues his odd behavior.

Four U.S. Marines died in an ambush by ISIS in Niger. Niger is a country in north-central Africa. Why and how they died is a big question. The U.S. government is looking into the reasons.

For almost two weeks, Trump said nothing to the nation about the awful event. Someone must have told him it was a good idea to call the families of the dead Marines. He announced he would do so. He told the nation he was first or almost the first president to make such calls. This was not true.

One call went to the widow of Sargent La David Johnson. Trump asked his Chief-of-Staff John Kelly what he should say to the widow. Kelly is a four-star, retired Marine General. He lost a son fighting in Afghanistan. He is what Americans call a “Gold Star Parent.” Gold Star Parents are those who have lost a family member in military combat.

Trump made the call to Sgt. Johnson’s widow. It did not turn out well. No one thinks Trump blew the call on purpose. It just came out in a bad way. After the call, Sgt. Johnson’s widow spoke about her reaction to the call. She said Trump stumbled on La David Johnson’s name. She said that in one part of the call Trump said her husband ”knew what he was signed up for, but I guess it still hurts.”

A member of Congress, Frederica Wilson, was present and heard the call. She made what she heard public. Then a firestorm started.

Mr. Kelly went to press to talk about what happens when a soldier dies in combat. His description moved everyone in the pressroom. He should have stopped with those comments, but he did not.

Kelly went on to talk about Congresswoman Wilson who made the president’s remarks public. He misstated key facts about a speech she made at the dedication of a new federal office building in Florida. Kelly said Wilson bragged about getting the money for the building. She did not. Rather, she talked about how she worked to get the building named for two fallen FBI agents. Kelly referred to her as an “empty” barrel” just making noise.

Most folks said John Kelly should admit he was wrong and apologize to Congresswoman Wilson. Apologies and admissions of wrongdoing do not happen in the world of Donald Trump. The White House insisted Kelly got it right.

Most knew what would happen next. Kelly became tarnished in a country that honors the military. The Johnson family is black as is the Congresswoman. Soon, race became part of the controversy.

How could a call to a grieving widow come to engage the nation? It is part of the strange presidency of Donald Trump.

Source: The New York Times October 23, 2017

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