On Monday, Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson spoke out about her much-ballyhooed call with President Trump. For the last week, colorfully-behatted Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) accused Trump of botching the phone call and offending Johnson by stating that Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in early October in Niger, had known what he signed up for; Trump and White House chief of staff General John Kelly said that Trump hadn’t said anything offensive, and that he meant to compliment Sgt. Johnson’s bravery.
This was pretty clearly a Rashomon situation. Trump said something that Johnson interpreted in a certain way. Johnson was upset; Trump didn’t mean to say anything wrong. The proper response here would be something like this from President Trump: “I meant only to express my condolences to Mrs. Johnson and my immense respect and gratitude for her husband’s sacrifice. If those comments were interpreted differently, I apologize, and I would love the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Johnson again to more clearly express my feelings for a fallen American hero.”
Instead, Trump tweeted this:
Now, some of Trump’s supporters will undoubtedly see this as just another example for the TRUMP FIGHTS!!!!!! folder. But not every fight is a smart one. This one isn’t. Trump may have gotten away with it because he was running against the least popular politician in American history in 2016, but he isn’t going to win additional votes by going after a Gold Star widow. The bizarre misimpression that Trump can do anything and still win in 2020 ignores that his opponent matters.
Plus there’s a moral issue involved here. Our social fabric relies on certain things being held sacred. Among them: the sanctity of Gold Star families, and their intentions. Trump seems to be implying dissembling on Johnson’s behalf. That’s a mistake, and a bad one.
Here’s George W. Bush — an honorable man, even if you disagree with his policies — responding to Cindy Sheehan, a Gold Star mother who went after him in significantly more brutal terms than Johnson went after Trump:
Sheehan was wrong on policy and Bush right. But that didn’t matter: what comes through is Bush’s sympathy for Sheehan, and his understanding of the gravity of the issues at stake. This sort of behavior ennobles the country and enhances its unity, even if the Left refused to take Bush at his word.
That’s what we need. Some class. Some leadership. If not for Trump’s sake, for the sake of his presidency and the country.