Last night on The Booth we discussed the issue of Presidential phone calls to the families of fallen servicemembers. President Trump recklessly and incorrectly suggested more than once yesterday that prior presidents did not call the families of servicemembers who had died in service to the nation. When challenged, he doubled-down on the falsehood as he is prone to do, thus politicizing this previously sanctified presidential action. For generations, presidents of all parties performed this solemn duty with the privacy and dignity so clearly called for by such a moment. I cannot think of a single incident wherein any president, member of Congress, or even the media violated the sanctity of this occasion. To be abundantly clear, we do not politicize the deaths of servicemembers, period. To my knowledge, only the Westboro Baptist Church commits such an atrocious violation, routinely protesting the funeral of servicemembers who died in service to the nation. They are clearly a disgusting fringe organization we will not dignify with further discussion. The President’s decision to discuss let alone cast aspersion to his predecessors in their performance of this sacred duty was a gross departure from custom and decorum, beneath the dignity of the office, and another example of his lack of character. The issue should have ended yesterday. That said, I am extremely uncomfortable continuing the discussion, especially as a veteran who respects this presidential duty. However, today’s events deserve brief additional comment.
Sergeant (SGT) Johnson’s body returned home to Miami yesterday. It was touching to see sincere respect from everyone at Miami International Airport from the airline workers on the tarmac to law enforcement to the military escorts. Mrs. Johnson, the grieving widow, was joined in the limo by her children, her aunt and uncle, Congresswoman Wilson, and Dade County Commissioner Jordan. It seems President Trump called Mrs. Johnson while all were in the limo and she took the call on speaker for all to hear. Because of President Trump’s inappropriate comments yesterday disparaging his predecessors and claiming these calls were extremely hard for him, there was unfortunate curiosity about his call to Mrs. Johnson. Constituents asked Congresswoman Wilson what President Trump said during the call. She responded that President Trump made the flippant comment that SGT Johnson knew what he signed up for, that he forgot SGT Johnson’s name, and that the call made Mrs. Johnson extremely upset. President Trump quickly denied making any such comments and true to form attacked Congresswoman Wilson. He even claimed he had proof that he did not make those comments. He has made similar claims concerning prior similar incidents, never to provide his so-called proof. Additionally, County Commissioner Jordan, in a separate conversation, offered the same assessment of the President’s call. The Congresswoman and Commissioner need to be careful not to themselves delve into politicizing the Presidential condolence calls. Although the President opened the door to this, it would still be wrong for others to continue this departure from standards. Lastly, after the President denied making the comments, Mrs. Johnson’s aunt spoke out that she also heard the President make those comments.
After hearing separately from three individuals who heard the call first hand while in the limo with Mrs. Johnson, it is hard to find any credibility in the President’s denial or his claim of having “proof” of what he believes he said. There are certainly prior examples of the President’s lack of character, lack of understanding issues, even competence to do the job. This is different. Presidential calls to the families of fallen servicemembers were always sacred and private. Every president conducted this solemn business in their own way, but never with any challenge, scrutiny, or public eye. It was never partisan, political, or even discussed. It was just done and done the best way possible under the most difficult circumstances and with families in pain. I think we can put this horrific few days behind us and as a nation go back to the respectful way this was done. If there are more calls to make, President Trump must be allowed to make them in private without a media circus determined to ascertain how he did. The President’s statements on this matter have been shameful. The President owes the country better and cannot again open this door. Everyone needs to stand down… If we cannot perform this incredibly important and meaningful obligation correctly, we can do nothing correctly.