Opinion

Trump Comment To Soldier’s Widow Was Perfectly Respectful

The latest media Trumptrum over an alleged presidential flub is his supposedly rude conversation with the widow of a recently deceased American soldier. The offending quote, repeated ad nauseam, is that Sgt. La David T. Johnson “knew what he signed up for.”

That’s disrespectful?

The fact an American would volunteer for service knowing he might die makes more heroic, not less. Of course, it’s possible to utter those words in an obnoxious manner. Perhaps Johnson’s widow asked the president “How could you let this happen?” and he answered, “Look lady, he knew what he signed up for, okay?” Given the president’s allergy to taking responsibility that would be believable.

But maybe the president instead said something like “Your husband is a hero. He knew what he signed up for, and he went anyway. He served bravely and paid the ultimate price for his country. We are eternally grateful for his proud service.”

We just don’t know. And we never will, because Chief of Staff John F. Kelly says the president was respectful, and those complaining are the soldier’s grieving mother and Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. And – sorry, but it’s relevant – both are African-American, not a group known to be sympathetic to this president. (Imagine if several gun-owning Evangelicals claimed Obama was rude to them.)

Whatever happened during the call itself, the “knew what he signed up for” quote is popping up across news outlets and social media as damning proof the president doesn’t respect military families. The New York Times called the episode “a self-inflicted wound.” Well, no. A benign quote wouldn’t be a wound at all without The Times and others scoring it with sinister, but speculative, intonations.

The media, and the Democrats, still don’t understand that solid rules of American politics don’t apply to Trump, who suffers little penalty for breaking them. Other famous Americans (Gary Hart, Richard Nixon) have toppled when actions consistent with their reputations go just a little too far. That’s not going to happen with this president. When he behaves like Trump, but to a greater magnitude, his support doesn’t collapse. It intensifies, because he’s seen as authentic – a reputation only reinforced by the fury of his opponents.

It’s no secret this president’s attitude toward the sacrifice of military families can range from flip to hostile to callous. He said that trying to avoid sexual diseases rather than bullets in the 1960s was his “personal Vietnam.” He famously disparaged the family of a fallen Muslim soldier after they spoke at last year’s Democratic convention. And just this week the father of a fallen soldier revealed the president never sent a $25,000 check he had promised to support the family.

Nor is the Trump’s alleged blunt, abrupt, and vague tone in the call inconsistent with his reputation. Nobody who’s undecided about Trump (not a large group to begin with) is going to lose respect for him when he acts like Trump – even if each time it’s a little more so. A “scandal” like this one – poorly documented, with a whiff of media exaggeration – will fizzle every time.

The real news here is not some un-precedentedly un-presidential depths Trump has reached, but the repeated futile belief by the media that Trump has finally gone too far. I don’t know, maybe someday he will. But wake me up when you have a more damaging quote than, essentially, “American heroes are heroes.”

David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook, or E-mail him at [email protected].


Perspectives expressed in op-eds are not those of The Daily Caller.