Like the previous week and every one since February, the last seven day period has been a perfect example of why the current administration gets less traction than a flamingo wearing galoshes on an ice rink. The problem is Donald Trump: King of the unforced error, who shoots himself in the foot so many times, it’s amazing he has either of his knees left.
The week started out innocently enough. A reporter asked why the White House hadn’t mentioned the four Green Berets killed in Niger two weeks earlier. Misunderstanding the query, the president said he was preparing to call the families of the fallen. That wasn’t the question, but it would have been fine if he stopped there. But he didn’t and proceeded to take aim with a shotgun at his shoes.
Shifting focus, the president targeted his Oval Office predecessors by saying “most of them didn’t make calls.” It was a statement that raised the hackles of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and every other president going back to the first John Adams.
In an attempt to stem the continuing negative press covfefe, Trump hastily called a Gold Star widow who was on the way to pick up her husband’s remains and consoled her by saying “your guy” “knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” It was as comforting as cuddling up to a quiver of poisoned arrows in a barbed wire sleeping bag.
Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson recounted the conversation, having been in the car with her close friend, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, when the president called on speakerphone. Trump insisted he never said what the Congresswoman said he said and he had proof. But the proof was never identified or revealed or spoken of again. Proof go poof!
The next day the White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, a Gold Star father as well as a retired four star Marine general, showed up at a press conference with a rhetorical mop and said, yes, Trump did say what the Congresswoman said he said, but only because he, John Kelly, told him to say it. The president simply did it inelegantly. Our rookie president may have many skills, but touchy-feely is not one of them.
Kelly went on to refer to Congresswoman Wilson as an “empty barrel,” saying he was stunned she listened in on the call, ignoring the fact he was listening as well. Being “stunned” the phone call you were listening in on was being monitored by someone else is like expressing “shock” the wallet you ripped off was stolen.
Kelly has been reluctant to speak publicly of his son’s death but touched on it to defend his boss, recklessly squandering the credibility of the Adult Supervision Office. Press Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about inconsistencies in Kelly’s account, and said questioning the word of a four star general was highly inappropriate. As opposed to calling a Gold Star widow a liar. Which is very appropriate.
Everybody understands such a phone call is one of the toughest things a president or any human has to do. And Trump could have stopped the misadventure by apologizing for his clumsy attempt. But it’s increasingly apparent why Donald Trump never apologizes; because if he ever started, he’d be forced to spend every waking minute doing it.
Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin.