Last year, the world became somewhat horrified when Donald Trump went after a Gold Star family. The Khans had criticized Trump for proposing a Muslim ban. Trump said that Khizr Khan staged his speech at the Democratic National Convention. Specifically, Trump accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff of writing Khan’s speech. The Republican candidate accused Khan of planning to take out the Constitution. He also made a connection to Khan’s wife, Ghazala, implying that she was silent on the stage due to her gender role in Muslim society.
Here is that speech.
The consensus view about families who lost loved ones in battle is that they get a free pass. Our society reveres Gold Star families. There is no question that the sacrifice is real enough to shake the very foundation of a grieving family. With that consensus, Trump violated that sacred respect for a Gold Star family. He had made a great offense against humanity.
Trump’s Cowardice and Bigotry
Knowing that Donald Trump had never served and dodged military service during the Vietnam War puts Trump in a specific category. Those with honor in our society consider Trump a “draft dodger.” Despite this, if Trump had only refrained from criticizing the Khans, but his criticism set off other cultural triggers, but he already gained a reputation as an Islamophobe by then.
If Trump had not won the 2016 presidential election, his insult would affect no one. But even with this, he could have learned his responsibilities as a president. He could have learned how to fake it. It could have been one more gesture of dishonesty to go with an administration of compulsive liars.
Instead, Trump willfully neglected his role in consoling families and decided to “wing it.” The inconsistency would show that he valued one grieving family over another. And so was the case with the death of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson who happened to be black.
The American soldiers died in an ambush in Niger in the first week of October. But during the third week, the issue became a “political football” between the administration and their critics. President Trump said the wrong thing during his phone call to Sgt. Johnson’s wife. According to Rep. Frederica Wilson, Trump said: “I guess he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts.” Sgt. Johnson went missing, and his body was found three days later. The Congresswoman represents the Johnson family as her constituents.
General John Kelly’s Rite of Passage
By the end of July, there had been another major shake-up at the White House which promised to bring in a new era, cutting short the chaotic style of a Trump presidency. This was because a four-star general, John Kelly, would come in as the new chief of staff and he would restrain the President. Who would know more about the appropriate way to engage a grieving family than Gen. Kelly? Until last week, General Kelly showed America and the world that the White House was in better hands.
Khizr Kahn set the standard once again on Sunday when he said two words: “dignity and restraint.” He confirmed this by saying that America would always remember the sodliers and their families. He added that those families deserved the utmost dignity, respect, and privacy.
In his statement last week, Gen. Kelly said that he advised the President not to call the families, as the families didn’t look forward to it, which implied the call would come from an unpopular president. Mr. Khan referred to this on CBS This Morning on Monday. He clarified that the President’s staff should have insisted.
But the former general defended the President’s call to the Johnson’s. He said that no president will ever say the right thing to a grieving family. Knowing that Kelly came to the White House because of the chaos that was created by President Trump, it’s hard to imagine the four-star general trying to normalize such a vile figure to everyone’s standard. There’s likely no way a president would ever say the right thing during that phone call. But Trump doesn’t get a free pass on that.
John Kelly Assimilates Into The Trump White House
Khan referred to the restraint of a military leader who retires, collects his pension and maintains the dignity of service. But he said that he was shocked to see the General standing next to the President during his statements about Charlottesville. Khan also said that he was shocked to see Kelly defending the President last week. He added that by going beyond the call of the moment, the chief of staff made the situation even worse.
Kelly did go before the press last week to make his statement which he didn’t have to do. He went after Rep. Frederica Wilson for revealing to the private phone call from the president to the public. The former general said that he thought that grieving process of a soldier was least sacred. John Kelly further accused Wilson of doing something she never did during the dedication ceremony of a new FBI field office in Miami back in 2015.
As Khan pointed out, Kelly did not show the restraint of a military leader. John Kelly also accused Rep. Wilson of doing something she never did at the ceremony. The claim would put Kelly in the same league of liars that now run the White House. So much so in fact that his statement could be considered a rite of passage. Gen. Kelly went through a list of things that were no longer sacred such as: looking at women with honor, dignity of life, religion, and Gold Star families, which he said left during the convention last year.
But overall, Kelly stood out as wanting to be the protector of “the selfless devotion that brings a man or a woman to die on the battlefield” as one of the few things that should remain sacred. It turned out in fact that this was a good play by Kelly because by taking on that responsibility during the press briefing, he also took ownership to kill that very thing he was protecting.
Check out the Face The Nation interview here:
Image screenshot: The White House/YouTube