Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 17, 2017
Facing pressure over not commenting on the deadly ambush of four U.S. soldiers in Niger 12 days ago, President Donald Trump said yesterday that he is actually more compassionate to the troops than any of his last four predecessors. It was one of those little moments of truth and personal values that characterize a presidency.
Trump said yesterday that he had just prepared letters to the families of four U.S. soldiers, adding that he may call the families as well.
Then he said that kind of outreach was his alone, that at least “some” of the last four presidents had done not so. That, of course, is not true. It’s something that they all do.
But Trump said it at a hastily called press conference meant to show that he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are working together rather than busily hating one another. Remarkably, this time, reporters caught him red-handed in his lie — and called him on it. Indeed, each of the last four presidents had called families, written families, visited Walter Reed hospital, met returning coffins at Dover Air Force base and met with Gold Star families.
“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents ― most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it,” Trump said. “They have made the ultimate sacrifice, so generally I would say that I like to call. I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.”
When caught in the outright lie, “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes. Maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals,” he added. “Other presidents did not call. They’d write letters. Some presidents didn’t do anything. But I like the combination. When I can, I like the combination of a call and also a letter.”
Of course, in past tweets, Trump has said that Obama was too busy playing golf to sign condolence letters.
Actually, in saying that he was reaching out to the families, Trump was finally breaking his public silence about the fate of the four soldier deaths. Until now, there has been no official explanation of what the soldiers had been doing or why they were not rescued in time.
But why Trump needed to assert his predecessors had not written or called the families of slain American troops during their tenures was not explained. Then again, Trump has made it a personal mark never to take responsibility rather than only adulatory credit.
The Pentagon has not provided a detailed accounting of the ambush by 50 ISIS affiliated fighters which left four U.S. soldiers dead and two wounded and has said the incident remains under investigation. But reporters have talked with local officials who described details of the chaos and confusion which led to the troops being left on the ground for nearly an hour before help could get to the remote area of southwestern Niger where they were operating.
In addition, officials still do not know how Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson became separated from the others; his body was recovered nearly 48 hours later. The Army identified the other soldiers killed as Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson.
Officials said the 12-man Green Beret-led team had just completed a meeting with local leaders and were walking back to their unarmored pick-up trucks when the unexpected ambush resulted in a firefight that lasted 30 minutes until French Mirage jets arrived overhead to fly low passes in an attempt to disperse the attackers.
This was in the same public remarks during which Trump once again found protesting during the playing of the national anthem unpatriotic, and calling out Hillary Clinton for defending protesters. The hubris of making this about himself instead of the soldiers and the gall of blaming other Presidents for being somehow less patriotic than himself were simply outrageous. But it was not isolated.
Just moments earlier, inside the White House, Trump acknowledged that his agenda overall is failing. “We’re not getting the job done,” he began, before quickly adding, “And I’m not going to blame myself. I’ll be honest: They are not getting the job done,” he said, referring to Congress. The buck stops at Capitol Hill, apparently. As one reporter summed up, in the span of a few seconds, Trump served notice that he separates himself from any responsibility for what Congress does or doesn’t do. It’s all on them, quite a different attitude than Trump had used for Obama.