In an age of easily retrievable audio and video footage, President Donald Trump continues to speak blatant untruths. During times that call for sincerity and reverence, he is incapable of offering public comments without being offensive and/or bragging on himself. His need to have received, offered or accomplished the most — whether it be votes, crowd size or personal letters to families of the war dead — is pathological.
Trump’s “most and best” comments are akin to those made on the playground by an insecure child. And America has placed him on its front porch.
Trump said last week that he had written letters to the families of four soldiers killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger and planned to call them. That’s where he should of stopped, but no — not him. No time is inappropriate for his chest-pounding. Disaster, death … nothing deters him.
He credited himself with taking extra steps in honoring the dead properly. “If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Trump said. When questioned further about his claim, he said of Obama: “I was told that he didn’t often, and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters.” He went on: “President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. … Some presidents didn’t do anything.”
The record is clear that presidents reached out to families of the dead and to the wounded. They showed up, wrote letters and made phone calls. Obama’s official photographer, Pete Souza, tweeted that he photographed Obama “meeting with hundreds of wounded soldiers, and family members of those killed in action.” Others recalled Obama’s frequent visits with Gold Star families, and travels to Walter Reed, Dover and other venues with families of the dead and with the wounded.
Among other rituals honoring military families, according to the Associated Press, the Obamas had a “Gold Star” Christmas tree in the White House decorated with hundreds of photos and notes from people who had lost loved ones in war. Gold Star families visited during the holidays, bringing ornaments.
President George W. Bush, even at the height of two wars, “wrote all the families of the fallen,” Freddy Ford, spokesman for the ex-president, told the AP. Ford said Bush also called or met “hundreds, if not thousands” of family members of the war dead.
Other presidents did, as well, but those are examples of what was done by Trump’s most recent predecessors.
Trump’s claims came on the heels of remarks made by U.S. Sen. John McCain. He was awarded the National Constitution Center’s annual Liberty Medal and his remarks after receiving the award are highly recommended. They are available on many news sites or at: https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/10/remarks-by-senator-john-mccain-at-2017-liberty-medal-ceremony.
“I’ve had the good fortune to spend 60 years in service to this wondrous land,” McCain said. “It has not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were probably times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help. But I’ve tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I’ve been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company, and with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America. And I am so very grateful.”
“ … To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
McCain’s speech reminded us that we have leaders with humility and a sense of humanity. Trump, of course, commented and took to Twitter over the “spurious nationalism” remarks. It only made him appear smaller — like the little playground bully, hurling rocks and insults at the person whose character was beyond reach to him.
Thank goodness for shining examples like McCain. Americans should be grateful for their service and leadership — especially now.
Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SheaWilson7.