Monday, October 16, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He claimed that the phone call he intends to eventually make to the families of soldiers killed in Niger was the sort of thing President Obama never did.

Twelve days ago, four U.S. servicemembers were killed in Niger, where they were taking part in counterterrorism operations. Since then, Trump has been uncharacteristically silent on the matter: none of the 104 tweets he's made since October 5th have dealt with the matter. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has mentioned it in public only once, in response to a direct question about it. 

Today, asked directly about his lack of acknowledgement, Trump said that he'd written letters to the families of the soldiers--letters he intended to mail later "either today or tomorrow." He also said he intended to "at some point, in the, the period of time, call the families and the parents." He then continued:
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... so generally I would say that I like to call. I'm going to be calling them, I want a little time to pass, I'm going to be calling them.
Challenged by a reporter about the claim that President Obama had not made condolence calls to the families of slain servicemembers, Trump immediately recanted and suggested that "his generals" had misled him on that point. He also pointed out the great difficulty involved in both writing and calling someone.
I don't know if he did! No, no, I, I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't, they write letters. I do... a combination of both, uh, sometimes, it's a very difficult thing to do, but I do a combination of both, President Obama, uh, I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't? I don't know, that's what I was told. All I can do, all I can do is ask my generals. Other, other presidents did not call, they'd write letters, and some presidents didn't do anything. But I like, I like the combination, when I can, I like the combination of a call and also a letter.
Representatives from the last three presidential administrations (so far) immediately called Trump's statement a lie, using more or less emphatic language in the process.

Why does this matter?

  • It's bad if a president makes up lies so casually and for so little purpose.
  • Any president who finds it "very difficult" to console the families of troops who have died under his command should find easier work.
  • A president boasting about his superior condolence technique is disgusting on its face, but that having been said, condolences are usually given to grieving families before twelve or more days have passed.