United States Politics and Government

Right and Left React to Trump’s Condolence Call Controversy

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr


Rich Lowry in National Review:

“It might be the stupidest and most unworthy controversy of the year, and that’s saying something.”

According to Mr. Lowry, the uproar on both sides of the aisle over this issue is misguided. Mr. Trump may have been right that President Obama didn’t call each family of a fallen soldier, but he was nonetheless wrong to “use that point as a bludgeon.” Mr. Lowry adds that while the president’s reported comments to the family of Sergeant. Johnson sounded “horrible in isolation,” there’s no way to properly judge without hearing the entire phone call in context. Moreover, Mr. Lowry believes that controversies over condolence calls should be entirely left “out of our poisonous political debate.” Read more »


From the Left


Credit Pool photo by Martin H. Simon

Brandon Friedman in The New York Daily News:

“There’s often a misconception among non-veterans that service members sign up with the expectation that they may die. But I can tell you: I did two tours in combat as an infantry officer and I never met a soldier who thought dying was a reasonable result of his or her service.”

If the president did indeed tell Sergeant Johnson’s widow that her husband “knew what he was signing up for” in his call, then, according to Mr. Friedman, he has a poor grasp on how the military actually works. Mr. Friedman, who served two tours of duty and worked in the Obama administration, explains that since the Sept. 11 attacks one out of every 5,000 service members serving in Iraq or Afghanistan died on duty. “This makes it clear that dying in combat is neither common nor expected,” he argues. What “keeps troops going,” he explains, is the faith that your government, and your commander in chief, believe that soldiers’ lives are valuable. “No one shrugs death off as an inevitability.” Read more »


Ameer Hasan Loggins in The Guardian:

“I fully empathize with the family of Sergeant La David Johnson. […] Sadly, the lack of respect given to them is not an American aberration. It is a part of this country’s ugly history regarding black people and the military.”

When Mr. Loggins heard reports of what Mr. Trump had said to Sergeant Johnson’s family, he recognized it as the latest in a long string of moments black veterans were shown disrespect. Mr. Loggins points out that black troops have disproportionally experienced military punishment — up to, and including, the death penalty. Read more »


Margaret Hartmann in New York Magazine:

“The ongoing dispute over Trump’s treatment of Gold Star families runs the risk of overshadowing a more significant concern: More than two weeks after the attack, we don’t really know what happened in Niger.”

Ms. Hartmann notes that in all the attention paid to the condolence call controversy, most outlets and readers have missed a much more important story: the uncertain events from an attack in Niger that left four soldiers — including Sergeant Johnson — dead. In this piece, she outlines what is known and what questions still remain. Read more »


Finally, From the Center

Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg:

“The U.S. demands even more ceremony of its presidents than other countries in part because of the expectation that the head of state is also the moral-authority-in-chief where Christian leadership is prized and the president is expected to channel those attitudes.”

Mr. Bershidsky takes a broader view in his column by examining the symbolic, or ceremonial, function of a U.S. president and how President Trump may or may not fulfill this role. He explains how in other countries, ceremonial duties such as honoring soldiers who have died falls to a monarch or other governmental figurehead. In the U.S., he notes, policy and ceremony fall to the same person, for better or for worse. Read more »


Want the Partisan Writing Roundup in your inbox? Sign up for the Morning Briefing Newsletter or the What We’re Reading Newsletter.

Have thoughts about this collection? Email feedback to ourpicks@nytimes.com.

Continue reading the main story

Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

Write A Comment

%d bloggers like this: