№4 — Things A Dictator Would Do And Say
President Donald Trump, who unleashed controversy this week when he said that his predecessors, including President Obama, did not personally call families of fallen soldiers, a statement refuted by Obama officials, called Johnson’s pregnant widow Tuesday afternoon. His call, at 4:45 p.m., came just before Johnson’s body arrived at MIA.
Trump told his widow, who was in a car heading to the airport with her family and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, that “he knew what he signed up for … but when it happens it hurts anyway,” according to Wilson, who heard the call on speakerphone in the car.
“I think it’s so insensitive. It’s crazy. Why do you need to say that?’’ Wilson asked. “You don’t say that to someone who lost family, the father, the breadwinner. You can say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss. He’s a hero.’
“I’m livid. He can’t even have an open-coffin funeral because his body is so messed up,’’ Wilson told the Miami Herald.
Top General's Grief Becomes Political Talking Point for Trump
A spokesman for Mr. Obama declined to comment. But Mr. Trump's remarks have drawn angry rebukes from allies of the…
Mr. Trump, in defending his handling of the deaths of four Green Berets in Niger, falsely claimed on Monday that President Barack Obama did not contact the families of fallen troops. And on Tuesday, Mr. Trump brought to light that Mr. Obama never called Mr. Kelly after the death of his son.
Such phone calls are not routine, especially when the rate of combat-related fatalities is high, as was the case in 2010, when Lieutenant Kelly was killed after stepping on a land mine while leading a platoon in Afghanistan. But Mr. Kelly is the highest-ranking American military officer to lose a child in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Mr. Trump called the families of the soldiers killed in Niger, the White House said Tuesday, and the president has said that he would try to call as many families of American troops killed on his watch “when it’s appropriate.”
“You could ask General Kelly, ‘Did he get a call from Obama?’” Mr. Trump said in an interview on Tuesday on Fox News Radio. “I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy. I can tell you my policy is I called every one of them.”
A spokesman for Mr. Obama declined to comment.
But Mr. Trump’s remarks have drawn angry rebukes from allies of the former president because his claims about Mr. Obama are false — he called or met with relatives of multiple fallen service members. Former military commanders, for their part, said Mr. Trump was politicizing one of the saddest and most sacred duties of the presidency.
Mr. Obama invited Mr. Kelly and his wife, Karen, to a breakfast for Gold Star families — those who have lost children in combat — at the White House in May 2011. The couple were seated at a table with the first lady, Michelle Obama. At the time, Mr. Kelly was the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
Mr. Kelly has not addressed the dispute. But colleagues who worked with him at the Pentagon during that period said they did not recall him expressing unhappiness with the way Mr. Obama handled the death of his son. In a statement issued shortly after Lieutenant Kelly’s death, Mr. Kelly and his wife noted that “the nation he served has honored us with promoting him posthumously to first lieutenant of Marines.”
A common thing for dictators to do is to assail their predecessor by comparison in the most inane of ways and instances. This rouses up their sizable but relatively narrow support of uninformed and misinformed followers.
The mendacity of Trump speaks volumes and he is constantly offering up falsehoods as truth he negotiated to fit an alternative reality that posits him as a great leader. It seems to have an otherworldly effect on people that seemingly qualify his falsities by giving him a pass, granting him the benefit of the doubt, or even exonerate him for inexperience with good intentions in tow. They grab onto a sliver, just a sliver, of the appearance of believability and run with it in the opposite direction.
No matter how obnoxious, petty and arrogant, the president’s behavior is seen only to the extent of just being bizarre due to the emblematic immunity of the office he holds. This ultimately means that none of these overarching and troubling dictatorial behaviors are actionable in terms of the offense given by Trump, taken by and for the people. This should not be our reality though.
Denouncing Trump as a liar, or describing him as merely entertaining, misses the point of authoritarian propaganda altogether. Authoritarian propagandists are attempting to convey power by defining reality. The reality they offer is very simple. It is offered with the goal of switching voters’ value systems to the authoritarian value system of the leader. — Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale and the author, most recently, of “How Propaganda Works.”