by Nate Sikora
Over the past few weeks, President Donald Trump waged twitter war on multiple fronts regarding the tragic incident in Niger that left four servicemen killed. Trump’s recent outbursts and accusations, along with his previous comments toward the military, reveal an underlying theme that exposes a larger, more damaging reality of our current political discourse.
Firstly, the overall reaction to the event in Niger highlights the hypocrisy between how the public criticizes the errors of Republican and Democratic administrations. The raid in Niger, based on the current information available, correlates quite similarly to the blunders of Benghazi. Lack of supplies and support combined with flawed intelligence led to four Americans losing their lives in a country and conflict no one even knew the United States was involved in. With Benghazi, the public reaction and condemnation rained down on the Obama Administration. Further, the smear campaign against Hillary Clinton was dragged on for years by Republicans – with nothing to show but wasted taxpayer dollars. Yet, in the case of Niger, where is the cry from the hilltops for a Congressional investigation and demanding Trump and secretary of state Rex Tillerson resign for their incompetence? A simple comparison to the two incidents reveals an obvious dichotomy: dog whistle politics designed to spark hyperbolic reactions from the American public stem heavily from top conservative leaders. Whether the accusations are true or not, Republicans took the tragedy that occurred in Benghazi and used it as a political tool to help the Republican cause. Now, when a similar incident happened under a Republican administration, conservatives are silent. Hopefully history will view the Benghazi hearings and investigation with the correct lens: as pure partisan hackery.
Now to the fallout. When Congresswoman Frederica Wilson from Florida publicly explained the insensitivity of Trump’s condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, widow to Sgt. La David T. Johnson who was killed in Niger, Trump should have acted like an adult and apologized. If the call was taken with offense, the responsible decision is to apologize and offer an improved condolence. Instead, Trump shifted the narrative by attacking the Congresswoman via twitter by implying both her and Mrs. Johnson are liars. The President of the United States thought it was reasonable to publicly attack a congresswoman and a military widow on social media. Conservatives lost their minds when NFL players kneeled during the national anthem, arguing it disrespects the military. Where are those same critics to lambast Trump as disrespectful when this incident transpired?
Digging himself into a further hole, Trump used the death of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son to defend himself from criticism. Kelly’s son, Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. Trump argued that former President Barack Obama did not give John Kelly a condolence call after- ward, hoping to create a diversion away from his blunder. The accusation is clearly false because Obama actually hosted a dinner at the White House for Gold Star families that year in 2010, and one of the families in attendance was in fact the Kellys. Thus, the comparison between Trump and Obama with condolence calls is a façade. It is here that lies the most visible absurdity of this President and the disgraceful silence of Republican members of Congress. The President of the United States thought it expedient to use the death of the son of his Chief of Staff as a talking point to bolster his childish argument. How desensitized must someone be to believe such a statement is an acceptable display of leadership? Needlessly bringing up another tragic event into an already tragic situation to blur the narrative is the epitome of Trumpism, and the recent events that transpired unmask an unfortunate reality: the first priority of Trump and his Republican colleagues is party victories, regardless of ethics or truth. The problem, however, is that it seems when the Republican Party “wins,” the American people lose.
Trump’s use of military subjects and situations, all of which deal with sensitive matters, proves emphatically that no political party owns patriotism and love of country. It is not a contest to see which party loves the military the most or which party has the most national pride. Rather, politics it is a contest to see which party can best resemble the ideas and principles of the American people and who can best effectively implement governmental policies that reflect those sentiments. This is where Trump and the Republican Party have failed miserably. Republicans preach as if only those with an (R) next to their name respect men and women in uniform. Yet their party leader, Trump, has disrespected and slandered the sanctity of a grieving military widow, a former prisoner of war (Sen. McCain), a father whose son died in combat, and every single veteran that has served this country. All in an attempt to gain political victories for himself and the Republican image.
The behavior of our current president exposes a critical problem developing in our political discourse. It seems everything in life is becoming political. Yes, politics influences almost everything we do in life – hence why being politically involved is so critical. However, people today cannot even watch a simple football game on T.V. without seeing some political spectacle sucking up all the oxygen or watch late night shows without the host demanding that our elected leaders not willfully allow millions to suffer or even die as a result of their absurd decisions. The attempts to strip millions of Americans of healthcare, for example, begs the question of whether our leaders are looking out for the public interest or are instead working for donors and seeking partisan victories. The Real Housewives of D.C. that is occurring in Washington should be a sign that politics have consequences. It is not about victories or win-loss records between the blue and red teams; it is about people. When people stop being the end goal of politics and instead become pawns for political parties, the nation suffers as a result.
We deserve better from our national leaders, and the brave men who gave their lives in Niger – Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson – deserve better remembrance too.