Arlington National Cemetery, detail / Flickr trump standing...
Arlington National Cemetery, detail / Flickr
John Kelly said about his late son, Robert, “He was the best man I ever knew. He was a good husband, a good son, a good brother.”  Kelly has gone out of his way to keep his son’s death private and Donald Trump managed to throw a floodlight onto a personal topic involving his chief of staff when he made the now-epic crack Tuesday about President Obama never calling Gold Star families, which was immediately proven to be unequivocally false. The purpose of the comment was to make Obama look bad once again, at any cost. Now John Kelly is caught in the cultural cross fire because Trump is tone deaf to everybody’s needs other than his own and just had to shoot off his big mouth. The word is that Kelly was taken off guard and he’s understandably dismayed. CNN:
CNN asked the White House to talk to Kelly about this issue, but they declined to make him available. Kelly did not respond to a direct request from comment from CNN and the White House declined to make any statement on the record.
Kelly, the highest-ranking military official to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan, has tried to keep his son’s death private.
The Washington Post, in a 2011 profile of Kelly, reported that the general asked a Marine Corps officer not to mention his son’s death when he was introduced at a St. Louis event days after his son was killed.
Kelly, who is regularly seen next to the President at events, was noticeably absent from Trump’s events on Tuesday afternoon after he made his comments about the retired Marine four-star general’s son. Kelly, though, was sitting across from Trump during a Wednesday meeting on tax reform.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders also mentioned Kelly, after Trump’s obligatory early morning twitter tantrum in which he called Congresswoman Frederica Wilson a liar for saying that, “He must have known what he signed up for,” to Green Beret La David Johnson’s widow and saying that he could prove it. [A few hours later Wilson called Trump a liar on network television.] Huckabee Sanders said that there were no recordings of the call but that Kelly had been present during the call and “thought it was completely appropriate.” That is highly doubtful.

The story has swamped the news cycle almost to the exclusion of other topics, with Gold Star families talking to media outlets about their experience with Donald Trump. Of 13 gold star families contacted by one outlet, 6 said they had not been called by Trump and one man who was promised $25,000 and a fundraiser by Trump (who never delivered) is now supposedly going to get his $25,000 — but no word about the fundraiser.

The White House is spinning all these stories as the deviltry of the media, while insisting that Trump has done no wrong. Huckabee Sanders would have already been laughed off the podium, even worse than her predecessor Sean Spicer, but for the fact that culturally we are so completely used to women making excuses for the misbehavior of a husband, or other male relative, desperately stacking lies on top of justification and rationalization. Huckabee Sanders keeps assuring us that Donald Trump is merely mis-understood but that he really has done everything right, if only we would believe it to be so.

Trump has committed egregious faux pas before and certainly he’s tangled with the military, but this feels different. It is different. The Hill:

Grant Reeher, a professor of political science at Syracuse University, argued that the previous military-related controversies came with figures who had voluntarily entered the political arena: McCain is a sitting senator, and Khan was not known on the national stage until his convention speech.

The Johnson family, and the other families coming forward, are not political figures, Reeher noted.

More broadly, he said Trump’s words were “pushing that frontier of just what is acceptable on the part of a president. I think that’s why it is getting the attention that it’s getting. Any time you start talking fast and loose about … families that have lost members in the line of duty, that is political dynamite.”

Trump has paid to live, if one can call it that, in a bubble of privilege and power his entire life, being shielded from most of life’s tragedies and also from almost all of life’s teaching experiences. He has no life experience. He is a loveless being who has been thrust into any number of situations since running for president for which his life of privilege and reality show stardom have not equipped him in the slightest. The fact that all this is happening during National Character Counts Week is galactically farcical and would be comical but for the fact that it is so painfully tragic.

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