There is much to mock about President Donald John Trump’s first attempt at being presidential, beginning with the absurdly low bar he set for himself. One moment seems to have struck me differently than many of the pundits. That moment came when he shamefully used the heroism and sacrifice of Chief Petty Officer Ryan Owen by inviting Owen’s grieving widow to the sit in the First Lady’s box so that, like a failed vaudevillian waving an American flag, Trump could divert criticism of his failure by turning the cameras on Owen’s widow.
This was a shameful moment for our president.
President Harry S Truman is famous for his The Buck Stops Here sign on the oval office desk and President Barack Hussein Obama echoed that sentiment seven years ago when, following intelligence shortcomings led to a failed Christmas Day bombing plot on a Detroit-bound airliner, President Obama stood up and told the nation that:
Ultimately, the buck stops with me. As president, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when the system fails, it is my responsibility.
In 1980, following the failure of the mission to rescue hostages in Iran, President Jimmy Carter told the nation:
It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation. It was my decision to cancel it when problems developed in the placement of our rescue team for a future rescue operation. The responsibility is fully my own.
How did Trump respond? Paul Waldman, writing in The pundits are wrong. Trump’s handling of the Ryan Owens affair was contemptibly cynical tells us:
With Carryn Owens invited to the speech and the tribute to her husband being written, the President went on “Fox and Friends” that morning and passed the buck for the raid, blaming it on the Obama administration and the military. “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” he said. “They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
They, not I, not even we, for fuck’s stake, lost Ryan.
Only hours later, Trump chose to hide behind the tears of a grieving widow and brag, fucking brag, that the standing ovation he had orchestrated was some kind of record he could take credit for. Waldman details the moment:
As the applause went on and Carryn Owens stood weeping, Trump offered what in the tiny, narcissistic world he exists in is the highest form of praise: “And Ryan is looking down, right now, you know that. And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record,” referring to the length of the ovation.
What exactly is that supposed to mean? Owens set the “Longest Applause for Dead Servicemember In Joint Speech to Congress” record? What kind of person could possibly think that would matter to anyone? Oh, right—Donald Trump.
What kind of asshole does that? Oh, right: President Donald John Trump.