October 18, 2017

Questionable Calls

President Donald Trump has a talent for giving offense. Whether through mangled syntax or malicious statements, the president often finds a way to insult. So it is with Trump’s latest comments about his phone calls (or lack thereof) to the grieving families of four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month.

Contrary to the outraged hot takes of former White House staffers, Trump is right that presidents generally don’t call or visit the family of every U.S. service member killed in action. They often don’t have that luxury, since casualties are too numerous to grieve with each family. If Trump had clearly lied and said Presidents Obama, Bush, and others failed to ever call troops’ families, I’d be the first and loudest critic, based on my work as the Obama campaign’s veterans director in 2008. But Trump didn’t say that, exactly; he said he was following the precedent of calling when he could. Our outrage over what we heard Trump say is a reflection of our dislike for the man, not the truth of the matter. And this outrage is obscuring the far more important question of what, exactly, our troops are doing in the seemingly endless and expanding “forever war.” The energy now going into fact-checking Trump’s claims might be better spent asking what American Green Berets were doing in Niger at all.

Read the full op-ed in Slate.

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