For once, something awful happened which was not Donald Trump’s fault.
US soldiers on a hitherto-peaceful mission training foreign troops to fight terrorists came under unexpected attack.
It left 4 dead and 2 wounded, and because it happened in desert scrub in the Western Sahel in the border regions of Niger, it took half an hour before jets could be arrive to give air cover, and 60 minutes before the soldiers were evacuated.
So far, so cock-up. The 12-man Green Beret unit had done 29 patrols without incident and an attack was considered so unlikely they were carrying only rifles and travelling in unarmoured trucks, with 30 Nigerien troops.
The fact 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, travelling in a convoy of trucks, tripped over them was probably as much of a surprise to the terrorists as it was to the US military.
But then came the problems. After the evacuation by French troops it took a while before anyone noticed they were missing a body. It took 48 hours for them to locate and secure the body of La David Johnson, a sergeant with a 2-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter and a heavily pregnant wife.
La David arrived home three days after the ambush, to be greeted by wife Myeshia who threw herself across his flag-draped coffin and sobbed uncontrollably in scenes only a hardened or non-existent heart could fail to be moved by.
At this stage the problem on Trump’s plate was comparatively minor: 3 dead US troops and one Nigerien, 2 injured, a bit of trouble finding things in what is effectively a wilderness, and a small unit of brutal Islamists.
The problem was politically fixable. A drone would deal with the terrorists – in fact there’s a US drone base in the Niger capital Niamey – the French could probably be blamed for screwing up the rescue, and the widows and relatives need their hands holding by their Commander-in-Chief.
For any mostly-sane president this would be easy. Even George W Bush could manage it. But for the walking Wotsit in the White House it’s been a task not so much fumbled as thoroughly Weinsteined.
First, he didn’t say anything.
Second, the Pentagon didn’t release any details.
That was on the telephone, moments before she stepped onto the tarmac and saw the heartbreaking proof the man she loved was dead.
Perhaps she would always have cried; perhaps she would always have hugged his coffin in her grief. And perhaps if the Commander-in-Chief had enough wit to say he grieved with her and would do all he could to find those responsible, she would have wiped her eyes and been able to bear the arrival of his coffin with more fortitude.
With hindsight, it looks like the words Trump is said to have used actually managed to break the poor woman a little more.
None of what had happened was Trump’s fault. The US set up a drone base in 2013 under orders from President Obama. They’re halfway through building a second $50million base for more drones to help them patrol the skies over Libya. The mission has crept, but then so has ISIS. The US has to keep up.
And he has denied saying what he’s accused of, and says he has proof. So what, he’s taping his own calls to widows now?
Regardless, the buck stops at the Oval Office door. When a US citizen dies in defence of the Free World it’s up to the person who works inside to take the heat, make the apology, find the solution.
Instead Trump waited 12 DAYS to say something, and when he did he said he’d not only be calling the bereaved families but that his predecessors Bush and Obama had never done the same.
It’s a phone call no-one would relish, and saying sorry is hard. And there are times when you can apologise as much as you like but to some it still won’t matter.
Even his fans know Trump says dumb things, that he can’t bear criticism and plays golf more often than he engages brain. But this is all sub-kindergarten behaviour – a toddler’s lack of empathy, coupled with the extreme dimness of the wilfully ignorant.
This is what you get when you vote in a reality TV star who has lost billions over the course of his career and seems obsessed with shiny things. You get a guy who wants YOU to make him look good, and who when you don’t will just build another shiny tower with his own name on.
Trump said beforehand he likes to call relatives “when it’s appropriate, when I think I am able to do it”. Not when the RELATIVES think it would be appropriate; not when it’s INCONVENIENT to him.
After the call, Trump played golf. Myeshia hugged her husband’s coffin, and everyone saw the latter.
It’s a million miles from pussy grabbing, conflicts of interest, trashing a Muslim war veteran’s parents, Russian interference, Nazi rallies, hurricanes, Hillary witch hunts or even Obama’s perfectly-valid birth certificate.
But for the man who said in his inauguration less than 10 months ago “I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down”, it’s a death blow.
The belief that the president cares is an item of faith for Americans, regardless of politics. When he not only doesn’t care, but doesn’t care for the military and doesn’t care for a pregnant widow and doesn’t care enough even to offer his condolences, it will stick in their craw, and their memory, for a long time to come.
It will do more to destroy him than any of the horrors he’s engaged in before. He’s finally done something the average American finds abhorrent.
When La David Johnson was killed, Trump was fatally wounded too.
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