How did a question yesterday about whether Trump had called the families of the troops killed in Niger turn into a 24-hour story about whether Obama called John Kelly after his son was killed in action in Afghanistan? All POTUS had to say was, “Not yet but I’m planning to soon.” Now he’s forcing his chief of staff to relive a tremendously painful memory for no better reason than to score a point on Obama that didn’t need to be scored, probably can’t be scored, and won’t do anything for Trump or the GOP even if it is scored.
Oh well. Sorry, John Kelly.
JUST IN: President Obama did not call Gen. John Kelly when his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, White House official tells NBC News
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) October 17, 2017
Kelly, a man of honor & decency, should stop this inane cruelty. He saw up-close just how—& how much—Obama cared for the fallen’s families. https://t.co/5NPTKHsd1Z
— Ned Price (@nedprice) October 17, 2017
that's a fucking lie. to say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA – he's a deranged animal.
— alyssa mastromonaco (@AlyssaMastro44) October 16, 2017
Stop the damn lying – you’re the President. I went to Dover AFB with 44 and saw him comfort the families of both the fallen military & DEA. pic.twitter.com/HhE4KbTBkJ
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 17, 2017
Here’s what Trump said yesterday about Obama and families of the fallen:
“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference in the Rose Garden with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. “A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate.”…
After he answered the question about his response to the attack, Mr. Trump was pressed later in the news conference about his claim that Mr. Obama had never called bereaved families. This time, he seemed to soften his tone.
“I don’t know if he did,” the president said. “I was told he didn’t often, and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters.”
“President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t,” Mr. Trump continued. “That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.”
I think he got defensive when the press asked why he hadn’t called any families yet and resorted to arguing “well, I call more than the other guys did!” He may not have meant to insinuate that his predecessors had no personal contact with Gold Star families at all, though, just that they tended to prefer letters to phone calls as a point of first contact. Listen to the audio below of Trump telling Brian Kilmeade that he’d have to ask Kelly whether Obama ever called him and you’ll see that it sounds worse on the page than it does when you hear it. His tone isn’t accusatory, more of a “I don’t know what Obama did, exactly, but John might.”
Then again, what are the odds Trump would refer a reporter to Kelly on this unless he knew how Kelly would answer? Imagine the embarrassment if Trump suggested during a presser that Obama wasn’t known to call grieving families and his own chief of staff piped up to say, “He called me.”
Anyway. What does the White House get from fighting this battle, aside from John Kelly having the worst tragedy of his life kicked around as a political football and the media given ample cause to revisit the many times Obama met with Gold Star families, visited wounded troops at Walter Reed, and greeted the remains of the fallen upon their return to the U.S.?