I know I’ve said the condolence controversy should go away, but since it isn’t, allow me to make another point.
We don’t know what exactly was said in the Trump call with the widow of Sgt. Johnson. We do know, pretty definitively, that she and the rest of the family took offense. Maybe what Trump said would have landed differently if he had said it to another family that, say, supports him politically and is inclined to believe in his good intentions. Or maybe how he delivered his message really was terribly inept. Whatever the case, all that should matter here is that the family was upset.
The normal thing to do in this situation would be for the person who said something that was taken the wrong way — especially when it is the president of the United States and the aggrieved party has just lost a loved one in uniform — to come back and say something like, “I really didn’t meant it the way you heard it and it pains me to think that I’ve in any way added to your distress. Please accept my apology and deepest condolences.”
If Trump could bring himself to do this, it would, 1) be the right thing to do; 2) instantly drain this controversy of much of its power; 3) win him praise, even from some unexpected quarters. But Trump can never give even a little ground, because any disagreement or criticism instantly becomes personal and the occasion for combat, no matter what the circumstance.