I have watched with deepening outrage as President Trump has sunk to new lows by disrespecting the widow of a fallen U.S. soldier.
In a public spat that has raged for more than a week, Myeshia Johnson, the pregnant widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, along with a family friend, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D., Fla.), have said that Trump, in a condolence call, said Sgt. Johnson “knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it still hurts.”
Trump took issue with their characterization of his comments and attacked the congresswoman, calling her “whacky” on Twitter and in public comments. Then Myeshia Johnson spoke out in a Good Morning America interview, where she agreed with the congresswoman’s assessment of Trump’s remarks.
“Yes, the president said that he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway,” Johnson told George Stephanopoulos. “And it made me cry ‘cause I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said he couldn’t remember my husband’s name. The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him, and that’s when he actually said ‘La David.’ I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name, and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?”
Almost immediately, the president of the United States took to Twitter to call her a liar. In doing so, Donald Trump dragged us all into the abyss of hypocrisy that has made his presidency both spectacle and debacle. And he proved once again that he reserves his ugliest behavior for women and people of color.
Myeshia Johnson is both. Therefore, it seems, she is unworthy of the respect that Trump afforded Navy widow Carryn Owens when Trump led Congress in two minutes of applause for Owens during his State of the Union address.
Johnson, like Khizr Khan—the Pakistani-born immigrant whose son fought and died for America—is learning firsthand that in the eyes of Donald Trump, even the ultimate sacrifice is not viewed equally. Just as Trump castigated Khan and his wife when they had the temerity to criticize Trump at the Democratic National Convention, Trump is now attacking a black woman who had the gall to say aloud that she was insulted by the tone and tenor of Trump’s fumbled condolence call.
Myeshia Johnson is learning that in the eyes of Donald Trump, black and brown lives don’t matter. But it hasn’t stopped her from asking questions that anyone would ask if their loved one had died under mysterious circumstances.
Even as the Trump administration grapples with growing questions about military activity in Niger, the questions surrounding the death of Sgt. Johnson are the most perplexing.
Published reports say Johnson’s unit had been ordered to capture or kill a high-value target in the battle against IS in the West African country of Niger; that a second Special Forces unit that was supposed to join them did not; and that Johnson’s body was found more than a mile from where the initial firefight took place. Why? Perhaps most important, why did it take 48 hours for Nigerien forces to find his body after an intense firefight with IS-affiliated fighters?
Donald Trump, who claims a reverence for the military that borders on idolatry, should be busy answering those questions, but instead he is engaged in a tit for tat battle with two black women — a military widow and a congresswoman.
To the casual observer, this might seem counterintuitive, but a closer look will show that such behavior has worked well for Trump in the past. His path to the presidency was forged by a years-long strategy of identifying black or brown “others” and treating them with the same disdain he displayed when he spent five years peddling the lie that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
He targeted undocumented immigrants and Muslims, Mexicans and urban blacks, anti-racism demonstrators and NFL players.
With each successive insult to black and brown people, Trump further secured his support among a white working class base he will desperately need if he hopes to win reelection.
But what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Because if Donald Trump could watch Myeshia Johnson sobbing over her husband’s flag-draped coffin at Dover Air Force Base and still stoop to insult her, his soul is lost.
If the rest of us are willing to tolerate that, we’ve truly lost our minds.