“A Day in the Life” is my favorite Beatles song. John Lennon used a couple of stories that ran in the Daily Newspaper and the UK Daily Express as the sources for the song, though he took a little artistic license in the process. The car wreck described in the song involved Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, who did in fact die in the accident.
But he didn’t “blow his mind out in a car.”
The details of this week might make the week sound typical of many in 2017 American life. Typical? Maybe. Normal? No, not by a long shot. By the time it was over, I was disappointed by someone I was rooting for, even though he is on a bad team and working for a bad leader.
President Trump was questioned at the beginning of the week regarding the lack of information provided by the White House on the deaths of four servicemen in Niger. In the course of the questioning, he made the mistake of discussing how he was handling expressing the condolences of a grateful nation to the families of these brave men. In typical fashion, the discussion became a contest for the president, one he wages against all presidents who came before him, particularly, President Barack Obama.
He disclosed on Tuesday that he has personally called “virtually” all the Gold Star military families who had lost a serviceman this year. It turns out, that is virtually a lie. Roll Call and Vanity Fair did the honor of researching and publishing the news on this.
White House staff scrambled to address Trump’s inaccurate statement. First assignment: call the families of the four servicemen who died in Niger. So he called the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson. When the call came in, Sgt. Johnson’s mother was present, as was Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of Florida. They listened to the call on speaker.
The call did not accomplish its goal, which was to express the nation’s condolences. That alone should not surprise anyone. Making calls like that are profoundly difficult. I imagine they fail to ease any suffering most of the time.
Then Congresswoman Wilson spoke publicly about the failed attempt to express gratitude and sorrow by a man who is clearly not skilled at doing that in any circumstance. Regardless, I would describe Wilson’s public airing of complaint about the call as tragically inappropriate.
But President Trump decided to lie again, and claim that Wilson’s description of what he said on the phone was “fabricated.” The New York Times supplies a comprehensive review of the events.
By Thursday, it was General John Kelly at the podium in the White House press room giving a heartfelt statement about the sacred nature of these communications and how this entire discussion should be off limits. Good move. Most of us trust General Kelly and are rooting for him to keep Trump straight.
What he actually did though was he confirmed Wilson’s account of what was said on the phone, and then he unnecessarily went on to call Wilson an “empty barrel.” This gratuitous slap at her came as a result of an event both Kelly and Wilson attended in 2015. Oh, and it turns out Kelly got the story wrong. Very wrong.
So now even General Kelly is not as truthful as we all thought he was. He is now fully transitioned from being “General” Kelly to “Chief of Staff” Kelly, which means that we can expect a less strict view of the truth from him going forward.
The week in review goes like this: Trump lies. Congresswoman breaks protocol. Trump lies again. America doesn’t believe him. Kelly goes in to fix the boss’ mess. Kelly confirms Trump’s lies, and then throws out a lie of his own. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders suggests that Kelly’s credibility should not be questioned because he’s a general.
Yes, I’m mad at all of them.
All of this started because this country has appropriate questions about what happened to these soldiers in Niger. I am concerned that when we get straight, or straighter, answers to these questions, we will be disappointed for a whole new list of reasons. This is important information. And we need to be able to rely on the information we get.
It is hard to blame this week’s roller coaster on the media. Impossible really. Without them, we would all be arguing about who to believe. Even the liars of the week aren’t blaming the press now.
“Fundamentally, people are suckers for the truth” is a line Donald Sutherland delivers in the movie, JFK.
On Saturday, President Trump tweeted his intent to allow the release of the long sealed classified information relevant to President Kennedy’s assassination by October 26. I wonder why he’s doing that. He doesn’t have to. He’s not under pressure to. The intelligence community is advising against it.
But the White House told reporters Saturday “the President believes that these documents should be made available in the interests of full transparency…”
Uh, ok. I guess.
I recommend the President take baby steps on his way to full transparency. Stop blatantly lying first. Disclose tax returns second. Then maybe, just maybe, reveal one our nation’s biggest secrets.
Of course that last one happens next week.
So just like the song goes: