In his first address before both Houses of Congress, Donald Trump managed to manufacture a moment that focused the nation’s attention on the grief-stricken widow of a Navy SEAL killed days into the new administration. Her pain was palpable. The moment led to extended applause across party lines. And even noted liberal analyst and CNN commentator, Van Jones went as far as to say, “In that moment, he became President of the United States.”
Really Van? Perhaps only if you forget the stunning level of incompetence that led to Officer Owen’s death in the first place.
After boldly rejecting the need for daily intelligence briefings, and just five days into his new role as Commander-in-Chief, Trump green-lighted a controversial and highly risky mission that President Obama failed to approve before leaving office. When the smoke cleared, not only did Owens lay dead, but so too did over two dozen Yemen civilians, including women and children, one as young as three-months old, along with an eight-year old American child. In addition to this loss of life, a $75 million aircraft had to be deliberately destroyed in the heat of battle. And while all of this was going on what was Trump doing? Apparently somewhere lounging around the White House tweeting about an upcoming television appearance and never once stepping foot into the Situation Room as Owens and his fellow SEALS fought for their lives.
Once everything that could possibly go wrong did in fact go wrong, including the failure to gather any significant intelligence as a result of the raid, in true Trumpian form, he somehow found a way to shirk responsibility. Instead he blamed everyone else, from military leadership, to of course, his favorite take-the-blame muse, President Obama, for his own disastrous decision-making. So while Trump was able to masterfully wrap himself within the grief-stricken tears of a fallen soldier’s widow on the world’s stage, the father of that same soldier wasn’t quite as easily fooled. Just days before Trump’s exploitative theatrics, he’d called for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding his son’s death and questioned the reasoning around the haste of the mission itself.
If there is one thing that can be taken away from Trump’s first major performance on the Presidential stage, it is the fact that he is a masterful performer. He understands theatrics. He knows how to build drama and how to cast it through the lens of a television camera. Certainly, that’s a talent. But it’s not Presidential. Not in the least. Instead, it’s merely the normalization of deadly incompetence. And if this is now the new bar for this Performer-in-Chief, a truly dangerous and disturbing future lies ahead for us all.