Even for Trump, the cynical exploitation of the widow of the Navy SEAL who died in that Yemen raid is a new low. What’s even more astonishing is how much praise he’s getting for it.
Let’s review: Days after taking office, Trump greenlit an assault on an Al Qaeda base in Yemen. Results: the deaths of U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, a dozen-odd alleged jihadis, and at least a dozen civilians, including an 8-year-old girl. Also, a $70 million American aircraft crashed and was destroyed. On the plus side, American soldiers gained some useful intelligence—maybe. (“We went in with the intent of capturing phones and computers and we don’t know yet if anything of great value was obtained,” an American military official told NBC News.)
Having sent this American soldier to his death, and in the process causing the slaughter of an unknown number of women and children, Trump then brought Owens’ grieving widow to his State of the Union address as a prop to proclaim how deeply, with what sincere respect, he supports the troops. It was a masterfully staged moment from the master of reality television, using the Capitol as a set and both houses of Congress as supporting actors. Cameras zoomed in on the poor woman’s tear-streaked face. The assembled lawmakers applauded wildly.
The show got rave reviews. Even formerly stalwart Trump critic Van Jones called it “an extraordinary moment” in which Trump finally, truly “became president of the United States.”
This is when Trump became the president? When he jiu-jitsu’d what should have been outrage over his botched raid into veneration for the widow of one of its victims, and by extension for the Commander in Chief? When he managed to leverage a stricken widow’s tears into applause for himself?
Owens’ father, who refused to meet with Trump and is calling for an investigation into the botched raid, had the courage and the principles to refuse to play along. Would that Van Jones did too. And while we’re shedding tears for those who died in that raid, how about a few for that 8 year old Yemeni girl?