I don’t know how to write about Donald Trump without using a string of expletive-laden epithets. How the hell are we supposed to operate under normal protocol when none of this is normal? Before we get to these words emanating from a husk of a man—clutching at the bounds of his rigid unreality to find any mouth sounds to try to express what humans call empathy—I want to set the scene. Firstly, the deceased soldier in question is Sgt. La David Johnson. He and three other U.S. special forces were killed in an ambush in Niger. The mission’s lack of planning reportedly upset the French, and raised serious, yet familiar questions about the consequences of U.S. mission creep across the globe.
Secondly, the scene. Per WPLG Local 10 News out of Miami:
The president called about 4:45 p.m. and spoke to Johnson’s pregnant widow, Myeshia Johnson, for about five minutes. She is a mother to Johnson’s surviving 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The conversation happened before Johnson’s remains arrived in a commercial Delta Airlines flight at Miami International Airport.
If that isn’t vivid enough for you, here’s a photo.
The lone caveat to this story is that it sounds so incredibly awful—so perfectly Trump—that the old maxim comes in to play: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and we have been duped by fake or misleading Trump quotes before.
Trump's line of “he knew what he signed up for …but when it happens it hurts anyway,” is solely confirmed by Democratic State Representative Frederica Wilson, and the three dots in the middle suggest that this needs more context (The Washington Post reported the quote as: “He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway”). Mandel does have a point that technically, Trump was making a different point than this headline suggests (that these things happen, but that doesn't make it any easier when they do), but the president seemed to communicate it in such a manner that the glib selfishness displayed in the shocking half of the quote still rings true.
Thanks to the confusion inherent in this quote (and, well, every quote), Trump's intentions are better characterized by selfishness than empathy. The reason why? Take a look at the evidence we've collected from every other waking moment of this man's life, which demonstrates that his primary goal at all times is to absolve himself of all guilt for anything. You're bad. Not him. He's the best. Tremendous! Wonderful! Not Sad! Definitely not sad! Whatever Trump was trying to do here, he was not consoling Sgt. Johnson's widow. It was an exercise in massaging his own ego, because that's a part of everything he does since it's the only thing that his pea brain can do with any measure of competence.
Regardless, WPLG felt comfortable enough with their reporting to publish this quote, Philip Rucker of The Washington Post provided more context to the congresswoman's account, there was no pushback from the White House, and now here we are. Somehow lower than yesterday. Yet again.
The President of the United States is a monster, and he is making all of us crazier. Nearly 63 million people handed the keys to a child who even lacks the capability to feel empathy, has no intellectual curiosity and no knowledge of how the world works, and history will not judge their decision to trust this fundamentally broken legacy kid kindly. Donald Trump has absolutely no desire to make yours or my life appreciably better, and the con has been running as long as he has been breathing.
When I say “you,” I mean everyone. Including you, Don and Eric. Jared. Melania. Marla. Ivana. Everyone and everything is 100% transactional to this depressing waste of humanity. The only person on Earth who has seemed to escape Trump’s fate of being more disposable than a dollar store razor is Ivanka, and the elder Trump talks about how frustrating it is that he can’t date his daughter all the time. There is no man behind the curtain in the White House, just a scared, overwhelmed child with no sense of his place in a world that has been handed over to him on a silver platter.
UPDATE: I wrote this last night as events unfolded, so of course this morning, the president pushed back on it in a tweet, saying that he had proof that he did not say this horrible thing. He’ll need it, because The Washington Post spoke to Sgt. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson via Facebook messenger this morning, and she confirmed the congresswoman’s story, telling the post “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.” When pressed over whether the congresswoman’s account is correct, Jones-Johnson simply said “yes.”
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.