The political news cycle is fast, and keeping up can be overwhelming. Trying to find differing perspectives worth your time is even harder. Here is an overview of political writing from the right and left and center that you might not have seen.
From the Right
“However Trump meant his comment, his subsequent war of words with Wilson doesn’t help assuage the pain Sgt. Johnson’s family feels — nor, for that matter, does the way in which Wilson, a Democrat, went public with the family’s complaints.”
Warren gives President Trump the benefit of the doubt when it comes to interpreting what he intended in his comments to the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson. Determining whether those comments – or any condolences offered during a period of grieving – were insensitive is up to the “ear of the beholder,” he argues.
“The fact that Trump is even attempting to call every new Gold Star family is itself honorable. It’s one of the toughest things a president can do.”
Greene writes about presidential outreach to the families of fallen soldiers from personal experience. In 2004, her father, a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, was shot down in Iraq. She explains how she received a letter from President George W. Bush but “we didn’t get a phone call from the president, and we didn’t expect to.”
It’s not protocol for presidents to reach out to families directly, unless the death is high profile. “Bickering over this kind of protocol,” she warns, “rarely ends well.”
“It might be the stupidest and most unworthy controversy of the year, and that’s saying something.”
According to Lowry, the uproar on both sides of the aisle over this issue is misguided. Trump may have been right that President Obama didn’t call each family of a fallen soldier, but he was nonetheless wrong to “use that point as a bludgeon.”
Lowry adds that while the president’s reported comments to the family of Sgt. Johnson sounded “horrible in isolation,” there’s no way to properly judge without hearing the entire phone call in context. Moreover, Lowry believes that controversies over condolence calls should be entirely left “out of our poisonous political debate.”
From the Left
Brandon Friedman in The New York Daily News:
“There’s often a misconception among non-veterans that service members sign up with the expectation that they may die. But I can tell you: I did two tours in combat as an infantry officer and I never met a soldier who thought dying was a reasonable result of his or her service.”
If the president did indeed tell Johnson’s widow that her husband “knew what he was signing up for” in his call, then, according to Friedman, he has a poor grasp on how the military actually works. Friedman, who served two tours of duty and worked in the Obama administration, explains that since the Sept. 11 attacks one out of every 5,000 service members serving in Iraq or Afghanistan died on duty.
“This makes it clear that dying in combat is neither common nor expected,” he argues. What “keeps troops going,” he explains, is the faith that your government, and your commander in chief, believe that soldiers’ lives are valuable. “No one shrugs death off as an inevitability.”
“I fully empathize with the family of Sgt. La David Johnson. [...] Sadly, the lack of respect given to them is not an American aberration. It is a part of this country’s ugly history regarding black people and the military.”
When Loggins heard reports of what Trump had said to Johnson’s family, he recognized it as the latest in a long string of moments black veterans were shown disrespect. Loggins points out that black troops have disproportionally experienced military punishment — up to, and including, the death penalty.
“The ongoing dispute over Trump’s treatment of Gold Star families runs the risk of overshadowing a more significant concern: More than two weeks after the attack, we don’t really know what happened in Niger.”
Hartmann notes that in all the attention paid to the condolence call controversy, most outlets and readers have missed a much more important story: the uncertain events from an attack in Niger that left four soldiers – including Sergeant Johnson – dead. In this piece, she outlines what is known and what questions still remain.
From the Center
“The U.S. demands even more ceremony of its presidents than other countries in part because of the expectation that the head of state is also the moral-authority-in-chief where Christian leadership is prized and the president is expected to channel those attitudes.”
. Bershidsky takes a broader view in his column by examining the symbolic, or ceremonial, function of a U.S. president and how President Trump may or may not fulfill this role. He explains how in other countries, ceremonial duties such as honoring soldiers who have died falls to a monarch or other governmental figurehead. In the U.S., he notes, policy and ceremony fall to the same person, for better or for worse.
Anna Dubenko writes for The New York Times. Comment on the Partisan Writing Roundup at firstname.lastname@example.org.