Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Voice of Experience

Today the Star Tribune offered a helpful commentary by Barb Lutz, a retired Army captain and casualty assistance officer. It's called How not to handle delicate calls.

She gives background on how the military handles notification and assistance to families. Lutz doesn't come down very hard on Trump himself for how he handled his call to Myeshia Johnson, though she notes he should have rehearsed instead of winging it, and he should have later apologized for his clumsiness.

Instead, she saves her main criticism for John Kelly, both as chief of staff and as a retired general:

First of all, as ... chief of staff, he gave Trump horrible advice about what to say. When a CAO had talked to Kelly about his own son “knowing what he was getting into,” it was a message from one Marine to another. Kelly would have understood. One would never say something like that to a young widow who has had no experience in the military.

Kelly should have advised Trump that he should say repeatedly how sorry he was, and how Johnson was a hero. And when you’re talking to someone bereaved, you need to know the name of their loved one and use it. This is common sense. Anyone, including the president, who officially interacts with a bereaved military family member should first get training from a professional bereavement specialist.

The second mistake Kelly made was going after U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson ... for “listening in” on the conversation. If he had done any checking, he would have found out that Wilson had known Johnson since he was a child and that she had known the extended family for years. When Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, took the president’s call over the speakerphone, I’m sure it was so everyone in the vehicle could hear the president offering his condolences. They didn’t know in advance that he would bungle it. What was Wilson supposed to do, put her fingers in her ears?

Then, Kelly’s third mistake was personally attacking Wilson with false accusations regarding the dedication of the FBI building in Miami. Even if what he said had been true, which it wasn’t, why attack her for something that happened years ago that had absolutely nothing to do with the situation at hand? Kelly used the word “stunned” five times when speaking about Wilson’s behavior. You’d think it would take more than that to stun a four-star general.
“They didn’t know in advance that he would bungle it.” Exactly!

All of this is in reference to the chain of events that led to Trump and his administration insulting yet another Gold Star family. 

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