He knew what he signed up for

Today, I’ll go to bat for Donald Trump. But only just a little. Over the past year, I haven’t found any common ground with the president, but in this one instance I’m on his side. Today’s headline: “He knew what he signed up for.” This is the callous remark Trump made to a war widow.

As Newsweek reports: “He knew what he signed up for” were the words of consolation offered by President Donald J. Trump to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, a Green Beret who was killed in an ambush in Niger on October 4.

Lots of thoughts on this. First, Trump is right. Anyone joining the Green Berets is well aware that the job is among the most dangerous on earth. Secondly, it’s incredibly bad form to dangle this truth in front of a bereaved wife a week or so after the death. Families have a right to grieve, and they don’t need the president pointing fingers and placing blame.

Trump is in the news this week for not taking action to console families. Thirteen days ago, four Green Berets died in action and as of yesterday, the presidential letters to their families designed to acknowledge the death, and be thankful for the service and sacrifice, were still in draft. Trump suggested that writing these letters was an optional task, and former presidents, including Barack Obama passed on this duty. This statement has been proven to be false.

In the defensive stance Trump has once again found himself in, he stated that he makes calls to families when appropriate to console them for their loss. And just like clockwork in today’s divisive political environment, a Democratic congresswoman immediately complained that Trump made his inappropriate “knew what he signed up for” comment to her constituent.

When I was in college, still living in the dormitory, Bob, a guy who lived down the hall from me, lost his younger brother. Apparently, drag racing was involved and Bob’s brother was pointlessly killed when his car flipped into a ditch. I wasn’t close with Bob. I always suspected that he disapproved of my “partying ways,” and I saw him as something of a snob. The day Bob’s brother died, I avoided him. I didn’t want to get into a consoling conversation with someone I didn’t particularly like.

LATE that night, holed up with some friends in a dorm-room, drinking and smoking, I popped out to use the bathroom. Right outside the door, I came face to face with Bob. Caught completely unprepared, and my mind moving slowly from the intoxicants, I said “Oh, Bob, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend.”

Bob ranted: “Friend? FRIEND? Here I lost my brother, and this idiot is talking about friends!”

This happened in 1982. Thirty-five years ago. It was such a gaff, I remember it like it was yesterday. Through the lens of maturity, I can say Jeff, you meant well, don’t give yourself a hard time.

No one looks forward to talking with the family of the recently deceased. We all struggle with finding the right words to offer. We’re caught off guard in an unscripted exchange. No one wants to say the wrong thing, something seeming callous, even Donald Trump.

This is one situation where I’m giving Trump a bye. Even a president can feel awkward sometimes. I’m certain he intended to offer his best, and in this situation, he said the wrong thing. I’m sure he wishes he could take it back. And not just because he’s been politically slammed for it.

18 thoughts on “He knew what he signed up for

  1. Not me, Jeff. It wasn’t an unscripted moment as yours was. (of which I also have had several.) He picked up the phone as the US representative to this person and said that. I completely understand all nuances of the comment – I just don’t understand how the President of this country could not just write out what to say and read the f-ing thing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I dunno. as someone who often says the wrong thing, I have to feel for the guy. This is the only time I’ve been able to place myself in his shoes and feel empathy. Don’t worry, I’ll be all over him regarding just about everything else

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One would think Trump would have a giant PR team to coach and avoid these blunders.

    On the other hand I have been a nurse for a very long time. Knowing what to say to family members of someone who is in the dying process, or actually delivering the news to someone that their loved one has just passed away never gets any easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think it was a blunder. It is a HUGE statement of respect to know what you have signed up for in a life and death situation and proceed anyway.
    This man signed up to kill or be killed by order and he did his job. He knew and he died bravely. That is an ENORMOUS compliment and I would be honored if Trump said that to me or my wife under similar conditions if my sons were involved.


  4. You make a valid point, Jeff. The real problem here is that he didn’t diffuse the whole thing by issuing a brief apology…. “I have complete respect for our military families; I’m sorry my remark did not seem to reflect that respect.” But he is too entitled, too lacking in compassion or empathy to ever apologize.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I see what you are saying, but I have to think that if you are President of the USA, then you’ve been able to come up with a few lines to get a consoling message across (and have had to use them before) before you got to be President. Most of the time, the President has had some history in politics – they actually tried to present themselves in a Presidential image to gain the favor of Americans for years. Trump didn’t get here the same way. He has no filter (now or in his previous life) – he says what he thinks and cares little about the feelings of the individual receiving the message. He was supported for his non-filter and is an egotist in that way. I can relate to your situation. Death is a hard thing. It is not something that happens often to the people around us and if you are not, almost “working in the field” (like at a hospital or funeral home) it is hard for the layperson to come up with the right thing to say. I uderstand how you feel you can relate to Trump on this instance, but I kind of look at it as if this is another instant where he is not really acting like a president.
    P.S. My Halloween costume is a tweeting Trump – the scariest thing I could think of! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually heard on NPR today that Trump was given that line by Kelly. It’s what Kelly’s son’s commander said to him when Kelly’s son died. I’m sure it lost something coming out of Trumps mouth. Great costume idea. My kids are starting to age out of Halloween (except for the bumming candy part). I’ll really miss it when their done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I realize it may have just turned into another opportunity to blast Trump. And I agree, it probably lost a lot when he said it. Thanks! My friend has a Halloween party every year, so I am forced to come up with something. She and her husband are horror movie junkies, and go to all the horror conventions, so I am always lost on their costumes – but a lot of people that come know who they are. My kids are still in. Even if Bobby wanted to stop, he couldn’t – Declan is Spiderman again this year (of course) and he told Bobby he was going to be the Vulture (from the new movie). Bobby just shrugged and said, “Okay.” One more year for us – I will miss it too when they are done.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for oaur community and thought this was insightful. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. If “OK” please let me know via email.



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