As the Washington Post reported today, the president has had plenty to say about a wide range of topics since the deadly attack in Niger – he’s apparently upset with protesting athletes, Democrats, the mayor or San Juan, and major American news organizations – but Trump has remained completely silent on the deadliest attack on U.S. military forces since he took office.
That seemed to change on Monday, when a reporter asked about his reticence, but even then, Trump’s answer covered a lot of ground – he’s impressed with his communications with family members of the fallen, and he’s taken some cheap and misleading shots at Barack Obama – without even trying to address the underlying question:
Why did these four Americans die?
It’s not that the other questions are unimportant. When Trump lies about the records of his predecessors, it matters. When the president says he calls each of the families of those killed in action, but fails to follow through, it matters. When he clumsily tries and fails to bring comfort to those who are grieving, it matters. When Trump seems to exploit the memory of his chief of staff’s son, who died in Afghanistan, for petty political purposes, it matters.
But we’re still left with the fact that the president, as The Atlantic’s David Graham noted today, has “pushed the conversation even further away from the actual question of the fallen soldiers.”
And there’s no reason anyone should consider that acceptable. How did ISIS-affiliated fighters ambush U.S. Special Forces in an area considered to be low-risk? Why did it take so long for help to arrive? Why did it take nearly two days to recover the body of one of the four Americans killed?
And why is Donald Trump willing to talk about practically every subject except this one?
Two weeks later, the commander in chief hasn’t even acknowledged what happened. The questions have been ignored and/or buried by a series of related distractions.
As Rachel noted on the show this week, there are sometimes legitimate reasons why U.S. officials have to remain silent on combat deaths, at least temporarily. But the Pentagon has publicly commented on the deadly violence in Niger, which necessarily means there’s no prohibition on discussing the attack.
Trump, for reasons that are not yet clear, simply doesn’t want to. I’ll look forward to the White House explaining why.