Josh Marshall likes to say that Trump is poison, and poisons everything associated with him. Sometimes that's just in the system, far removed from Trump, but still illuminated in stories about him. The New York Times assesses the tempest in a teapot of the past week, by telling us it was really a playground spat and the Democrats (and blacks) started it:
Ms. Wilson’s decision to go public with her criticism of the president, even as Ms. Johnson was at her husband’s coffin to receive his body, was a reflection of the unbridled anger and frustration among many Democrats, black Americans and others as Mr. Trump tries to dismantle Barack Obama’s legacy.
Or maybe she just thought the President of the United States shouldn't be such a ham-handed klutz as to make a widow break down into tears on the way to retrieving her husband's body, a body she was not allowed to see. Maybe she thought her constituents and her personal friends deserved better than that from a dullard who thinks what he said (who now disputes it is what he said?) was appropriate, and even wants to argue with the widow now about how polite he was and whether or not he knew her husband's name (she says he stumbled over it so badly it was clear he didn't know who he was talking about or who he was talking to). "Frustration among many Democrats" and "black Americans"? What, it can't be simply an interpersonal thing? Because clearly, it was.
Oh, but we have skipped ahead:
Likewise, the nasty back-and-forth with Frederica S. Wilson, a Democratic congresswoman who is close to the soldier’s family, might have dissipated had she not repeatedly disparaged Mr. Trump’s intentions on national television, failing to extend him the benefit of the doubt that previous presidents had received.
I still have a decent timeline of these events on my blog page. Wilson spoke to the press for reasons I have outlined above; then Trump counter-attacked, calling her a liar. She went on to defend her honor and veracity, without complaining about the white supremacists in the Administration (rather like commenting on the paint color of the White House at this point) until Ret. Gen. John Kelly made it personal by declaring himself superior to uppity black women who don't know their place (all that sanctimonious claptrap about "sacred" was just the nicest way he could think of to say "Shut and mind your place, bitch!") and to all American citizens with no military background (which appalled at least one other former military officer, but I'm sure the NYT will get around to blaming him for having an opinion, too; in the interests of fairness). It wasn't Rep. Wilson who "disparaged Mr. Trump's intentions on national television" until Mr. Trump called her a liar; and then it turned out that Kellyanne Conway and John Kelly separately confirmed that her facts were correct, and Trump was a liar. In claims of libel, truth is an absolute defense.
Too bad truth isn't polite enough for the Gray Lady. But notice how quickly they paint her as a member of the "resistance," the better to claim the middle ground of objective observer of the "facts, just the facts:"
She had listened in on the president’s call as a longtime friend of the Johnson family, and though it is unclear whether the family knew that she was going to reveal what the president had said, they backed her characterization of his remarks. They were offended that the president never used Sergeant Johnson’s name, instead calling him “your guy.”
The congresswoman’s actions were consistent with those of a member of the “resistance” to Mr. Trump, primed to react harshly to whatever he says. “There’s no reason for the president to be so insensitive,” Ms. Wilson said on CNN on Tuesday night. She added that “it’s disrespectful to the family of every soldier that has paid the ultimate price.”
“Our community is livid,” she said.
Well, I would say it's fairly clear they knew she would speak out, since no one in the family has complained about her statements yet, and the widow herself went on television this morning to explain her personal reaction to Trump's phone call and to defend Ms. Wilson's statements. The President felt compelled to react to that, where most adults would simply remain silent or offer an apology for giving offense. Was Mrs. Johnson also "primed" to react harshly to what the President said in that phone call? Or was she equally upset and perhaps even appreciative of Rep. Wilson speaking up for the family in the first place? No, probably it's the latter, right? Can't blame the President, so we'd better cast blame in all directions just to be "fair and balanced."
An interesting lacunae in the article, the same silence that prevailed on the weekend talk shows, is the propriety of Gen. Kelly's assertions about the hallowed dead, the separation of citizens from soldiers, and the blunt refusal to countenance questions from those who were not, or who did not know personally, Gold Star families. The first reporter to get to ask a question prefaced it with "Semper Fi," as a way of appeasing the retired Marine, a rhetorical tugging of the forelock. There was a lot of commentary on that last week, aside from Col. Killebrew's statements about it:
“That odd press conference has exposed Kelly’s emotional, personal disdain for the citizens he served in uniform and still serves in a sensitive political post,” he writes. “His remarks lead me to wonder if he really understands that soldiers are the servants of democracies, not some special race apart. A MacArthur or a George Patton, disdainful or ignorant of democracy but close to the president is dangerous to the Republic.”
There is no similar assessment in the entire NYT article. Indeed, it only mentions the General's "empty barrel" comment, and points out that was factually incorrect. Far more worrisome were his remarks about soldiers and civilians, but about that the Gray Lady has nothing whatever to say. I suppose that would seem like arguing with a general, and such an argument would be highly inappropriate.
I'm not a big fan of jumping on the media for perceived slights, but this is ridiculous. Charlie Pierce is right, except he's too kind by half. This entire article is weaselspeak.