The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump does not possess an ounce of compassion

President Trump at an Oct. 18 meeting. (Chris Kleponis/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
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Just when you think that President Trump cannot go lower, he goes lower. First, he managed to turn the deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger into a spectacle of narcissism. The victims included not only the dead soldiers but also the president who had to call the bereaved and offer his — and the nation’s — condolences. “It’s the toughest calls I have to make,” the president said. Actually, it’s the toughest call a family ever has to receive.

Then Trump said that President Barack Obama did not make such calls. He contrasted Obama’s alleged indifference to the deaths of American soldiers to his own practice of making such calls. Trouble was, Obama did make such calls. Trump never misses an opportunity to take a cheap shot at this predecessor. Each time, Obama rises in stature and Trump descends. He is pretty close to the floor already.

You will notice that everything so far is about Trump. He must have noticed, too, because he’s been on a roll. He then took another shot at Obama. He said Obama never called Gen. John F. Kelly after his son, 1st Lt. Robert M. Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan while on patrol in 2010. Kelly himself has refrained from using his son’s death in a political context, but Trump did not. He used the death to once again go at Obama and defend his own actions.

Then Tuesday, Trump did indeed call the widow of one of the slain soldiers. Her name is Myeshia Johnson and her husband was Sgt. La David T. Johnson. She is the mother of two children and is pregnant with a third. Trump reached her in a car and supposedly said that Johnson “must have known what he signed up for.” It was an odd way to extend sympathy and Trump later insisted he said nothing of the sort. A witness, Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who was in the car at the time, also said she heard it. So did the sergeant’s mother, another passenger in the car.

Global Opinions Editor Karen Attiah says Trump's dust-up with a Gold Star family should shine on light on the U.S. military's expanding presence in Africa. (Video: Gillian Brockell, Kate Woodsome/The Washington Post)

It nevertheless remains possible that either Trump was misunderstood or that he failed to say what he meant to say. We all do that from time to time. And when we do, we offer our apologies. We concede that we might have been misunderstood, and we reiterate what we meant to say — what we should have said. Trump did not do that. Instead, he said his words were “fabricated” and he dared Wilson to repeat her words.

Trump does not possess an ounce of compassion. He is reptilian, knowing only to show his fangs, hiss and attack. This is why he mocked a physically disabled reporter for the New York Times, why he derided the heroism of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and why he dismissed the authenticity of the Khans, who had lost their son in Iraq.

This inability to feel the pain of others — even to acknowledge it — is not a minor tick in an otherwise good man. It is the salient characteristic of a sadist, of someone so wrapped up in himself that he has contempt for victims. Trump’s name for them is “losers.” They are the poor and the unlucky. They deserve what they get.

Trump is not a conservative nor a nationalist nor some reality show creation. He is a mean S.O.B., base in his motives and cruel in his targets and, until he won in November, unthinkable in American history — a brat in the Oval Office. He’s not man enough to throw an arm around a grieving widow. He disgraces his office and will be remembered by history as a lout. It is now a fate he cannot escape. Sorry, but he knew what he was signing up for.