Condolencegate Shows, Yet Again, That Donald Trump Is a Terrible Human Being

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

This whole row over Donald Trump’s condolence call to Myeshia Johnson is, possibly, the most Trumpian controversy ever. I was inclined to ignore it at first, since Trump’s actual conversation with Johnson didn’t strike me as all that bad. The fact that he was apparently winging it on the call is typical Trump, but a non-hostile reading of what he said suggested to me that he expressed himself a little poorly but nothing much more.

But he couldn’t just leave it at that, could he? Of course not. He’s Donald Trump. So he blurted out something about Obama and other presidents not making condolence calls. This is a typical off-the-cuff Trump lie: something vaguely plausible that he invents on the spot to defend himself. Naturally, it prompted the press to check into this, and they reported that Trump was lying. They also uncovered the fact that he had promised $25,000 to a father he had called but had never delivered it. Then, instead of leaving bad enough alone, he decided to call congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson a liar, even though her account of the call to Myeshia Johnson was perfectly correct.

Then, because everyone close to Trump eventually pays a price, Trump roped chief of staff John Kelly into the whole thing, claiming that Obama never called Kelly when Kelly’s son was killed in Afghanistan. Kelly was then forced to offer a self-indulgent attack on everyone, and especially on Rep. Wilson, who he said had acted badly at a building dedication in 2015. Video of the event showed that Wilson had done none of the things Kelly said. Was he lying? Did he just misremember? Who knows.

But naturally no one backed down. That’s verboten in Trumpland, even in the face of video evidence. So of course Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Kelly, saying that it was all but unpatriotic to even question the word of a 4-star Marine general.

The key thing here is that all of this was completely avoidable. All of it. Trump just had to provide a vague answer to the condolence call question on Monday and none of this would have happened. It’s 100 percent a result of the fact that Trump can’t abide even the tiniest hint of criticism and apparently has no control over his own response. No matter how dumb and self-destructive it is, he will automatically lash out and then continue to escalate things forever. Quite aside from his political beliefs, it’s yet another confirmation that Trump is simply a terrible human being.

For now, the only result is the character assassination of a congresswoman and the descent into the muck of Trump’s chief of staff. It’s horrible, but we’ll all live through it. Next time, however, we might not be so lucky.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate