On Tuesday, Home Alone 2 star Donald Trump gave his first address to Congress as president. The most powerful moment of the night would arrive when the President addressed Carryn Owens, widow of fallen U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. Owens was killed on a failed military operation ordered by Trump just days after taking office.
A two-minute plus standing ovation accompanied the image of a tearful Owens, as the President thanked her for her husband’s service. “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you,” Trump told Owens.
On January 29, President Trump ordered his first military action: an operation on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen. According to the White House, the goal was to gain intelligence to use against the terror organization and prevent future terror attacks. It would later be revealed the objective was to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi, the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
U.S. Navy SEALS, working with special forces from the United Arab Emirates, were detected prior to reaching the compound, resulting in a deadly firefight.
When it was all over, the mission resulted in the destruction of a $70 million U.S. aircraft, the escape of al-Rimi, 23 civilian deaths (including women and children) and the death of Ryan Owens.
This mission was an absolute failure on every level.
“It’s absolutely a success, and I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during a February 8th press briefing.
Donald Trump referred to the Iraq war as a “DISASTER” in October. Has the president committed a disservice to the thousands of troops who were killed in the line of duty in Iraq? Of course not.
Ryan Owens died protecting our right to question such things. It’s a freedom Ryan’s own father, Bill Owens, would use to criticize the very mission which took his son’s life:
“Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen – everything was missiles and drones – because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?”
In the aftermath, the White House explained how the raid had been planned under the Obama administration. Former national security official under Obama, Colin Kahl, was quick to dispute this version of events in a series of tweets.
Kahl explains the administration created a general proposal for an ”overall set of expanded authorities for these types of raids…” However, the raid which took place January 29th in Yemen was “NOT discussed.”
“So, in a nutshell, Trump and his team owns the process and the ultimate decision – and the consequences,” Kahl tweeted. Donald Trump clearly did not get the memo.
During a Tuesday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, President Trump would blame the death of Ryan Owens on the U.S. military:
“This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do – the generals who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
So much for the party of personal responsibility.
Trump not only deflects blame for signing the order to green light the mission, he removes himself entirely from the situation. What would have been a nation-unifying “we lost Ryan” under prior administrations is now: “they lost Ryan.”
Contrary to his Fox interview, Trump had a more optimistic take on the Yemen raid hours later during his Congressional address:
“I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.’”
Except it didn’t, according to NBC News.
Prior to Trump’s address, NBC reported senior U.S. officials told journalists the raid “has so far yielded no significant intelligence.”
Post-Trump’s address, NBC followed-up on their report. Ten current U.S. officials who have been briefed on the raid told NBC there is still no “significant intelligence” gathered from the cell phones, hard drives and laptops that were confiscated in Yemen.
Hiding behind Secretary of Defense James Mattis, President Trump lied to Carryn Owens and the American people on Tuesday night.
Graded on what I refer to as the “Palin curve,” Trump received much praise on his first Congressional address. He’ll likely receive a nice bump in his approval rating… but it will be short-lived.
His speech contradicted his actions in recent weeks. As Trump declared he wanted to work with both parties to “promote clean air and clean water,” he signed an executive order just hours earlier to roll back President Obama’s Clean Water Rule. The only thing which truly changed on Tuesday night, was his demeanor.
Yes, Trump stayed on message and showed a new level of comfort with using a teleprompter… but this isn’t Donald Trump. We’ve had two years to get to know Trump. He’s petulant, petty and impulsive.
Trump’s first military action was a complete debacle resulting in multiple deaths. His failure to accept this begs the question if he has learned anything from it. If he hasn’t, how many more times over the next four years will the nation watch as Trump speaks to a Gold Star widow during a primetime address?