Sergeant La David Johnson, an American soldier, was recently killed in an ambush in Niger. US President Donald Trump is reported to have offered condolences to Johnson’s widow in words that went something like this: “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”
I guess it does. This gives us a rhetorical model for consoling the relatives of someone who has been killed. First you imply that his death was at least partly his own fault. Then, in a show of generosity, you admit that grief is still justified. As a final flourish, you might add a few lines of self-promotion, because that’s what Trump does.
If Donald Trump had consoled the relatives of famous people in history who got killed, he might have produced masterpieces of condolence like these:
To Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, after the crucifixion: “Well, but don’t you think he was asking for it when he came riding into Jerusalem on that donkey and didn’t object when the crowd hailed him as king of the Jews? The Romans couldn’t ignore that. But I guess it hurts anyway. Crucifixion is a very, very unpleasant way to die, even more unpleasant than being strangled or stoned to death or burned at the stake. If it’s any comfort, I will tell you, in a few years your son will become incredibly famous, amazingly famous, almost as famous as me. And he didn’t even get rich or build a great real-estate empire or make fantastic deals the way I’ve done.”
To Mary Todd Lincoln, after the assassination of her husband Abraham: “Well, but don’t you think it would have been smarter if you both had stayed home and watched TV instead of going to the theatre? You could have watched my show ‘The Apprentice’. It used to have very high ratings, although they’ve taken a nosedive since I left. Your husband was a great president, a very, very great president, almost as great as I’m going to be. Don’t you believe for a minute the lies being put out by those Fake News people, that I’m going to undo his legacy by bringing back slavery.”
To Jacqueline Kennedy, after the shooting of JFK in Dallas: “Well, it probably wasn’t a good idea to ride in an open car through a town that was known to be hostile. But look at the bright side. Now you’ll have a chance to marry somebody like Aristotle Socrates Onassis, and he’s really, really rich, almost as rich as me. And hey, I’m sorry you got blood on that nice pink dress. I know a very good dry cleaner who can get the stains out if you’re interested. If you mention my name he’ll give you a discount rate, and I get a commission. He owes me one.”
To the relatives of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers: “It was a terrible tragedy, a really terrible, terrible tragedy, but it would have been even worse if they had hit Trump Tower. Lots of very, very good people in there, even better than the folks who died in the Twin Towers, although of course we grieve for them anyway. Burning to death or dying of smoke inhalation or in the collapse of the building or from jumping from the 35th floor is a horrible, horrible way to go, but hey. If they had lived, some of those people would eventually have died of cancer, and I will tell you, that is the worst way to go. The very, very worst way to go. When you burn to death, or die of smoke inhalation, or get crushed to death in a building collapse, or jump from the 35th floor, it’s all over very quickly, I will tell you. If one of my companies gets the contract to rebuild, we’ll make those buildings plane-resistant. We’ll do it at a rock-bottom price, and we’ll finish the work way ahead of schedule. The only question will be whether to name them the Twin Trump Towers or the Trump Twin Towers.”
You see? By studying these models, President Trump will be able to upgrade his consoling skills and sound even more sensitive and caring and compassionate the next time around.