Roy Exum: ‘All Hat, No Cattle’

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A very long time ago there was a philosopher in Greece named Plato. He was really good at it; founded the first organized school in the world, this around 400 BC. He is also thought to be the founder of spirituality, which later became Christianity, and had a dandy bunch of other great ideas. He was taught by Socrates and then Plato, in turn, taught young Aristotle. He was evermore a ‘heavy lifter’ and at some point in his life he supposedly said, “An empty barrel makes the most noise.”

Last week a member of the United States Congress said, after being properly diagnosed, that being called “an empty barrel” was racist. Frederica Wilson, desperate for attention, created the most outlandish story in America’s recent history when she accused President Trump of being insensitive in a call to an American soldier’s widow.

Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly, who had a son who was killed while on active duty several years ago, was so aghast by Wilson’s slap at the president he quite rightly called her “an empty barrel,” a phrase later explained by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “If you’re able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes all about yourself, you’re an ’empty barrel,’ ” she said. “If you don’t understand that reference, I’ll put it a little more simply. As we say in the South: ‘All hat, no cattle.’”

How under the eyes of Almighty God can you make a condolence call into a political farce?

The tragedy turned further into a travesty yesterday morning when the soldier’s widow told a sensationalist reporter, ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos: “The president said, ‘He knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway,’” Myeshia Johnson said “It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone in his voice and how he said it.”

“He couldn’t remember my husband’s name … The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said ‘La David.’ I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name,” she added. “And that’s what hurt me the most because if my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?”

I want somebody to tell me how you can hear somebody try to remember a name? This is the most cockamamie story thus far in the world of “fake news!”

In the midst of this mockery, Kelly gave an impromptu press conference last Thursday. "Let's not let this maybe last thing that is held sacred in our society, a young man, a young woman going out and giving his or her life for our country. Let's try to somehow keep that sacred," Kelly told the news media.

"I was stunned when I came to work yesterday, and broken-hearted, when I saw what a member of Congress was doing," the former Marine general said. "What she was saying, what she was doing on TV -- the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go walk among the finest men or women on this earth."

Kelly went for an hour’s walk at Arlington National Cemetery, where his son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, is buried in Section 60 among other service members who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His son was killed in 2010 by an improvised explosive device in the northern Sangin district of Afghanistan's southwestern Helmand province, where the Military Times reports more U.S. troops have been killed than anywhere else in Afghanistan.

General Kelly explained that when a service member is killed, casualty officers wait in front of a family’s house until they see the morning lights turned on. “That’s when the casualty officer proceeds to break the heart of a family member," he said.

Trump’s Chief of Staff told reporters that when his son was killed his best friend, Marine General Joseph Dunford, who is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the one who knocked on his door. Then he carefully explained Robert "was doing exactly what he wanted to do as a Marine defending his country. When he died, he was surrounded by those he loved.”

Obviously that was the message the president was trying to convey to the Green Beret’s widow. He said he will never forget calls he received from other Marine friends that day. "Those were the only phone calls that really matter," Kelly said. "Yeah, the letters count to a degree, but there's not much that can take the edge off."

"If you're not in the family, if you've never worn the uniform, if you're not in combat, you can't even begin to imagine how to make that call," Kelly said. "My first recommendation was not to do it."

Sadly, as Trump tried to defend his call, he said publicly, "You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?"

Kelly would later comment that Obama "did not call my family but 'that's not a negative thing. There's no perfect way to make that phone call."

But there is something else that is true everywhere it is spoken. “You can fake that you care but you can’t fake showing up.” Not one of us should overlook the singular most important point in this charade. Trump made the phone call. If ever you are called by the President of the United States, don’t you dare try to listen as he searches for a soldier’s name or judge his timbre by the tone in his voice.

He is our nation’s Commander-in-Chief and his lone reason for making the call is because he cares. I could care less what you think of him. All that matters is that he made the phone call and that is the only lesson anyone of us should savor in this embarrassment created solely by who?

A member of our Congress.

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