Actor Tom Hanks weighed in Saturday night on President Trump's allegedly insensitive condolence call to the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger earlier this month.
"I'm only knowing what I read in the newspapers and what have you, and it just seems like it's one of the biggest cock-ups on the planet Earth, if you ask me," Hanks said to CNN. "This is a tragedy of the utmost consequence, and it goes much longer beyond who's going to come out on top of the news story. I think it's very sad."
Hanks was in Washington, D.C., to be honored at the National Archives Foundation gala with the annual "Records of Achievement Award." In a speech at the event, he struck a more positive note. "As we continually move towards a more perfect union, [the U.S. Constitution] might be the only self-correcting, open-ended document anywhere on the planet Earth [that] keeps us going," Hanks said, "that keeps saying that we're going to learn how to do that one thing we've already sort of done. We're going to become better and better and better." Bonnie Kristian
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty last week to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for his decision to leave his base in Afghanistan in 2009, said in an exclusive interview published in Britain's Sunday Times that coming home to the United States was as difficult as his years spent as a prisoner of war in Taliban hands.
"At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, 'I'm the guy who's gonna cut your throat,'" he said. "Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who's going to sign the paper that sends me away for life."
Bergdahl's goal in leaving his base was to alert other officers of perceived mismanagement; instead he was kidnapped and held captive for five years until the Obama administration negotiated his release. His homecoming has been marked by vicious political controversy, including attacks from President Trump, who has suggested Bergdahl should be thrown from a plane without a parachute. Bonnie Kristian
Sarah Sanders says it is 'highly inappropriate' to question John Kelly because he's a 4-star general
The White House on Friday called it "highly inappropriate" to question Chief of Staff John Kelly's mischaracterization of Rep. Frederica Wilson's (D-Fla.) 2015 speech at the dedication of a new FBI building. In addition to skewering Wilson for sharing the details of a phone call between President Trump and the widow of a U.S. service member killed in Niger on Thursday, Kelly claimed Wilson once "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for" the FBI building. In a video from the dedication surfaced by the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Friday, Wilson takes credit for naming the building but does not claim to have secured its funding.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders maintained that Wilson "also had quite a few comments that day that weren't part of that speech and weren't part of that video that were also witnessed by many people that were there."
"[Kelly] was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money," a reporter pressed.
"If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that's up to you," Sanders said. "But I think that, if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate." Jeva Lange
Huckabee doubles down on the lies and says it's "highly inappropriate" to disagree with a Marine 4 Star General. pic.twitter.com/OiVHSeHP1d
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) October 20, 2017
Former President Barack Obama, stumping for Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Richmond on Thursday evening, alluded to August's violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, 70 miles up I-64. That rally was ostensibly organized to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.
"We've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry" for political gain, Obama said. "We shouldn't use the most painful parts of our history just to score political points. ... We don't rise up by repeating the past, we rise up by learning from the past." He then mentioned that he is "an eighth or ninth or tenth or something cousin removed from Jefferson Davis," the head of the Confederacy. "Think about that." And lest you think he was bragging about his ancestry, Obama had a parting shot: "I'll bet he's spinning in his grave."
Obama tells the crowd that he's distantly related to Jefferson Davis: "I'll bet he's spinning in his grave." pic.twitter.com/S6hUS4xCtl
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 20, 2017
On Tuesday, the PTA president of a predominantly black public school in Jackson, Mississippi, said that the school stakeholders had voted to change the name, Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary, after Jefferson Davis, to Obama Magnet IB Elementary. "Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him," the PTA president, Janelle Jefferson, told the Jackson School Board. The change will take effect next school year. Peter Weber
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) opened his speech at the 72nd annual Al Smith Dinner in New York City on Thursday night with a joke about President Trump. "Please, enough with the applause," he said. "You sound like the Cabinet when Donald Trump walks into the room." He kept going from there.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 20, 2017
The white-tie dinner, a fundraiser for the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, hosted by the Catholic archbishop of New York, is typically a bipartisan political roast, and the world lost out on the Democratic jokes from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), who had to cancel his appearance to vote against the Senate GOP budget resolution.
Trump — whose speech at the 2016 Al Smith Dinner was uncomfortably sharp-elbowed and defensive, as Ryan alluded to in one of his jokes — wasn't the only target for Ryan and his joke writers. Ryan also poked fun at Hillary Clinton ("I'm from Wisconsin. It's a great state to visit in the fall. Looking back, someone should have told Hillary"), Stephen Bannon ("Steve Bannon said I was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation. This is amazing — no one knew Steve believed in science"), himself ("Every afternoon, former Speaker John Boehner calls me up. Not to give advice. Just to laugh"), and his methods for surviving the Trump presidency ("Every morning, I wake up in my office and scroll Twitter to see which tweets I will have to pretend that I didn't see later"). You can read more of his one-liners at NBC News. Peter Weber
Energy Secretary Rick Perry says it's 'asinine' to nitpick how presidents honor fallen service members
Debating how presidents honor fallen service members is "asinine," Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CBS News on Wednesday, when Major Garrett asked him about the days-long controversy surrounding President Trump. "The presidents of the United States each have a love for this country," Perry said. "They have a love for the young men and women who serve and the families who have lost them. I think anyone who questions that — now do they handle it differently? Yes, and that's okay."
President Trump has had about two dozen service members die while he was in office, but when George W. Bush was president, Perry noted, he was signing a condolence letter a day during the height of the Iraq War. When Perry was governor of Texas, he added, "about 10 of those years, I wrote a letter a week to a Texan's family — their spouses, their loved ones, their next of kin — who was lost in the war on terror. I went to funerals. I visited with parents."
Perry said he wasn't sure why Trump cast false aspersions on former President Barack Obama's handling of fallen troops, but "what I will say in defense of what he said — I think he was making reference to — everybody does this differently." From his perspective, Perry added, "I know we live in a 24/7 news cycle and to be splitting hairs on how do we mourn, how do you give comfort, I think is a waste of time, frankly." You can watch the entire exchange at CBS News. Peter Weber
John Kelly was 'disgusted' that somebody 'politicized' his son's death, Trump's press secretary says
On Tuesday, anonymous White House officials, reportedly including Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reached out to numerous news organizations to inform them that former President Barack Obama had not called White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in 2010 after his son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan. They did this because on Tuesday morning, President Trump had suggested to Fox News Radio, without being asked, that reporters "ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?" Maybe nobody took him up on the offer.
Trump's decision to invoke Kelly's son was seen by some commentators as lacking in taste and decorum, since Kelly himself has made an evident effort to keep Robert Kelly's death out of the realm of political debate. On Wednesday, Sanders said she believes that "General Kelly is disgusted by the way that this has been politicized and that the focus has become on the process and not the fact that American lives were lost. I think he's disgusted and frustrated by that. If he has any anger, it's toward that."
Sanders says Trump and John Kelly have spoken multiple times since Trump brought up Kelly's son's death https://t.co/iegHa7LE43
— Meg Wagner (@megwagner) October 18, 2017
Sanders said she's not sure if Kelly "knew of that specific comment" about his son beforehand, but that he and Trump "had certainly spoken about it, and he's aware. And they've spoken several times since then." Peter Weber
Trump's decision to use fallen troops 'for his own momentary personal gain' isn't normal, Anderson Cooper says
On Tuesday, President Trump dragged White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's son Robert Kelly, a Marine lieutenant killed in Afghanistan in 2010, into his evolving explanation for why it took him 12 days to acknowledge the deaths of four U.S. servicemembers in Niger or contact their families. On Tuesday night's AC360, Anderson Cooper began his analysis with Kelly's documented reluctance to politicize his son's death.
"In everything he said and did not say back then, and everything he's said and done since then, Gen. Kelly has refused to make the shared sacrifice of so many about his own personal loss," Cooper said. "Well, this morning, President Trump took Gen. Kelly's deeply private, searing, and eternal loss and made it about his own momentary personal gain." Trump had suggested that former President Barack Obama had not called Kelly with condolences, a point the White House aggressively pursued with the media.
"President Obama, like Presidents Bush, Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan, and others before them honored the fallen in many ways — phone calls, letters, witnessing the caskets coming home, visiting the wounded," Cooper noted. "They did so frequently, often without bringing reporters along. None of them, Republicans and Democrats alike, wanted it to be about themselves, until now." Trump, "in his mind, simply cannon be wrong," he added, suggesting a motive for Trump stooping to this new level. "And that gives him license, it seems, for a lot," including bringing "his chief of staff's profoundest personal loss into the public realm." Watch below. Peter Weber
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized one of the soldiers' Army role. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.