Opinion: As Poe puts it: Trump uses Navy Seal’s widow for personal gain during speech

Matt Poe

Let’s get the logistics out of the way before we begin.

President Cheeto gave his first address to Congress Tuesday in a speech that delivered the same message from this administration, yet unequivocally different in tone. While His Orangeness was still his bombastic self at times, this address marked a shift toward a more, shall we say, casual tone from the president.

Many pundits are already praising the speech, as if it will serve to foreshadow some massive change in policy for an administration that continues to place its needs above the rest of the 99 percent of us. Hell, the way some have reacted to this speech, you would have thought this was the second coming of Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy.

Remember, kids: Words are just words. In life, things we leave behind are a result of our actions and the actions from this administration in terms of policy and procedure do not appear to sway from its usual rhetoric.

But I digress.

That being said, there was one moment during His Orangeness’ address that seemingly brought all political ideologies together. The widow of former Navy Seal Ryan Owens, who was killed in a raid in Yemen just over a month ago, was recognized for her husband’s duty and received a two-minute standing ovation.

Regardless of how you feel about this president or his cronies, it was a moment that was hard to resist in terms of compassion and empathy. You could see the pain on Carryn Owens’ face as the ovation unfolded. Her grief. Her sorrow. Her devastation.

She deserved every second of that applause, as did her late husband.

Putting political beliefs aside, Democrats and Republicans almost universally agree that our active and fallen military men and women should be honored for all they do so that blobs like myself can do things like write columns for (hopefully) your entertainment.

And yet, something about that ovation and its place in this address felt off. No one questions what Carryn Owens felt; that’s a line I would never dare to cross. But make no mistake about it: Donald Trump used this moment to his advantage as a way of shedding a different light on himself as a president.

He used it as a way to gain your approval and sympathy watching from home.

He’s not the first politician to use such a tactic to gain positive opinion and he will certainly not be the last. It’s a tactic that breaks down some of the most intense emotions a person can feel and broadcasts them to millions of people. Its “Truman Show”-esque, and I don’t know any other way to describe it, made me feel like I was watching an intimate moment that I wasn’t meant to be a part of. I’ve felt that way about this for a long time.

I’ve said it hundreds of times, and I’ll continue to say it: We don’t do enough for our military personnel. We don’t provide them with enough mental and physical care to help them not only cope, but get better as they recover from whatever injuries or experiences they’ve sustained.

I can’t state that enough, much like I can’t state enough to you that Carryn Owens deserved to have her husband honored in whatever way she saw fit. She undoubtedly deserves that. She deserves any service or help that can allow her to handle losing the person she arguably loved most in this world.

But sometimes, I wish these moments weren’t broadcast for all of us. I wish we could empathize and sympathize with her pain in a way that didn’t redirect our emotions to how nice of a gesture it was from Trump to “give” her that ovation.  

Because lest we forget the following: Trump called that mission, which resulted in the death of Owens, civilians and children, a success. He apparently conducted the raid with outdated and questionable intel. He then seemingly deflected the blame of Owens for U.S. generals to bear the burden.

He then commented that Owens was happy in the afterlife (whichever you believe in) because the aforementioned ovation broke some record, as if that somehow mattered in any way, shape or form.

If at any point you didn’t stop reading this column, thank you. The point was not to dishonor Ryan or Carryn Owens or any military person who receives warranted recognition. The point in all this is that some things should not be seemingly used for personal gain to improve how people feel about you. Some things pale in comparison and I need not remind you that this is one of them.

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].