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Right and Left React to the Trump Condolence Controversy

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A video frame of Myeshia Johnson over the coffin of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger, upon his body’s arrival in Miami on Tuesday.

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WPLG, via Associated Press

The political news cycle is fast, and keeping up can be overwhelming. Trying to find differing perspectives worth your time is even harder. That’s why we have scoured the internet for political writing from the right and left that you might not have seen.

Has this series exposed you to new ideas? Tell us how. Email us at ourpicks@nytimes.com.

For an archive of all the Partisan Writing Roundups, check out Our Picks.

From the Right

David French in National Review:

“No, I don’t agree with a member of the House rushing to publicly broadcast what Trump thought was a private call. But we’re now living in a political world where an opponent’s misstep or malfeasance is seen as justifying all manner of revenge and retaliation.”

Mr. French has given up hope that the president — and other politicians — will refrain from politicizing military deaths. Instead, he argues, it’s up to normal citizens to preserve the norms that have eroded under this administration. Unless citizens demand that their leaders protect this “sacred space,” he writes, they “will share the blame” in the decline of our culture. Read more »

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Carl M. Cannon in Real Clear Politics:

“Even when Trump’s heart is in the right place, his felicity of language is so limited that he still offends people. But it also underscored a recurring problem with Trump’s critics.”

According to Mr. Cannon, the controversy surrounding the president and his call to offer condolences to Myeshia Johnson exposes a central hypocrisy on the left. Mr. Cannon concedes that “Kelly’s heartfelt response revealed how much more articulate he is than his boss.” But Democrats, when faced with John Kelly’s eloquent defense of the president, chose to attack the former general, a gold-star parent. The left and President Trump, he argues, would do well to refrain from picking fights with the families of fallen soldiers. Read more »

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From the Left

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Pool photo by Martin H. Simon

Jamelle Bouie in Slate:

“It’s tempting to treat this dispute as another sideshow that obscures the actual work of Trump’s presidency. But this assumes Trump is interested in presidential ‘work’ as we typically understand it. The truth is that, for Trump, the distractions are the point.”

Mr. Bouie argues that, far from being a distraction, Mr. Trump’s latest clash with a gold-star widow is an important reminder of the cultural forces that propelled him into office. Over and over, writes Mr. Bouie, the president has sought out black women as the target for his ire. In fact, he argues that “Trump might be at his most effective as a demagogue when his foils are women.” And Mr. Bouie concludes that in “playing the hits,” Mr. Trump is just “appealing to the voters that delivered him the GOP nomination and then the presidency.” Read more »

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Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker:

“Kelly is the chief of staff and a political operative. He held a press conference and told a lie that smeared one of Trump’s political opponents. No government official’s military background, no matter how honorable, makes him immune to criticism, especially given the subject at hand.”

Mr. Kelly’s defense of his boss affirmed, in Mr. Lizza’s mind, just how much working for the president can sully one’s reputation. For spokesmen and women, their job it is to defend and explain anything the president says. But others who work for Mr. Trump must, at some point, ask themselves how much they’re willing to sacrifice to work for this administration. After the events of the last two weeks: “there is no way to work for him without paying the Trump tax on one’s reputation” no matter who you are. According to Mr. Lizza, “for Kelly, not even his four stars prevented that.” Read more »

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