Our On-Again, Off-Again Respect for Grieving Parents in Politics

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Our On-Again, Off-Again Respect for Grieving Parents in Politics

Hey, remember when the first night of the Republican convention featured Patricia Smith, mother of Sean Smith, one of the Americans slain in Benghazi? Remember how her speech was called a “cynical exploitation of grief”? Or the “unabashed exploitation of private people’s grief” or “the weaponization of grief”? Remember how she “ruined the evening”? How it was,  “a spectacle so offensive, it was hard to even comprehend”? How some liberal commentators said, “Mrs. Smith was really most interested in drinking blood rather than healing”? How her speech represented an “early dip into the gutter”? Remember how a GQ writer publicly expressed a desire to beat her to death?

In every interaction about the Kahn family, Donald Trump reveals what most observers already knew: He’s a narcissistic ass who can’t even be bothered to fake empathy. But the Democratic convention organizers’ decision to showcase the Khans as the spokespeople for the message that Trump is morally unacceptable to be the leader of the country is the mirror image of the Republican convention organizers’ choice to showcase Smith. And we see that most people’s reaction to each grieving parent aligns precisely with their partisan perspective.

One more point on the mass amnesia about Patricia Smith: Democrats fumed that she held Hillary Clinton responsible for her son’s death; we can argue about just how much responsibility for the attack in Benghazi falls on Clinton’s shoulders. But Smith’s fury against Clinton is also driven by her belief that the former Secretary of State lied to her; she said, “when I saw Hillary Clinton at Sean’s coffin ceremony, just days later, she looked me squarely in the eye and told me a video was responsible.” Hillary denies the claim and implies Smith is lying.

We don’t know Patricia Smith. We don’t know if she’s a generally honest person or a generally dishonest person. We don’t know if she’s remembering the interaction clearly or if overwhelming grief has affected her perception of things.

But we do know Hillary Clinton from almost three decades in the national political spotlight. And we know she lies when she’s cornered. Running from snipers in the Balkans, being “dead broke” upon leaving the White House, “all my grandparents” immigrated to America, her tale of trying to join the Marines, her claim she never received or sent any material that was classified on her private e-mail system, her claim to have started criticizing the Iraq War before Barack Obama did… she lies, and she lies, and she lies. And so between Smith and Clinton, one has earned the benefit of the doubt, and the other hasn’t. 

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