Of all the moments from President Trump’s first address to Congress, the most riveting piece of political theater was his tribute to the widow of fallen Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. The president’s critics and supporters alike admired it.
Midway through his speech, the president gestured to Owens’ widow, Carryn, who was a guest in the balcony seated with presidential daughter Ivanka Trump.
“We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens,” Mr. Trump said. “Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero –- battling against terrorism and securing our nation. Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom –- we will never forget him.”
Mrs. Owens, tears streaming down her cheeks, rose to acknowledge a lengthy standing ovation and raised her eyes to the heavens.
The president commented at the end of the several-minute-long ovation that Owens was looking down on his wife, and that the fallen Navy SEAL “just set a record” with the ovation.
Even some of Mr. Trump’s harshest critics on CNN called it a transformative moment for his presidency.
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“He became president of the United States in that moment,” said Van Jones, a former Obama administration official. “That was one of the most extraordinary moments we’ve ever seen in American politics. If he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years.”
In an unfortunate choice of words, former Obama adviser David Axelrod said with grudging admiration, “You’d have to be dead not to appreciate the moment.”
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, called it “an emotional moment that was a very healing moment for everybody.”
Owens, of Peoria, Illlinois, was killed late last month during a special operations raid in Yemen against an al Qaeda camp. It was the first military fatality under Mr. Trump’s leadership, and has raised questions about the planning of the raid.
Mr. Trump said Defense Secretary James N. Mattis verified that the raid was successful.
“I just spoke to General Mattis, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies,’” the president said.
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