It was the most emotionally powerful moment of Trump's presidency.
As President Trump addressed a joint session of Congress, he turned at one point to Carryn Owens. She is the widow of fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who died carrying out an assault on a terrorist haven in Yemen.
Carryn Owens was one of six special guests of President Trump. She was seated next to the First Daughter Ivanka Trump, and the grieving widow was understandably distraught under the spotlight of the national stage.
President Trump stopped at one point in his speech and went out of his way to show gratitude to the widow and the slain Navy SEAL she knew as her husband. Acknowledging Owens's heroics, the president said the following:
"We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of a U.S. Navy special operator, Senior Chief William 'Ryan' Owens. Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero — battling against terrorism and securing our nation. I just spoke to General [Jim] 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.' 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.
While the president addressed Carryn Owens to honor her family's sacrifice, there were multiple rounds of standing applause. As the video clearly shows, a number of Democrats declined to stand and applaud the grieving widow and her husband, who gave everything to defend the nation.
The following is taken directly from a video of the moment when the majority of Congress gave Carryn Owens and the slain military hero a standing ovation:
As you can see on the right-hand side of Congress, a number of Democrats are firmly seated, and many are not applauding at all. This includes Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sen. Al Franken (who later stood), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), among others.
The following is a shot taken later on while Congress continued to honor the widow and her husband:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and other Democratic members of Congress did rise and applaud, especially on the second round of ovation. Even justices on the Supreme Court joined in to show their gratitude.
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and other top Democrats, however, remained seated. As pointed out earlier by Independent Journal Review's Benny Johnson, other key members of party leadership refused to stand. Namely, former DNC Chair and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who just lost his bid for DNC Chair.
A number of partisan comments may help explain why some believe the Democrats remained seated.
Well-known national security columnist John Schindler asked if the entire country had “Stockholm Syndrome,” a reference to the tendency of hostages to display attachment for hostage-takers. Filmmaker Rob Reiner said, “It was cringe-worthy ... talk about using someone as a prop. It was disgraceful.”
Hillary Clinton volunteer Dan Grilo responded to the display, “Sorry, Owens' wife, you're not helping yourself or your husband's memory by standing there and clapping like an idiot. Trump just used you.” He later apologized and deleted his Twitter account.
Trump's speech on the whole was well-received by the American public and by several media outlets that have been extraordinarily adversarial by reputation. The AP said the speech was “presidential,” while asking “how long will it last?” CNN's viewers said the speech made them feel “more optimistic” at a rate of 69% to the 28% of those who disagreed and said it made them feel “more pessimistic.” The Washington Post called it the “best 'big' speech given by the president.”
As the nation turns to Congress to show leadership and to get productive work done on behalf of the American people, the refusal of some Democrats to budge an inch, figuratively and literally, is revealing. Even on behalf of a grieving widow whose heroic husband was just killed, many remained unmoved, as if their respect would showcase unwanted unity under the presidency.
The Democratic Party's obstinacy and lack of class exemplifies its unwillingness to work with the duly elected president. Showing respect to the widow would have been a display of unity that indicated that the party shares American values and can put partisan politics aside.
Let the record show who was willing and unwilling to do just that.