On Sunday, Americans were elated by the news that U.S. Army Delta Force operators had delivered savage ISIS “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi his well-deserved end.
By Monday, the four-legged hero of that operation had captured Americans’ hearts. President Trump tweeted a picture of the beautiful Belgian Malinois dog sitting at attention, tongue out, in her military-issue harness with the caption, “We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi!”
The rest is history.
Of course, it’s debatable whether dog names are formally classified, and in any event, the identity of America’s new favorite furry warrior, Conan, quickly came out — along with the heartwarming news that our brave canine is recovering from the wounds she sustained in her battle against America’s enemies.
The whole episode reveals something about my father-in-law, our president, that his supporters have always understood, but which his detractors have never really been able to comprehend. There’s a certain irreverent, populist “realness” to Donald Trump’s much-maligned Twitter account and off-the-cuff remarks to the press. His down-to-earth style is out of place in the Washington, D.C. swamp-world of uptight professional politicians, but that’s exactly what makes him so appealing to regular people.
Conan’s big moment is a perfect example of the phenomenon. No doubt, the fight against ISIS is deadly serious, as was the raid that took down their elusive leader. Al-Baghdadi was no cartoon villain; he was an evil man who led thousands of the world’s most violent, amoral men to establish a nightmarish kingdom built on torture, murder, and sex slavery. For years, he subjected the innocent people he conquered to some of the worst atrocities in recorded history. Amid mass executions and institutionalized rape, Baghdadi’s men executed numerous Americans, and even beheaded an American journalist on video. Baghdadi himself raped and tortured Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker, for months until she died.
That Baghdadi did all this in the name of religion, claiming that God himself sanctioned such savagery, makes his crimes that much worse.
President Trump knows that Americans grasp the gravity of the situation. His administration has not tried to hide the fact that innocent people, including at least three children, died during the daring raid in Syria’s Idlib Province as a result of Baghdadi’s decision to detonate a suicide vest and take the coward’s way out. My father-in-law would be the first to acknowledge that his decision to go forward with the operation put our finest fighters in harm’s way.
But the president also understood that, even at a serious moment like this, there’s something to be said for eschewing a bit of the standard presidential formality. Why not celebrate by declassifying a picture of the successful operation’s cutest warrior?
The Conan tweet perfectly exemplifies President Trump’s approach to interacting with the American people. He’s serious when he has to be, but he’s also constantly looking for ways to cut through the pomp and communicate with the people in more lighthearted and direct ways. The media try to turn every joke, hyperbolic tweet, and dig at his political foes into a story about an “unhinged” president — but that only reveals their own inability to understand what he’s actually saying.
I hope he never gives up his style of public relations. Conan is a national treasure now — and deservedly so — because of it. When people look back on this operation, they won’t just think about Baghdadi’s heinous crimes; they’ll also remember the “purple-heart pup” who helped bring him to justice.
There is one bow to presidential tradition that I can get behind, though — I’ve been trying to convince my father-in-law to adopt an official White House pet for some time. I don’t know what the Defense Department regulations might be surrounding service dogs, but if it’s an option, I can’t think of a better pick than Conan after she recovers from her injuries. In addition to being downright adorable, she would serve as a constant reminder to the entire country of the sacrifices our military makes to keep us safe.
This good girl is even the same breed, a Malinois, as the dogs that carry out many of the security duties at the White House. She’d be right at home.
Lara Trump is a Senior Advisor to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and President Trump’s daughter-in-law.