The Washington Post
Democratic candidates make a mistake in failing to lace into President Donald Trump when he says things that are patently false, insulting to the military and reaffirm his unfitness as commander in chief. Granted, that could be a frequent occurrence, but sometimes the moment cries out for a swift, direct rebuke.
Trump, in carving his path of destruction through Anglo-American relations, declared in an interview with Piers Morgan on Wednesday that “I would not have minded that at all. I would have been honored” to serve in Vietnam. Now, he got out of service for “bone spurs,” so one wonders if he really didn’t mind.
Moreover, Trump sounded like he had - don’t laugh - conscientious objections to the war: “I thought it was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country. So many people dying, what is happening over there? So I was never a fan - like we’re fighting against Nazi Germany, we’re fighting against Hitler.”
I’m not sure what he’s saying although it sounds a little like Neville Chamberlain (“a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”), but he sort of sounds like he was saying it was fine to shirk a war people didn’t like. Then it got really weird.
Trump declared that “I think I make up for it right now” (made up for ducking service?) because of the big defense budgets he has requested. The technical term for this sort of reasoning is “bonkers.”
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who has recently been discussing his mental health issues following service in the Marines in Iraq, let him have it on Twitter:
“You didn’t ‘give’ the military anything. That money belongs to American taxpayers (which you are not) & is appropriated by Congress (which you are not part of).
“So you are pretty much the only person in America who is NOT involved in funding the military.”
Moulton is right, of course. Moreover, one does not make up for having someone go to war in your place by making a political decision decades later. (Moulton previously remarked, “It’s not like there was just some empty seat in Vietnam. Someone had to go in his place,” as The Washington Post reported.) Whoever went in Trump’s place (and his family) gets little solace knowing the draft side-stepper got all the way to the White House.
Trump likes to stand in the reflected glory of the military and pronounce his affection for them, but he understands virtually nothing of their code of military service. He’s suggested bombing wives and children (a war crime) and pardoning actual war criminals. He uses the military as a prop - sending them to the border with funds he snatches from construction projects, sympathizing with the notion a Navy ship should be moved (first he found it a nice gesture, then he seemed to claim it never happened) to avoid offending him and proposing an expensive military parade like the one he saw in France on a previous visit.
Moreover, if he were a true friend of the military he’d not take them by surprise in announcing a Syria pullout, nor deny Russia’s attack on our elections (which military intelligence among others in the intelligence community emphatically said had occurred) nor hollow out the State Department (as former defense secretary James Mattis explained, if you cut diplomats, the military will need more bullets), nor fire the beloved Mattis and replace him with an ex-Boeing executive who lacks military experience of any sort.
It’s fair to say that there is not a president in history nor a Democratic candidate in the 2020 race who has shown less respect for the military, its mission and its values than Trump.