It seems that soldiers who were captured aren’t the only ones that President Donald Trump doesn’t like. He also apparently doesn’t care much for the ones who died for their country.
On Saturday afternoon, the president was scheduled to attend a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France, where 2,289 U.S. soldiers are buried — a small part of the 116,000 Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion during World War I. It was the sort of solemn occasion that U.S. presidents have considered an integral part of their duty at least since the Gettysburg Address. But Trump couldn’t be bothered.
The White House explained that bad weather grounded the helicopters that Trump and his entourage were planning to take. Yet somehow bad weather did not prevent French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from attending outdoor ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I that afternoon. Somehow bad weather did not stop Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired general John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, from attending the very ceremony that Trump could not make.
Rather than make the hour-long drive (Aisne-Marne is only 55 miles from Paris), the low-energy president remained behind at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. It’s not as if he didn’t sacrifice anything, however. Odds are that his room didn’t have Fox News. So he was probably reduced to watching CNN all afternoon. If the New York dating scene was Trump’s personal Vietnam, this was his personal Verdun.
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The irony is that Trump prides himself on being pro-military. When asked this week to comment on Michelle Obama’s new memoir, in which she wrote that she could never forgive him for spreading the “crazy and mean-spirited” birtherism conspiracy theory, he replied that he could never forgive President Barack Obama for “what he did to our United States military.” And what did Barack Obama do that was so awful? He spent a little less for defense than Trump is.
Trump is right that he and the Republican Congress have increased defense spending — it has gone from roughly $600 billion to $700 billion a year — but he’s wrong to blame Obama alone for the lower levels during his presidency. The budget-squeezing sequestration process was a bipartisan initiative designed to cut the deficit without tax increases. What Trump doesn’t understand is that showering money on the armed forces doesn’t mean that he respects or supports what they do.
Trump shows what he really thinks of the troops by using them as political props. He deployed 5,600 troops just before the midterm elections to guard against the supposed threat posed by a few thousand unarmed refugees hundreds of miles from the U.S. border. He even suggested that the troops should commit the war crime of opening fire on migrants who threw rocks.
The Pentagon grandly dubbed this Operation Faithful Patriot and circulated pictures of troops in full “battle rattle” stringing barbed wire, only to quietly drop the ludicrous moniker amid Election Day. Conveniently enough, Trump and his friends at Fox essentially stopped speaking about the caravan once the votes were cast. But, as the New York Times reports, the troops are still in the field, without electricity or hot meals — or a mission. They will likely spend Thanksgiving away from their families.
Naturally, Trump will not bother to visit them, even though there is no risk in traveling to Texas. He still has not visited U.S. troops deployed to a war zone — although he has spent 72 days at Mar-a-Lago and 58 days at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.
To add insult to injury, consider Trump’s reaction after Ian David Long, a Marine veteran of Afghanistan, killed 12 people in a Thousand Oaks, California, bar this past week. Trump called him a “very sick puppy” and blamed his rampage on post-traumatic stress disorder without any actual evidence. (A high school track teacher reported that Long physically menaced her long before he joined the Marine Corps.) “People come back — that’s why it’s a horrific thing — they come back, they’re never the same,” the president said.
This is precisely the kind of pernicious stereotype — that veterans are ticking time bombs — that veterans groups have worked so hard to refute. It simply isn’t true, and it demeans the service of countless soldiers who serve honorably and return to live peaceful, productive lives. “Comments like this one from the Commander in Chief are extremely unhelpful,” Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America told The Post.
So much for Trump’s conceit that he is pro-military. It has about as much factual foundation as his claim not to know his newly appointed acting attorney general. He has no understanding of what soldiers do or the honor code by which they live. His idea of military service is marching in a parade — and he is peeved he couldn’t have one in Washington this Veterans Day. Through his words and deeds, the commanderinchief shows his contempt for the men and women in uniform.