Polarization is a huge problem in contemporary American politics. If you use a Venn diagram to illustrate the positions of the right and left in this country one of the few places the circles would overlap is the respect for veterans, particularly those who gave their life in the line of duty. I have never worn the uniform of this country and have disagreed with almost every military action my country has taken in my lifetime. That in no way diminishes my respect for veterans. The last time I checked nobody in the military writes their own orders; they go where they are told, when they are told. One of the lowest things an American can do is use the military, especially a military death in the line of duty, for their self-aggrandizement. That is exactly what Donald Trump has done on multiple occasions. Let’s explore.
The first instance I can remember in the 2016 campaign was when Trump said John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured. I have had many disagreements on policy with the Senator from Arizona, but I have always regarded him as someone special because of the way he conducted himself as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. Anyone who spent five years in the Hanoi Hilton and refused an “early out” because he was the son and grandson of admirals is a hero in my book!
Just recently when McCain criticized Trump’s policies without using Trump’s name, Trump responded by saying, “At some point I’ll fight back and it won’t be pretty.” That is both laughable and pitiful. After what he has faced in life and with what appears months left in his life I’m certain the last thing McCain is afraid of is Donald Trump. What is Trump doing to do, lie, tweet or both?
Early in the 2016 debate season Trump decided to skip an event so he picked a fake fight with Fox News. The evening of the debate he staged a fundraiser for veterans during which he personally pledged $1 million. A few months later David Farenthold of the Washington Post revealed that no veterans’ group had received any portion of the money. Under the pressure of the publicity and the expiration of a bit more time Trump finally came up with the money.
Apparently Trump, a serial liar, did not learn his lesson or just can’t help himself. Part of the latest scandal is that in late June or early July Trump pledged $25,000 to the father of a dead soldier and never made good on it. When the lie was revealed in mid-October Trump’s excuse was that the check was in the mail.
The unexpected star of the 2016 Democratic convention was Khizr Khan the father of deceased Army Capt. Humayun Khan. What did Trump do? He attacked the elder Kahn and his wife. Khan is a Muslim and that played well with Bubba. What did Trump care if he insulted a Gold Star family and exploited the heroic death of their son for political gain.
On October 4th four U. S. soldiers were killed in action in Niger. President Trump did not even acknowledge their deaths until after he was challenged by the press during his “BFF” Rose Garden appearance with Mitch McConnell on October 16th. Who could expect a President who was busy playing golf, tweeting about the national anthem at NFL games, trying to dispute that his Secretary of State had called him a “(expletive deleted) moron” and insulting Senator Bob Corker to acknowledge the deaths of four American soldiers? Trump’s immediate answer (read: lie) to the press was that the letters had been written but he wasn’t sure if they had been mailed yet. (The White House must have terrible outgoing mail service.) He then bolstered that with bragging about how he was the only President that ever communicated with the families of fallen military killed in the line of duty (another quickly refuted lie).
Predicable the next day, Tuesday October 17th Trump phoned the families of the four dead soldiers. Trump even messed up that simple task. Sincere or not, all Trump would have had to do is read from a prepared script that gave him all the appropriate things to say. The only other thing he needed was a list of the names of the dead and the family member(s) he needed to speak to. During the call to the Myeshia Johnson, the pregnant widow of Sargent La David Johnson, he not only forgot Sgt. Johnson’s name but quipped that Johnson had known what he was signing up for. Unbeknownst to Trump Florida Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) was a close family friend and was listening in on the speaker phone. Wilson went public with the story. Trump, of course denied what he had said and to the press. He added that he had “Proof”. That sounded like the famous Comey tapes that turned out never to exist. Trump has a history of trying to bully people with non-existent tapes. After you keep running the same play without success it’s time to run a new one Mr. President.
Khan was a brown skinned Muslim, Johnson an African-American. That made them expendable and somehow less worthy to a large part of Trump’s base. In my mind and the minds of decent Americans that doesn’t Khan or Johnson’s lives any less valuable or make Trump’s actions any less deplorable!
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