The most exciting news piece of the week has come in the form of an article published yesterday in The Atlantic. In it, anonymous sources describe many offensive remarks Trump has made over the last few years that show an extreme disrespect towards the military.
In response to this article, White House officials have been scrambling to come up with a defense. The comments range from you can’t trust an anonymous source to look at all the awesome stuff Trump has done for the troops.
When asked whether he ought to apologize, Trump denied the veracity of the story and said: “I’ve done more for the military than almost anyone else… Nobody’s done what I’ve done…that includes salary increases but it really includes the rebuilding of our military.”
The White House Communications Director made similar claims on Twitter this morning:
–@realDonaldTrump gave a pay raise to our troops
-We’re rebuilding & modernizing our military to meet 21st century threats
-He’s enacted crucial reforms to support vets
-He’s stood up for military families
-He’s delivering on his promise to bring our troops home
— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) September 4, 2020
This is honestly a pretty predictable defense, and I don’t begrudge the White House for trying (and, full disclosure, I actually knew Alyssa Farah in college). But I have two problems with this line of argumentation.
First, it doesn’t actually address the question at hand. Did Trump say despicable and disrespectful things about dead and wounded veterans? The only claim they have been able to cast doubt on is the reasons for cancelling the visit to the cemetery in France where WWI veterans are buried.
But we have seen Trump time and again disrespect McCain and his service, and even his own former military staff wasn’t protected from his senseless tirades. The idea that Trump wouldn’t want wounded service members in parades or that he is baffled by the selfless sacrifice of service members is NOT all that unbelievable.
As one author on Twitter expressed, it’s easy to attack the anonymous sources because that’s all you can do. To say, “Trump would never say something that!” is obviously false.
Secondly, and more importantly, I also have a problem with these lists of all that Trump is supposedly doing for US troops. If you’ve been my Facebook friend for any amount of time, you have probably seen me criticize politicians who like to claim to be the savior of service members. It’s such a laughable claim when so many military families are struggling.
I can provide a counter point to every claim in that tweet.
- Congress *not the President* has authorized some sort of pay raise for the military every year in recent history (we’re talking DECADES), and this pay raise is determined by a specific formula called the Employment Cost Index (ECI). In 2018, when Trump claimed he requested the largest pay raise in 10 years, that was sort of true – it was 8 years, and he requested more than the raises authorized under Obama. But the 2.1% he requested was LOWER than the amount calculated by the ECI, LOWER than most of raises authorized under G. W. Bush, and LOWER than the actually authorized 2.4% by Congress. If you want to be a military pay hero, maybe request a pay raise LARGER than the ECI and pay the troops a living wage.
- To say Trump is modernizing the military “to meet 21st century threats” is an extremely relative term. Do we have a Space Force? Yes, and I am sure everyone is very interested to see what that will look like over the coming decades. Are we staying competitive with China? The DOD says no. Has Trump prioritized his own projects over military spending? Yep, the border wall is a perfect example. So this is a pretty meaningless claim all things considered, and again, nothing special.
- What are these “crucial reforms for vets”? Is it the Choice Program, written by McCain and Bernie Sanders, that Trump has been claiming credit for? (By the way, it was signed into law in 2014, before Trump was even president.)
- How is Trump standing up for military families? It’s certainly not by restricting healthcare access for retired service members or the families of active duty. And it’s not by trying to take away the food stamps from underpaid enlisted service members. But I guess declaring a Military Spouse Day and signing an executive order requiring preferential treatment for jobs many spouses don’t want or aren’t qualified for should be enough. Also, as someone who has applied for a job through USAJobs, a more helpful executive order could be just in making the damn website easier to navigate. And, it took literally MONTHS to be told I wasn’t even qualified for the jobs I was applying for. Anyway, again, nice thought in a tweet, not very helpful in reality.
- The promise to bring troops home is basically par for the course. Everyone wants these wars to end, but somehow troops are still deployed all over the place. Promising to keep troops safe and bring them home is BARE MINIMUM decent behavior from a commander-in-chief. How about we stop alienating our allies, buddying up with foreign powers who put a bounty on US soldiers, and escalating things with Iran?
In pointing out all of these inconsistencies, I am not trying to say any other president is some sort of hero for the the troops. But the difference is people like Obama didn’t CLAIM to be. Trump is a hypocrite of the highest degree, while regularly claiming to be the most military-friendly president in history. He acts like no one respects the troops more than he does, and he uses his patriotism as a key component of his campaign.
“Supporting the Troops” has always provided an easy PR opportunity for politicians and celebrities, and is the cornerstone of any president’s self-congratulatory platform. But the way in which Trump has perfected the deceit and manipulated his constituency is clearly illustrated by this article and the White House response to it.
My entire life has been surrounded by the military, first as a daughter and now as a wife. I know first hand what I am talking about.
Americans, wake up.