In response to credible reports that President Donald Trump has derided fallen U.S. soldiers as “losers” and “suckers,” the least I could do in protest was to change my Twitter photo.
And so I did. Gone is my currently aging face, replaced by the much younger me, dressed up in my Class A U.S. Army uniform for graduation from basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in early 1970.
I am following the recommendation of a much younger Army vet, David Weissman, a Palm Bay, Florida, resident who served two tours in Afghanistan as an assistant chaplain.
I didn’t even get that close to combat during my two years in service, but I am grateful to those who did.
Four years ago, as he recently wrote in The Forward, he was “your average, conservative, pro-Israel Jewish American” who “was also a full-fledged, unapologetic, red-hat wearing Trumper.”
Back then, Weissman appreciated President Trump’s support of the military in word and policy. Today? Not so much.
“I recommend all veterans to use their Military pics as a profile pic to let Trump know how many people he has offended by calling fallen soldiers losers and suckers. #NewProfilePic,” he tweeted on Thursday. Last time I looked, it had received more than 118,000 “likes.”
I’m with you, bro.
I know that Trump angrily denies the account in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s award-winning editor-in-chief, that cites unnamed sources. The story says Trump called U.S. soldiers injured or killed in war “losers,” questioned the country’s reverence for them and expressed confusion over why anyone would choose to serve.
“It’s a fake story and it’s a disgrace that they’re allowed to do it,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. He insisted that he respected the troops and denounced Goldberg’s sources as “lowlifes.”
Yet, parts of the story were quickly backed up by other reporters at The Washington Post, The Associated Press and The New York Times, which also cited anonymous sources.
But none appear to have torqued the president’s jaws like the confirmation that came from national security reporter Jennifer Griffin at his favorite channel, Fox News.
For example, she tweeted, citing an unnamed former senior Trump administration official, “When the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker.’”
Griffin also reported learning that Trump “just hated” Sen. John McCain and thought it was “not a good look” to include the “wounded guys” in a July 4 military parade.
Trump called on Fox News to fire her, but her colleagues who covered the White House defended her credentials and reporting.
They included Fox anchor Bret Baier, who pointed out a particular irony: Trump’s pressure to fire a journalist comes on the heels of his recent speeches denouncing “evil people” on the left whose “cancel culture” is “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.”
Yeah. How about that, Mr. President? Is “evil” in the eye of the newsmaker?
But I don’t need public confirmation of Goldberg’s quotes to believe them. I’ve seen enough of what Trump has said in public to give them credibility.
I saw enough back when Trump as a candidate in 2015 belittled the heroic sacrifices of political rival McCain of Arizona, who spent 5½ years in a North Vietnamese prison. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Those remarks, met with scattered boos from the audience, offered just a taste of what was to come from a candidate who thought such sentiments made him look “tough,” not just stupid.
But if Trump sounds a bit more hypersensitive lately, it may have something to do with recent polls that show slippage in his support among military personnel, despite the big defense budget increases he has won in recent years.
The Military Times Polls, surveying active-duty troops in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, report a steady drop in support by active-duty troops surveyed in late July and early August.
Among those surveyed, 41% said they would vote for Democrat Joe Biden if the election was held today. Only 37% said they plan to vote to reelect Trump
There’s still time for Trump to close the gap with this important portion of his base, though, short of a personality transplant, I don’t expect that to be easy.
Email Clarence Page at email@example.com.
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