For US politicians there are two sacred cows: God and the military. Even the stupidest of them know to always say only positive things about either in public. Trump had been particularly assiduous in this, waving the Bible about at photo ops and lavishly praising on the military. So it reflects an incredible level of obtuseness that Trump made derogatory remarks about soldiers who died, were injured, or captured in the many, many wars that the US has engaged in, calling them losers and suckers.
Because he see everything in terms of “What’s in it for me?”, he cannot understand that other people do not always do things out of pure self-interest. While I am sure some people joined the military not for reasons of service but just because it was a steady job that provided benefits, that does not mean that they are losers or that what they suffered can be so callously dismissed.
The problem for Trump is that while the story originally appeared in TheAtlantic magazine that he could write off as having a liberal bias and quoted only anonymous sources, other media outlets and even Fox News reporters have confirmed it, and this has clearly alarmed the Trump campaign and, sensing that this could mean trouble for them, they have gone on a counter-attack blitz.
Among those was the Fox News national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, who confirmed in a Twitter thread that Trump called soldiers “suckers”, had questioned why anyone would want to become a soldier and had not wanted to honor war dead at the Aisne-Marne cemetery in France.
Amid furious denials of the story from the White House and Trump allies, Griffin’s reporting probably touched a nerve as it came from the usually reliably pro-Trump Fox News, whose conservative leanings and pro-Trump opinion show hosts are reliable cheerleaders for the president.
In a tweet Trump said: “Jennifer Griffin should be fired for this kind of reporting. Never even called us for comment. Fox News is gone!”
The White House has moved to deny the report unusually forcefully perhaps fearful of the scandal’s impact on military-supporting conservatives. Trump himself dismissed it as a politically motivated “hoax”.
The problem for Trump is that his comments are utterly believable, because he has said similar things in the past though of course he denies them now. What is surprising is that he is so obtuse as to not keep these thoughts to himself. I was not a fan of Pete Buttigieg when he ran for the Democratic nomination but I thought he was very effective in countering the efforts of a Fox News personality to cast doubt on whether Trump actually said it.
In Trump’s world, winners play golf and get others do do the fighting for them.
Joe Biden and others have forcefully attacked Trump on this issue and you can be sure that they will keep pounding on it. And other people have stepped forward to say that they heard Trump say similar things.
Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary of counter-terrorism in the Department of Homeland Security, and Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff in that department, said the account was true, asserting that Trump’s low opinion of soldiers killed and wounded in combat was well known inside the administration.
It will be interesting to see if any of the anonymous sources in the original article decide to go public.