Don­ald Trump’s war with mem­bers of the U.S. mil­i­tary

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank Dana Mil­bank Colum­nist Fol­low Dana Mil­bank on Twit­ter, @Mil­bank.

Don­ald Trump, who had five draft de­fer­ments, never had to fight in the jun­gles of Viet­nam.

But he had a dif­fer­ent sort of war record, as he told ra­dio host Howard Stern years ago: He slept with many women with­out get­ting STDs. “It is my per­sonal Viet­nam,” he said. “I feel like a great and very brave sol­dier.” What’s more, Trump added: “This is bet­ter than Viet­nam. It’s more fun.”

Said Stern: “Every vagina is a land mine. Haven’t we both said that in pri­vate?”

Trump con­curred: “I think it is a po­ten­tial land mine. There’s some real dan­ger there.”

I re­called this Trump war story af­ter his lat­est dis­par­age­ment of the U.S. mil­i­tary Wed­nes­day night. Asked to elab­o­rate on his pre­vi­ous boast that “I know more about ISIS than the gen­er­als do,” Trump said at NBC’s Com­man­der-in-Chief Fo­rum that, un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, “the gen­er­als have been re­duced to rub­ble. They have been re­duced to a point where it’s em­bar­rass­ing for our coun­try.”

Trump later im­plied that he would fire cur­rent gen­er­als -who, in the Amer­i­can tra­di­tion, are avowedly non­par­ti­san -- and re­place them with retired gen­er­als who have sup­ported him po­lit­i­cally. His ad­vis­ers on de­feat­ing Is­lamic State will “prob­a­bly be dif­fer­ent gen­er­als” from the cur­rent ones. My for­mer Washington Post col­league Tom Ricks, au­thor of “The Gen­er­als” and four other books on the mil­i­tary, tells me this would be “ba­nana Repub­li­can­ism.”

It’s dif­fi­cult to think of a ma­jor political fig­ure who has be­lit­tled the U.S. mil­i­tary as Trump has. Sun­day is the 15th an­niver­sary of the 9/11 at­tacks, which ush­ered in a “sup­port our troops” spirit that has en­dured re­gard­less of party or opin­ion of the wars that fol­lowed. But Trump goes be­yond the stan­dard crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent and civil­ian lead­ers to con­demn the mil­i­tary it­self.

“Our mil­i­tary is a dis­as­ter,” he has said.

And: “The mil­i­tary is in sham­bles.”

Soon af­ter launch­ing his cam­paign, Trump said that John McCain, the pris­oner-of-war-cum­se­n­a­tor, “is not a war hero” and that “I like peo­ple who weren’t cap­tured.” He later back­tracked but said he didn’t re­gret the re­marks be­cause “my poll num­bers went up.”

He said that he “felt that I was in the mil­i­tary” be­cause as a boy he went to a mil­i­tary-themed board­ing school, where he got “more train­ing mil­i­tar­ily than a lot of the guys that go into the mil­i­tary.”

He said, be­fore back­track­ing, that he would or­der the mil­i­tary to tor­ture de­tainees and to tar­get in­no­cent fam­ily mem­bers of ter­ror­ists -- even though it’s il­le­gal: “If I say do it, they’re go­ing to do it.”

He later en­gaged in a high­pro­file squab­ble with the Gold Star par­ents of a U.S. sol­dier killed in Iraq be­cause they crit­i­cized him at the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion.

Polling shows Trump leads among vet­er­ans and ac­tive-duty mil­i­tary mem­bers, though by less than Repub­li­cans typ­i­cally do. Per­haps mem­bers of the mil­i­tary will change their views if a Pres­i­dent Trump does, as he sug­gested, re­place cur­rent gen­er­als with some of the dozens of retired mil­i­tary of­fi­cials who signed a let­ter en­dors­ing his can­di­dacy last week.

These in­clude retired Lt. Gen. Wil­liam G. Boykin, now an of­fi­cial at the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil, who be­lieves Satan is work­ing through Is­lam and who says gay rights are an “evil” that must be op­posed by “God’s army.” Also on Trump’s list is retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McIn­er­ney, a Fox News com­men­ta­tor who sup­ported an Army of­fi­cer who re­fused to de­ploy to Afghanistan, claim­ing Pres­i­dent Obama was for­eign­born and there­fore an il­le­git­i­mate com­man­der in chief.

The of­fi­cer, Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, was sen­tenced to mil­i­tary pri­son in a court-mar­tial. But if Trump wins, per­haps the political sup­port­ers he ap­points to re­place the na­tion’s non­par­ti­san gen­er­als will re­in­state and pro­mote him.

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