Mil­i­tary can’t be a po­lit­i­cal pup­pet

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - Opinion -

To hear Pres­i­dent Trump tell it, a greater friend to the mil­i­tary and veter­ans has never sat in the Oval Of­fice. In a re­cent in­ter­view with the Associated Press, he said, “No­body has been bet­ter at the mil­i­tary. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. … I just got them new equip­ment. They have stuff that was so old that the grand­fa­thers used to fly it.”

But de­spite his words, Trump doesn’t seem to re­spect or honor those who serve — un­less, of course, they out­spo­kenly sup­port him. Nor does he ap­pear to re­spect, or even un­der­stand, the role of the mil­i­tary.

A com­man­der-in-chief who un­der­stood that role, af­ter all, wouldn’t send thou­sands of troops to the south­ern bor­der at a cost of hun­dreds of mil­lions in a trans­par­ently po­lit­i­cal pre-elec­tion stunt as part of his ef­fort to whip up fear and hys­te­ria about a mi­grant car­a­van. He called it a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity be­fore the elec­tion, but the car­a­van mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared from his radar once votes were cast.

Con­fir­ma­tion that this was noth­ing more than a po­lit­i­cal stunt came with the an­nounce­ment that troops sent to the bor­der are start­ing to come home — even as some parts of the car­a­van are just be­gin­ning to ap­proach the bor­der.

Then there is the way Trump re­sponds to crit­ics who used to serve in the mil­i­tary, from his in­fa­mous mock­ing of Sen. John McCain’s POW sta­tus to his re­cent slam against re­tired Adm. Wil­liam McRaven for not get­ting Osama bin Laden more quickly — which was an abom­inable in­sult that only high­lighted Trump’s ig­no­rance of the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

On a more fun­da­men­tal level, there is the ques­tion of how Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is ac­tual- ly treat­ing the mil­i­tary and veter­ans. Last year, Trump signed the For­ever GI Bill, which greatly ex­panded ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fits for vets. His Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs, how­ever, has badly botched the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the bill, and many veter­ans have gone months with­out re­ceiv­ing the hous­ing checks they were promised and have been count­ing on. Some vets say they may be­come home­less as a re­sult.

Trump doesn’t even man­age the easy shows of re­spect. He didn’t visit Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery on Veter­ans Day, a rainy Mon­day, just days af­ter miss­ing a cer­e­mony in France to honor the sac­ri­fice of sol­diers in World War I be­cause of the rain. And, two years into his first term, his fail­ure to visit troops on ac­tive duty is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly no­tice­able.

Worse, as David French put it in a re­cent Na­tional Re­view ar­ti­cle, Trump has re­peat­edly demon­strated that his sup­port of the troops is con­di­tional: “He loves the troops who love him. He turns on the troops who turn on him. Cross him, and all bets are off.”

Re­spect for the mil­i­tary is in­grained. Ei­ther you have it, or you don’t. It is cer­tainly not con­di­tional.

Trump wants the sup­port and re­spect of the troops. But over and over again, he demon­strates that he can­not un­equiv­o­cally re­turn that sup­port and re­spect. He will not hes­i­tate to at­tack the mil­i­tary or those who have served in or­der to score po­lit­i­cal points.

For a com­man­der-in-chief, that is ut­terly shame­ful.

WHY IS IT THAT WHEN THE CDC SAYS TO THROW OUT YOUR RO­MAINE LET­TUCE, EV­ERY­ONE TAKES IT AS GOSPEL. YET WHEN THE SAME AGENCY TELLS YOU VAC­CINES SAVE LIVES, THEY’RE PART OF THE ILLUMINATI?

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