When I first read Jeffrey Goldberg’s Sept. 3 piece in The Atlantic, titled “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers,’” it took a minute for his insult to take hold of me.
Since Trump rose to unearned fame with the Tony Schwartz-ghostwritten The Art of the Deal, a perfectly 1980s how-to book for winning at all costs, he has said innumerable awful things about people, including calling for the execution of five young men who, we later learned, did not commit any crime.
by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press
But the key passage from Goldberg’s article simply drilled into my guts. It concerns a 2018 visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris. There, leaders of allied countries during World War I honored those who fought and sacrificed to achieve victory in one of the most consequential battles of World War I, The Battle of Belleau Wood, on its centennial.
All except Trump, who bowed out of the ceremony citing security concerns. But Goldberg’s report told a different story.
“In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,’ Goldberg wrote. “In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.”
What Trump said, which the Associated Press, The Washington Post and even Fox News independently verified, is singularly the worst reported thing a president has ever said about people serving in the military. But it is not the only terrible thing he has said about them. Whenever a military officer takes a stand that does not comport with Trump’s political goals, he trashes them.
When Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), sent a memo to senior officials expressing concern over mounting COVID-19 cases on his ship, he was thrown under the propellers by Trump and his since-resigned Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly. If a military leader does not exhibit blind obeisance to Trump, they are called “Hillary Clinton fans,” which apparently supersedes and erases all military achievements — including, in the case of retired Admiral William McRaven, leading the operations that took down both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
What Trump said about injured and killed service members is a window into the man’s shriveled, spiderweb-filled soul. As a veteran, I cannot comprehend how anyone who values the sacrifices of soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen can do so and still support Trump. Many still do, but I hope it is far fewer than there were before we learned of Trump’s visceral disdain for heroes.
But I am horrified by the silence from Oklahoma’s U.S. Senators, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford. Neither of these men have uttered one word to rebuke Trump.
Inhofe spent the days following Goldberg’s story attempting to change the subject to abortion and abortifacients.
Inhofe served in the U.S. Army. He is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and he spends much of his campaign time at Oklahoma’s five major military installations and in adjacent cities. And yet, neither he nor Lankford will say a word on behalf of those who died or were disabled during combat.
Based on their statements and behavior since the story broke, we can only assume that Lankford and Jim Inhofe both agree with Trump’s feelings about our fallen service members. Otherwise, they would have said something.
The only other explanation is that they respect Trump more than they respect service members and veterans. They respect a man who never sacrificed for anyone over people who sacrificed their health or their lives. They offer their fealty to a commander-in-chief who dismisses traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers as “headaches.”
Trump does not understand any actions that are not transactions, so he cannot grasp why anyone would join the military. He does not understand why his former chief of staff, retired U.S. Marine Corps General John Kelly, joined the military, or why Kelly’s 29-year-old son, First Lieutenant Robert Kelly, should be honored for his death from a landmine explosion in Sangin, Afghanistan.
Trump does not get what it means to serve. He only knows what it means to be served. And senators Inhofe and Lankford are complicit in his disservice to America’s wounded warriors.
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