There was a time in America when 18-year-old boys and their families had to make a decision. You could go to college or get a medical deferment or you could wait around and get drafted and likely sent to Vietnam. Then there were the suckers like me who had a college scholarship and who enlisted in the Army anyway.
(I was always one who just had to go see the elephant if you understand that old expression.)
We don’t know who the sources of The Atlantic magazine article are and whether they are telling the truth when they recount occasions when President “Bone Spurs” Trump denigrated soldiers in general and the war dead specifically as “suckers” and “losers.” On a matter this grave these “sources” do the nation a great disservice in not coming forward to stand behind these claims.
Either the story is a slimy attempt to hurt Trump and the sources are made up, or the story is true but revealed by a bunch of cowards. The only way the story has any legs at all is that Trump has a reputation for saying rude, crude and stupid things. Otherwise, no one would believe such statements from the Commander-in-Chief.
What do we know? We know that he denigrated John McCain for getting shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. We know he insulted the immigrant parents of a soldier who died in Iraq. We know he skipped a commemoration of a World War I battle and tribute to the veterans buried in France. He says it was raining too hard for a helicopter ride to the site. It should be noted that the French president, the German chancellor and the Canadian prime minister as well as an American delegation led by Gen. John Kelly were able to attend. But Trump didn’t want to make the two-hour drive because it wasn’t safe.
But John Bolton, no friend of Trump’s, was on the trip and said he didn’t hear any disparaging remarks about the war dead. The Atlantic magazine is owned by Steve Jobs’ widow, a major donor to Joe Biden.
The Atlantic said Trump didn’t want to get his hair wet and asked why he should honor “suckers” who got themselves killed. I would note that in Vietnam during monsoon season you were subject to getting your hair wet anytime you took off your steel pot.
What strikes me as odd about the story is the account of Trump standing beside Gen. Kelly at Arlington Cemetery at Kelly’s son’s grave and wondering “what’s in it for them” that serve. Given Kelly’s long years of service in the military and as chief-of-staff at the White House, he has a duty to confirm or deny that this happened. Step up and do your duty, general. Your silence is deafening. Trump suggested that Kelly may have been a source for the story.
Trump staffers say the story is a hoax. Fox News, the Washington Post and the Associated Press have each confirmed the story with its own sources. Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin is one of the longest-serving Pentagon reporters, not a CNN stooge, who says her sources are “unimpeachable.”
I never knew a Vietnam veteran who blamed anybody for going to college instead of Vietnam. Even though middle class and well-to-do students could afford to make the decision, while poor people, who were disproportionately minorities, didn’t really have a choice. The bitterness of some Vietnam veterans comes from the guilt-ridden or opportunists who had to demean veterans to feel better. It might prompt a bone-spur victim to lash out at dead soldiers.
Politically ambitious John Kerry, for instance, realized he screwed up by going to Vietnam because he was on the wrong side. So, he became an anti-war protester. He testified before Congress that, rather than isolated incidents, U.S. soldiers went through the countryside raping and killing and torturing people. He said our comrades “died for nothing.” Sounds a lot like a presidential candidate who felt we were suckers. Under oath, on television.
And people wonder why veterans hated him so much when he ran for president?
Facts are confusing: Something you might hear often if Obama were president instead of Trump. In the United States the death rate from the pandemic per million people is 569. In Belgium it’s 866, Spain 625, United Kingdom 624, Italy 587, Sweden 572. What we often hear is that Trump murdered 186,000 people. America has 330 million people. The only way to compare apples to apples is to consider the rate of deaths to the population as a whole. All these countries have a death rate from the virus higher than the U.S. The numbers are from the World Health Organization and unlikely to be padded for Trump since he cut off its funding.
What a team: Day dreaming watching the Republican convention. A great Republican ticket for 2024 is U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley. Or former Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott. Either way would work. The only drawback I see is they are from the same state. In the deeply Southern state of South Carolina, the state that started the Civil War, Republicans elected a woman whose parents immigrated here from India and elected a black man to the U.S. Senate.
The Democrats put a daughter of an Indian immigrant on the ticket. Whoop-de-do. The first woman elected to the U.S. Senate was a Republican – Margaret Chase Smith. The first black man popularly elected to the U.S. Senate was a Republican, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. The first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court was a Republican – Sandra Day O’Connor – nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan. Republican Reagan also appointed the first woman national security advisor, Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
Could it be that the first woman to serve as president or vice-president will be a Republican? The Democrats talk a good game, but it is usually Republicans who deliver.
Frank Cagle is a veteran newspaper editor and columnist.