Editorial: Does Trump respect the troops?

The Iowa State Daily Editorial Board discusses whether President Trump respects members of the military and encourages voters to remain informed before November. 

Editorial Board

“He’s not a war hero… I like people who weren’t captured.”

President Donald Trump said this about the late Sen. John McCain in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. 

McCain spent five years as a POW in Vietnam, where he was tortured. Repeatedly. Trump himself received five deferments from the draft and has never served in the military. When McCain passed in 2018, Trump was not invited to the funeral.

On Sept. 3rd, the Atlantic published a story featuring several more disparaging remarks Trump has allegedly made concerning American troops.

The article alleges that Trump: 

  • Called soldiers who died in war “losers and suckers”

  • Became furious when the White House lowered flags to half-staff to honor the late John McCain

  • Referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a “loser” for being shot down by the Japanese as a pilot in WWII

  • Questioned why the U.S. intervened on behalf of the Allies in WWII

  • And much more

These allegations are egregious. For our Commander in Chief to disparage the service and sacrifice of our troops is shameful.

While it may be easy to react to this story with anger and contempt, we need to think more critically about the entire situation.

For one thing, the story, written by the editor-in-chief of the Atlantic magazine, is based on the words of four anonymous sources

While we should not immediately discount the allegations simply because the sources were unnamed, it’s important to acknowledge this fact. While unnamed sources in journalism can often limit journalistic accountability, we should also understand that with major stories in Washington, it’s often impossible to write pieces that don’t involve unnamed sources.

Another important aspect of this situation is parts of the story were verified by several other major news outlets, including the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Washington Post and Fox News

In addition, Trump has also made similar comments that have been recorded on video in the past. These include disparaging remarks about the late John McCain, as well as other instances.

With all of the things he’s said in public, on video or in interviews, the statements alleged by the Atlantic aren’t out of the realm of possibility. 

As informed citizens, we need to think critically about the information we consume. As voters, what’s more important to us? 

It’s easy to feel angry or upset about what Trump says (especially as voters), regardless of how irrelevant they may seem. He’s never shied away from controversial statements, and as the most recognizable figure in American politics, what he says matters. 

However, he is the president. While what he says matters, so does what he gets accomplished. 

So what has Trump done for the military? 

While Trump often takes credit for the Veteran’s Choice program, the program was actually signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014 as part of the Veteran’s Access, Choice and Accountability Act

The Veteran’s Choice Program allows veterans who are eligible to receive health care from a community provider rather than waiting for a Veteran’s Affairs (VA) appointment or having to travel to a VA facility. 

While Trump did not create the program, as he often claims, he has chosen to eliminate the program’s deadline and extend the program further. The program and its services have also been expanded under his administration with the VA MISSION Act of 2018, which was meant to improve how veterans receive care from health care providers outside of the VA.

He also signed two executive orders, one to increase accountability at the VA and the other to extend mental health care coverage for veterans in their first year back in civilian life. 

There has been debate concerning the effectiveness of these policies, and other legislation by congressional Republicans has resulted in accusations that they are betraying veterans.

The most important thing for voters, between now and November, is to remain informed. Yes, he has publicly disrespected veterans and troops, but behind the scenes, he’s also done things to help support them. 

Things aren’t black and white in American politics. It’s up to you to know both sides of the argument and then to decide where you stand.

As a citizen of the United States, you need to know your vote and educate yourself.