President Trump loves to talk about how much he supports the military. “It is our sacred duty to support America’s Service Members every single day they wear the uniform — and every day after when they return home as Veterans,” he tweeted last Thursday. “Together we will HONOR those who defend us, we will CHERISH those who protect us, and we will celebrate the amazing heroes.”
But the words Trump’s staff writes for him to recite behind podiums don’t always jibe with the sentiments festering inside his head. The latter are borne not out of anything so lofty as “honor,” but out of pettiness and narcissism, Trump’s bread and butter. As has been made abundantly clear in recent weeks, not even the military’s “amazing heroes” can override Trump’s self-centered impulses. While in Paris to celebrate the 100th anniversary of World War I earlier this month, the president canceled a trip to an American cemetery because it was raining. On Veterans Day, he decided to forgo a trip to Arlington National Cemetery because he was “busy,” the same excuse he has given for his failure to visit troops in a combat zone since taking office. The same day last week that Trump trudged his way through prepared remarks about cherishing those who protect us, NBC News reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been able to pay thousands of veterans their benefits because of a technical glitch, and that the department doesn’t know when the issue will be remedied. This past summer, ProPublica reported that Trump had essentially turned control of the VA over to a handful of Mar-a-Lago members.
The president’s hot streak of disrespect continued Sunday when he sat down for an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Trump took the opportunity to attack Admiral Bill McRaven, the 37-year Navy SEAL veteran who orchestrated the mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. Before Wallace could even finish asking Trump for his thoughts on critical comments made by McRaven, the president cut him off. “Hillary Clinton fan,” Trump interjected. Wallace continued. Trump cut him off again. “Excuse me: Hillary. Clinton. Fan.”
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Trump on retired Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who called Trump's attacks on the press "the greatest threat to democracy."
"He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer. And frankly, wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?" pic.twitter.com/lyaBvC9KFd
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 18, 2018
Wallace eventually finished pointing out how McRaven called Trump’s demonization of the free press the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime. Trump wasn’t moved. “OK, he’s a Hillary Clinton-backer,” the president said again. “He’s an Obama-backer. Frankly, wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”
Yes, the president casually dismissed one of America’s most decorated military heroes because he supported Hillary Clinton, which is — brace yourselves — a lie. McRaven never endorsed Clinton. He did, however, write an op-ed criticizing Trump’s decision in August to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan. “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” McRaven wrote, effectively adding his name to the president’s shit list. McRaven could have singlehandedly won both world wars for the United States, but as soon as he uttered a syllable critical of Trump he became just as much an “Enemy of the People” as the free press he chose to side with over the president.
As one might expect, Trump’s comments have drawn bipartisan outrage. “Adm. McRaven is not a partisan individual. He’s a decorated former SEAL … who served his nation, not a party. I believe he is speaking out because he feels a moral obligation to do so, and note that Pres. Trump said nothing to refute Adm. McRaven’s criticism,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). “I don’t know if Adm. William McRaven shares my political views or not,” Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted Monday morning, failing, of course, to mention the president by name. “But I do know that few Americans have sacrificed or risked more than he has to protect America & the freedoms we enjoy. His military career exemplified honor & excellence. I am grateful for his service.” Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling wasn’t so coy, calling Trump’s comments “disgusting.”
McRaven responded later on Sunday. “I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all Presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the Nation together in challenging times.”
He added that he stands by his comments regarding Trump attacks on the free press.
Via @jaketapper, Ret. Admiral William McRaven's response to Trump: "I stand by my comment that the President's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime." pic.twitter.com/iubTvPEdwp
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 18, 2018
Somehow, Trump’s comments bashing the man responsible for Osama bin Laden’s death weren’t the only offensive remarks he made toward service members on Sunday. Wallace also asked the president about his decision to skip his trip to the World War I cemetery in France, to which he lied that the Secret Service told him he couldn’t go. Many have pointed out that the decision was the president’s, and that it is the job of the Secret Service to facilitate whatever moves their boss wants to make. When asked about his subsequent decision to bail on a trip to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day, Trump said that he was “extremely busy on calls for the country” and that “we did a lot of calling as you know.” Trump’s schedule on Veterans Day was empty. He did fire off several tweets about how the United States is being ripped off by France, how he thinks Democrats were trying to steal the election in Florida, the stock market and his beef with Comcast. In other words, he was probably watching cable news.
Perhaps responding to the backlash over his comments, the Republican Party on Sunday evening reminded its Twitter followers of what the president read off a sheet of paper last Thursday: “It’s our sacred duty to support America’s service members every single day they wear the uniform and every day after, when they return home as veterans and heroes, we take care of them.”
Former congressman John Dingell responded with a legitimate question: “What if it’s raining?”
This post has been updated.