During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump disparaged Sen. John McCain’s military service. “He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Trump’s pettiness toward the former Republican presidential nominee didn’t end there. On McCain’s death, he blocked the release of a memorial statement from the White House and pointedly ignored ceremonies honoring McCain. But it wasn’t just McCain. Trump also called former President George H. W. Bush a “loser” for being shot down by the Japanese during World War II. These were just a few of the many moments reminding everyone that Donald Trump is a monster, without the slightest shred of respect or empathy for anyone not named Donald Trump.
But it turns out the disdain Trump focused on McCain and Bush was just a subset, just a spoonful, of the great ocean of contempt Trump feels for veterans in general. On Thursday, The Atlantic reported that Trump refused to visit a military cemetery because the fallen soldiers there were “losers.” And while planning a snazzy military parade to emulate those of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, Trump made it clear to organizers he wanted only active troops, no veterans, because he claimed that spectators didn’t want to see amputees. “Nobody wants to see that,” said Trump. And of course, Trump has denied the story. And of course, he’s lying.
Trump’s disparaging of McCain was unending, even after the veteran senator died in 2018. As plans began to be made for honoring McCain, Trump declared, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral.” Even just lowering the White House flag to half-staff—a common practice when any member of Congress dies—infuriated Trump. “What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser.”
The story from The Atlantic focuses on a specific, particularly visible incident. Trump was expected to visit a cemetery for thousands of American soldiers who died at the battle of Belleau Wood. It was one of the first battles in which Americans took part in large number, and the battle in which American troops were introduced to the horrors of the World War I battlefield. But rather than appear at the cemetery, Trump produced a series of excuses: the helicopter didn’t like the rain, it was too far to drive, he had bone spurs … sorry, that last one was an excuse from another military event. None of the excuses were true. Trump simply did not want to go. That much was clear at the time. What wasn’t known then was the condescension that Trump leveled at the fallen troops, many of them Marines.
Naturally, as soon as the story broke, Trump began throwing out tweets denying it ever happened. That included Trump saying he would “swear on whatever, or whoever” that he never called never called John McCain a “loser.” Which … he absolutely did.
The Atlantic story was attributed to four different sources inside the White House, three of whom confirmed Trump’s statements concerning veterans. Since Trump began exploding in denial tweets, The Washington Post reports that another former senior administration official confirmed that Trump “frequently made disparaging comments about veterans and soldiers missing in action, referring to them at times as ‘losers.’” Trump has also called everyone who served in Vietnam a “loser” because, unlike him, they weren’t able to bribe a doctor into writing them an excuse.
In addition to lying about his statements, Trump frequently lies about his record of supporting veterans. It was President Obama who signed the Veterans’ Choice Act. And while military personnel have gotten a raise over the past three years, those raises have been smaller than the last three years under Obama.
On Thursday evening, Joe Biden issued a statement after the original article was released. "If the revelations in today's Atlantic article are true, then they are yet another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the president of the United States," said Biden. “I have long said that, as a nation, we have many obligations, but we only have one truly sacred obligation—to prepare and equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families, both while they are deployed and after they return home.”
The Trump White House is in full sputtering crisis more, with denials coming from all directions. The trouble is … who would believe Trump after what they’ve already heard him say?