Donald Trump continues to go low in his attacks against primary opponent Nikki Haley. During a rally in Conway, South Carolina, over the weekend, Trump mocked Haley’s husband’s absence from her campaign appearances. On the one hand, these attacks are strange considering Haley’s husband, Maj. Michael Haley, is serving our country on a yearlong assignment in Africa. Something that was well-covered as his deployment came at the beginning of his wife’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
On the other hand, Trump has a long history of being dismissive and disrespectful of military servicemembers and their families. Trump famously received a medical exemption from serving in Vietnam in 1968 due to “bone spurs.” According to Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, Trump could not provide any evidence of having the malady, telling Cohen, “You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam.”
But Trump’s chicken-hawk bonafides haven’t stopped him from disrespecting other Americans’ service to our country. Back in 2015, Trump spewed this repulsive statement about the late Sen. John McCain: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured.” Trump followed up his disapproval of McCain’s military service by refusing to lower the flags at the White House to half-staff after the senator passed away—finally relenting after hours of pressure from members of Congress, veterans, and staff.
When retired four-star-Gen. John Allen endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump called him “a failed general.” He followed that up by attacking Gold Star father Khizr Khan, whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, died while serving in Iraq. Trump followed that up by implying Khan was a radical Islamic terrorist sympathizer.
In 2017, Trump told the widow of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson that “he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.” To add to Trump’s general cowardice in the face of facts, Trump denied the conversation had happened the way it was reported, including him forgetting Johnson’s name during the conversation with his widow. Johnson’s widow confirmed the account to CNN.
According to The Atlantic, Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he worried the rainy weather would mess up his hair. Trump’s cavalier attitude towards fallen soldiers included him describing the cemetery as being “filled with losers.” That account was confirmed by Trump’s longest-serving former chief of staff, John Kelly, who added:
“A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.’ A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family – for all Gold Star families – on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in A merica’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”
Trump’s disregard for service to one’s country led to hundreds of government workers being dismissed or resigning from their positions–people like Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, who Trump attacked relentlessly for testifying before Congress during Trump’s impeachment trial. The attacks on Vindman were as low as it gets, pushing an idea that he was somehow less patriotic or American because he had immigrated to the United States.
Trump’s attacks on military members’ and their families have always been frowned upon by most Americans. But the grotesque nature of Trump’s attacks have not seemed to have made a dent in the MAGA-cult’s confidence in him. Hopefully it helps to remind the rest of the electorate how bad a Trump presidency tastes.