Juan Williams: Trump is AWOL on our troops

When comedian Pete Davidson made a joke on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” about an injured veteran — Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), who lost an eye while fighting in Afghanistan — Republicans expressed outrage.

But when President Trump failed to visit Arlington National Cemetery this past Veterans Day, there was no outrage among the nearly 90 percent of Republicans who support Trump.

{mosads}As Trump nears two years as commander in chief, he has never visited American troops fighting in a war zone. He recently told the Associated Press he doesn’t think visiting the troops is “overly necessary.” He added, “I’ve been very busy with everything…doing a lot of things – but it’s something I’d do.”

In an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump promised — albeit a bit vaguely — that he would put this right. “I think you will see that happen,” Trump told Wallace. “There are things that are being planned.”

President Obama and President George W. Bush both visited with Americans in combat early in their first terms in the White House.

“I think it’s bigger than just a misstep — I think it’s a failure of an obligation, of a basic obligation of a commander in chief,” said Chuck Hagel, the former Defense Secretary, on CNN. Hagel added that it is plainly wrong for the president “not to go to a war zone where we have men and women dying. That’s just wrong.”

And now the Veterans Day snub.

Imagine if Obama had not honored America’s military on Veterans Day because of rain.

Imagine if he had refused to march with a group of world leaders to celebrate the sacrifice of American soldiers in helping to win the First World War.

Imagine if the Democrat had been in France and blamed the rain for not going to a French cemetery where 2000 American Marines are buried.

This is the core of what stumps me about Trump’s base.

Why do they close their eyes when he violates conservative standards of flag-waving patriotism?

This is the same base that excused Trump for demeaning a Gold Star family during the 2016 campaign.

Right-wing media ranted for months about NFL players who protested police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. Trump said it was disrespectful of the military and unpatriotic.

So how do the same talk show hosts excuse his dismissive behavior toward our troops?

This is even harder to understand than ignoring his demagoguery about a caravan of poor, desperate immigrants.

What if Obama had sent troops to the U.S. border in the middle of a political campaign with no clear purpose but to get his base to the polls by stirring fear and alleging there was a need to protect against a rag-tag group still far from the border?

This unthinking support is even more confounding than when the president excuses racist violence in Charlottesville or lies about payoffs to porn stars.

Unfortunately, Trump’s snub of America’s military fits with a pattern of disrespectful behavior toward our veterans throughout his public life.  

Trump famously demeaned the military service of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump sneered.

During the Vietnam War, Trump received four draft deferments for college and one for supposed bone spurs in his feet.  

He joked with radio host Howard Stern that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was his personal version of the Vietnam War.

“It’s Vietnam,” he said of STDs in the New York dating scene. “It is very dangerous. So, I’m very, very careful.”

Last year Trump suggested the widow of a fallen Army sergeant was a liar when she recounted a disrespectful call Trump placed to her after her husband’s death while fighting in Niger.

Never mind that the widow’s account of the phone call, including Trump’s failure to call the soldier by name, was backed up by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) who was with the widow at the time. Trump dismissed the congresswoman as “wacky” and accused her of a “total lie on content.” But Sgt. LaDavid Johnson’s mother also confirmed that “Trump did disrespect my son.”

And it is not just Trump’s civilian base of supporters who close their eyes to his disrespectful treatment of the military. Even after insulting McCain, Trump still enjoyed strong support among people in the military. 

According to 2016 exit polls, Trump carried 60 percent of veterans compared to Hillary Clinton’s 34 percent. 

A Military Times poll released in October of this year found that since he won the presidency, there is declining support for Trump among active military personnel. But about 44 percent of troops still view Trump favorably while 43 percent disapprove.

Trump cheerleaders are quick to point out the $717 billion national defense bill Trump signed this summer.

Trump’s defenders also cite the fact that Obama signed into law “sequestration” measures which reduced defense spending. 

What the Trump base fails to mention is that sequestration was passed by a Republican Congress with broad Republican support and signed into law by a Democratic President. Republicans backed the bill in the name of getting control of runaway federal spending.

This distortion of the facts is yet another example of Trump rewriting history. 

This Thanksgiving, we should all show our thanks for our veterans. Their commander-in-chief is AWOL in the appreciation department. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, “‘What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?’ — Trump’s War on Civil Rights” is out now, published by Public Affairs Books.

Tags Chuck Hagel Donald Trump First World War Frederica Wilson Hillary Clinton John McCain nfl protests Patriotism troops Veterans

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