The Turbulent Relationship Between Trump and the Military
Following President Donald Trump’s controversial comments toward fallen soldiers, he announced September 4 via Twitter that he would not allow the century-old Stars and Stripes publication to be shut down.
This tweet came hours after the Pentagon announced it would defund the publication for the 2021 fiscal year, planning to close the publication by September 30. It was later known that this decision was made due to budget cuts from the president’s outlined budget for 2021.
An email sent to the Stars and Stripes’ publisher, Max Lederer, proved Trump has held true to his tweet, and the Defense Department will rescind its previous order. The magazine will no longer have to submit an official plan of closure. The New York Times also reported that the budget cut was a work in progress since February 2020 and had been discussed for months.
Multiple senators had written a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper stating that with the Pentagon’s budget of $700 billion, 15.5 million could be found to continue funding Stars and Stripes. The House had already passed the President’s budget, which makes his sudden interest in the paper peculiar.
The Pentagon typically provides $15.5 million yearly for Stars and Stripes, so it can be distributed globally, especially to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. This figure makes up half of the publication’s budget, and the remainder comes from advertisements and subscriptions. Stars and Stripes was created in 1861, releasing constant coverage around WWI, making it very popular among the military.
On September 3, the day before Trump made his announcement to not cut the paper’s funding, The Atlantic published an article that created a rift between Trump and the military. The president had canceled his visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and falsely claimed that he couldn’t be flown in due to safety concerns over the rain.
However, other anonymous sources confirmed he simply did not want to get his hair disheveled. The article also reported that the President said to other staff members, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” along with referring to the fallen soldiers at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
Other anonymous witnesses claimed he called Sen. John McCain a “loser” once again when asked if he was attending his funeral. There were also reports that he was angered by the flag being put at half-staff in McCain’s honor, asking “What the f--- are we doing that for? Guy was a f---ing loser.”
White House Speaker, Alyssa Farrah, then emailed this statement to the Atlantic:
“This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact.”
This is not the first time the President has made remarks that are offensive to veterans. On his campaign trail, Trump had no issue publicly attacking McCain, who was a prisoner in Vietnam for five years. Trump called him a “loser” and said that he liked “people who weren’t captured”.
In a 2019 interview, Trump said he would’ve liked to join the military. Records show that he deferred enrollment five times for the Vietnam draft, four for education and once for an injury. However, his former lawyer Michael Cohen, testified that the injury was fake and was used to avoid the draft.
Trump also made inappropriate remarks towards the mother of deceased army captain, Humayun Khan. He claimed that she may not be allowed to speak due to her Islamic faith. Khan’s parents made an appearance at the Democratic National Convention, where his father stated their son was a war hero who sacrificed his life, but wouldn’t have been able to fight for America had Trump’s proposed Muslim ban be in effect.
Trump responded to this by saying, "If you look at his wife, she was standing there, she had nothing to say, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.” His diverted attention to the mother and not to the fallen soldier angered many.
With the President’s multiple distasteful comments, the Military Times’s August poll is no shock to many. From a survey administered to 1,018 troops, it was found that 49.9% view the President unfavorably, an increase from the 37% in 2019.
It was also found that 41% would vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in November, whereas 37% would re-elect President Trump. Some believe the president’s new declaration of love for Stars and Stripes would help him gain a more favorable view in the military.