A few thoughts on last week’s magazine report that President Trump has described soldiers who were injured or killed in war as losers, and even wondered aloud to the father of a slain Marine why anyone would volunteer to serve in the military.
The original story was in The Atlantic, but since its publication several other reporters, including one from Trump favorite Fox News, have confirmed parts of it. But the president and his staff have emphatically denied the story, saying that he has great respect for everyone who serves in the military.
Short of an “Access Hollywood”-type recording, we may never know for certain whether Trump said any of the things The Atlantic story attributed to him. His critics will immediately believe he did make the remarks, while his supporters will say it’s just more fake news from the liberal mainstream media that’s desperate to take him down.
The problem for the president is that this stuff sounds exactly like the things he would say. He famously said as a candidate in 2015 that John McCain was not a hero because he had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam. So it’s not at all farfetched to envision the president with John Kelly, a retired general soon to become Trump’s chief of staff, at Kelly’s son’s gravesite and asking, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” — meaning the president doesn’t understand why some people choose to become soldiers.
Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip style endears him to his many fans. But it also presents risks, and this episode was one of them.