You will recall, though it seems like many years ago, when Trump was just about ready to stoke a race war over the supposed insults delivered to his beloved Armed Forces by those plainly awful African-American football players taking a knee for the anthem. The scoundrels! How dare they show such contempt for the good men and women of the military, out there putting it all on the line just so a bunch of these ingrates could spit on them back home?! SAD! Respect the military! Do right by our men and women in uniform!
Yeah, well, Donald had fun with that, it really got the yobbos riled up, but now he seems to have become bored, or maybe nobody is taking a knee any more. Anyway, he moved on to the next wedge issue, and the next, and come the midterms he was having a ball playing racist demagogue by spreading terror about The Caravan. Sweet, Merciful Jesus, spare us from The Caravan, full of the battle-hardened soldiers of MS-13, all of them infected with Smallpox and Leprosy! Who would save us? He’s dropped that one too, now, much as an infant will eventually drop its rattle, though to be fair this might not be a symptom of Trump’s limited attention span so much as an acknowledgement that there’s no longer any point – the elections are over. The slow-moving parade of poor, half-starved asylum seekers served its purpose. In a couple of months, when the Dreaded Caravan’s stragglers finally reach the border to be processed, jailed, and booted back to Guatemala where they came from, nobody will even notice, probably.
It’s too much to hope that any of his loyal followers, true patriots all, noticed that the final moves of the Caravan gambit betrayed what sort of respect Trump really has for the military. To him they’re basically toy soldiers. He thought nothing of sending over 5,000 of them on a useless deployment to the border to fend off the thing that wasn’t there, disrupting their lives as if they didn’t deserve a respite from the frantic pace of operations a great many of them have probably sustained for the last, oh, 17 years or so. They’re still down South, their role as props in Trump’s farcical political theatre likely to leave them guarding the empty scrubland when US Thanksgiving rolls around, instead of being with their families for once. Donald doesn’t care. He’s probably forgotten they’re still deployed.
If this disgraceful abuse of the Regular Army wasn’t enough to reveal just how little Trump cares about the people in the armed services, he banished all doubt over the weekend, with his sorry performance at the ceremonies in France marking the centennial of Armistice Day, and his subsequent handling of Veterans Day when he got back home. In France, he was AWOL while the leadership of all of America’s allies, many of them enemies when the first Armistice Day dawned, marched symbolically together toward the Arc de Triomphe, which was really quite moving, former foes now unified in their commitment to peace among nations, that sort of thing. Donald showed up late, looking sullen. The only time he seemed at all animated came when his good buddy Vlad showed up, even more disgracefully late than he was. That’s the back of Putin’s head in the foreground – Donald beamed at him like a high school girl whose date for the Prom just pulled up in a limo:
Later, he cancelled a visit to one of the many American military cemeteries maintained across Europe, citing rain as the problem. I was just about ready to believe that his no-show was forced by logistical factors beyond his control, when what does he do upon getting home but take a day off to goof around with his Twitter feed. There he was kicking back, oblivious, on this of all holidays, the day when every President is expected to have the good sense and decency to go pay a somber visit to Arlington National Cemetery.
It was the Veterans Day holiday. Presidents don’t take that off. They go to Arlington. They pay their respects. They give speeches noting that the tens of thousands of tombstones that stand in those long, endless rows mark the graves of men and woman of every race, creed, class, and political affiliation, all of them simply Americans when they answered the summons of the trumpet, and stood shoulder to shoulder defending their country, united now in death as they once were in life.
That’s what the President does.
Not Trump. In an astonishing display of contempt or plain pig-ignorant indifference, take your pick, he stayed home, and probably lounged about in his jammies while he chowed down on a couple of cheeseburgers. Look, it was raining again, OK? He clearly hates the rain. I think he fears that a good soaking could topple the elaborate house of cards that sits precariously atop his balding head.
Trump’s disdain shouldn’t be surprising, really. After all, this is the guy who heaped scorn upon John McCain for being a Loser and getting himself shot down. Still. He couldn’t even get off his ass to go through the motions on Veterans Day.
Donald had more salt for everybody’s wounds. Yesterday, enraged that Democratic candidates are drawing closer to their Republican opponents in the key Florida races, as the painfully malfunctioning State election machinery grinds forward, shedding parts and leaking oil, Trump advocated that the counting should stop. “Must go with Election Night!” Let’s be charitable, and guess that he probably didn’t realize that if he got his way, the ballots cast overseas by members of the Armed Forces, which take a few days to come in, would have to go uncounted.
There was an image taken back in Europe that caught my eye on Sunday. While Trump decided he’d give the war graves visit a pass, his Chief of Staff still went, visiting the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in the village of Belleau. Belleau Wood was where the U.S. Marines were crucial in helping the French repel the Germans during their last gasp offensive of the Great War, a stirring victory that made it obvious that America’s late entry into the conflict was going to be decisive. Like all such facilities, the one at Belleau is impeccably maintained, the lawn neatly trimmed, the identical white crosses arrayed in tidy rows. About 1,800 Americans died in the battle, and there they lie.
My feelings about General Kelly’s various character flaws and lapses in judgment have been voiced here many times, but he’s not entirely without saving graces, and as a military man he needed no goading to go pay his respects. He walked among the headstones, pensively, quietly, obviously moved, and doubtless thinking of his own son, killed in action in 2010.