Trump and the military: A strained relationship
“What is it with Trump and the troops?” asked Fred Kaplan in Slate.com. Despite his frequent reference to “my military” and “my generals,” this president seems incapable of performing even the “most basic rituals” of being commander in chief. He skipped out on a memorial service for American soldiers buried in France, was a no-show at Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day, and two years into his presidency hasn’t once visited troops in a U.S. war zone. Why? Reports indicate he’s worried about his own safety, and thinks a visit to Iraq or Afghanistan would lend “legitimacy” to what he considers stupid wars. Rather than travel to service members on Thanksgiving, Trump phoned a few from Mar-a-Lago, trying to get them in painfully awkward conversations to support his venting about immigration and global trade. The military is nothing but a “prop” to Trump, said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. Last year he demanded a Soviet-style military parade until its cost ballooned above $80 million, and recently deployed 5,800 troops “to sleep in sweltering tents” along the U.S.-Mexico border in a blatant “political stunt.”
This is why Trump’s standing with the military “is slipping,” said David French in NationalReview.com. A recent Military Times poll found that Trump’s disapproval rating within the military has risen to 43 percent—including 30 percent who strongly disapprove. Trump originally surrounded himself with generals, but has made it clear “his support for soldiers is conditional” on their blind support for him. Retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the Navy SEALs mission that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, recently criticized the president’s attacks on the media. So Trump called McRaven a “Hillary Clinton fan” and suggested that he should have gotten to bin Laden years earlier. Service members take note of such insults, as well as of Trump’s public feuds with two Gold Star families.
What the president doesn’t understand, said retired Rear Adm. John Kirby in CNN.com, is that the U.S. military is not a “MAGA rally crowd.” Many presidents have exploited the military to rally domestic support, but some traditions were kept sacred. When presidents visited troops overseas or the burial grounds of the fallen, “they went to say thank you.” Trump, however, politicizes everything he touches. So instead of being “goaded” into visiting troops abroad, “maybe he should just stay home.”