Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Enlistments for one man's amusement

          For all his depth, a mark of Abraham Lincoln's greatness was a deep humility.

          When saluted by Union volunteers in 1864, he remarked that he was "exceedingly obliged to you for this mark of respect."

          He continued, "It is said that we have the best government world ever knew, and I am glad to meet you, the supporters of that government."

          Lincoln revered the troops so highly that he exposed himself to enemy fire more than once, his stove-top hat a frighteningly handy sniper target.

          His successors were not so brazen, but presidents who have committed troops have taken pains to visit them: Eisenhower at the Korean Peninsula, Lyndon Johnson at Cam Rahn Bay, George H.W. Bush in Riyadh, George W. Bush in Baghdad, Barack Obama in remote parts of Afghanistan.

          And Donald Trump in Palm Beach County. On the phone.

          True to form, humility was out the window during his Thanksgiving Day call, staged while in the background servants set up a feast for him and his well-fed friends.

          As it turns out, Trump called the troops mostly to brag about himself. It's all he knows.

          It's one more bit of evidence that Trump's claim about doing so very much for our troops is just so much wind. What he has done is to make the U.S. military his personal accoutrement.

          Proposing to spend millions of dollars we don't have on a Russia-style military parade. Employing pre-election hysteria to send 5,800 troops to the border as razor-wire caddies. For Trump, as with Kim Jong-un, military is just another self-indulgence.

          A deployment of the size now at the border, by the way, is more than the United States committed to defeating ISIS.

          And for what? The only authorized combat function there is defending Border Patrol agents if attacked by migrants. Otherwise, at a price tag of $210 million, these men and women will while away the holidays, doing next to nothing that they were trained to do.

          Retired Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme NATO commander, denounced Trump's border deployment in the strongest terms -- in part because it's not a military mission, and in part because it takes troops away from training for actual military functions.

          "Nobody has been better for the military than me," says Trump. It's a statement of opinion, so we can't count it among his countless lies.

          Another claim that's been sandblasted by reality: "I've done more for vets than any president has done, certainly in many, many decades."

          Tell that to the veterans now months in arrears in housing assistance guaranteed to them under the GI Bill. Called to explain the problem to a congressional subcommittee, the Department of Veterans Affairs says it's due to a computer problem.

          If so, one would expect such a big, big friend of veterans (Trump), to climb all over this matter and get it fixed.

          As with most things, Trump is all talk. If it rains, he'll send his regrets and then blame the Secret Service.

          That was the case, in his now infamous decision to not go to a 100th anniversary of World War I ceremony in Paris attended by other world leaders and by his own chief of staff.

           Less discussed was the fact that also Trump became the first president in recent history to not make an appearance on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery.

          Days later, the White House held a ceremony to honor veterans, which turned out, mostly, to be an event to honor you-know-whom for his great leadership.

          At that photo-op, Trump criticized his predecessor for failing to serve veterans. The fact is that among other achievements under Obama, the VA made historic inroads into dealing with veterans' homelessness. And Trump has done . . .

          The military? The VA? It's all a toy for the Golden Boy.

          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

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