Even when things aren’t about President Donald Trump, they’re still about President Donald Trump.
The president took it personally when Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, criticized “half-baked, spurious nationalism” earlier this week. Trump’s response to the thinly-veiled potshot makes one thing clear: the president is fully aware he is creating, enforcing and petitioning for policy of this very nature, something that is bad for all Americans.
McCain made the remarks during a speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadephia, where the senator received the Liberty Medal alongside former Vice President Joe Biden. Here’s a bit of what he said:
To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
I can only assume Trump’s response on Tuesday — which didn’t pull any punches — shows his true feelings:
I’m being very, very nice, but at some point, I fight back and it won’t be pretty.
First off, it already shows just how insecure (and possibly mentally ill) the president is. He’s more or less declared war on any media outlet that doesn’t strike up the band and laud his administration’s policy — even if many of these same outlets contributed to the (im)perfect storm which got him elected in the first place.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Trump doesn’t even need to tell us his fighting back isn’t pretty. We know. We have seen him fight with many other members of his own party and even White House staff who’ve given even the appearance of disagreeing with him.
Despite his professions to the contrary, this president isn’t patriotic at all. He doesn’t actually respect our troops.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said of McCain at a town hall in Iowa in 2015. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” An article from the Washington Post details Trump’s five draft deferments in the midst of the Vietnam War — four for education, and one for “bone spurs.” Meanwhile, in North Vietnam, McCain was serving as a prisoner of war. The torture he suffered during his five years in captivity left lasting damage.
It’s not the first time Trump has disrespected our service members and their loved ones. Trump attacked the parents of an Emirati-American soldier who criticized him over his anti-Muslim immigration policies. Tuesday, a report revealed he allegedly told the pregnant widow of a fallen soldier, “he must have known what he signed up for.” Trump claims he never said such a thing, but with his track record, how can we trust his denial?
Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat from Florida, was with the bereaved when the call occurred. She affirmed the reporting, and had a few choice words for the president:
Everyone knows when you go to war, you could possibly not come back alive. You don’t remind a grieving widow of that. That’s so insensitive.
For his part, Trump’s chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, defended the president’s call on Thursday. Kelly’s son died during a military tour in Afghanistan.
However, rather than apologize or contemplate any unintended consequence of his words, Trump chose instead to lash out at a favorite target, former President Barack Obama. In a press conference, Trump made an outrageous claim:
If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice.
This is a flat-out lie. Obama made many calls to families of killed service members during his eight years in office, as has every president in the modern era.
Trump has already refused to be an international leader. With comments like these, he refuses to be a moral leader, as well.
Our military is the most expansive, and expensive, of any in the world. There’s no reason we can’t do more to aid our brave service members and their families. Let’s see more programs to bolster the health of these soldiers, and eliminate the current problems of existing programs. Additional measures — maybe tax incentives? — could show our country cares for those citizens who put their lives on the line.
These men and women aren’t just political pawns. Stop paying major sports teams to honor the military. If they want to make it genuine, let them do it for free. That money would be better spent elsewhere, such as on fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The president’s quickness to blame Muslims and Mexicans, while saying there is blame on “both sides” when white supremacists cause the death of a counter-protester, shows McCain’s comments are indeed accurate. If you’re still not buying it, consider how current and former Ku Klux Klan leaders, such as David Duke, are often the first to come to the president’s defense.
Don’t forget that McCain, while seemingly less popular among Republicans nowadays, was once the party’s presidential nominee. He understands the power of the nation’s highest office all too well — a lesson Trump fails to grasp.
And he’s not the only one-time Republican presidential nominee to rebuke the party’s embrace of right-wing populism.
On Thursday, former President George W. Bush gave a speech in New York critical of Trump’s actions. Although Bush didn’t mention the president’s name, specifically, his words sure sounded like a rebuke of an “America first” policy. Here’s an excerpt:
We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places.
Less than a decade ago, it wasn’t abnormal for a presidential election to feature two respectful major-party candidates. McCain’s 2008 opponent, showing characteristic grace, offered congratulations.
It’s hard to be a successful nationalist with Trump’s level of disrespect for the nation’s armed forces. Half-baked and spurious? McCain was right on target.
The United States is no longer “the last best hope on earth” with Trump in the White House. The only last best hope on earth lies in getting his disgraceful administration as far from Washington as possible. ■