Why are we still talking about Trump’s bones spurs from 1968? Because despite his sudden (and first) trip to visit the troops in Iraq yesterday, so much of Trump’s habitual behavior shows that he does not really honor our veterans. His disrespect makes the his own lack of service all the more jarring.
Just to be clear, I am not shaming President Trump for avoiding going to Vietnam. It was a horrible war, and Trump was not the only one who took active measures to get himself out of fighting. That being said, it is important to note that throughout history, getting out of military service has been far easier for those with money than those without. Vietnam was no exception to this rule. This was true for both Democrats and Republicans. And privileged men of both parties exploited this advantage.
What I do take exception to is Trump’s frequent baiting and shaming of those who have served - especially those who served with honor. Trump’s dismissive comments about the late Senator John McCain - not only a Vietnam veteran, but also a prisoner of war who refused to use his own privilege to get him out ahead of his fellow soldiers - are only one example. There’s also Trump's failure to show up at a ceremony to honor American First World War dead at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in November of this year. And his peevish behavior at the funeral of President George H. W. Bush (a World War II vet). What about his boorish condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, widow of LaDavid Johnson, who was killed in Niger in 2017? The list goes on and on. Just yesterday, Trump repeated a lie to the troops in Iraq - telling them that he had gotten them a 10% pay raise (via CNN.) This is Trump’s all-too-familiar pattern - he degrades and denigrates the achievements of those who have accomplished what he has avoided or been unable to do himself.
Whether or not we agree with a particular war, most of us agree that those who do serve have earned our respect for their service. The passage from 1st Samuel makes this clear: David does not take an easy opportunity to kill Saul because it is not honorable or respectful to do so when Saul is relieving himself, no matter how convenient it would be for David. There are rules and norms of conduct, even in wartime. And respecting all combatants, even those on the opposite side, is one of those rules. It is especially important for the president of the United States to observe and model these norms. And yet this is another norm that Donald J. Trump has blithely shattered.