President Trump’s disdain for members of the military who were wounded or killed in action has been public knowledge since the beginning of his career in politics, when he insulted John McCain — “I like people that weren’t captured” — and feuded with the parents of the late Humayun Khan during his first campaign. But a new report details the depth of the president’s contempt for American casualties.
According to The Atlantic, when the commander-in-chief skipped a traditional trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside of Paris in 2018, his public excuse for doing so — that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” in the rain — wasn’t a perfect truth:
Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. But Trump, on that same trip, asked aides, “Who were the good guys in this war?” He also said that he didn’t understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies.
The report also elaborated on some of the president’s usual targets. Following McCain’s death in August 2018, Trump reportedly told his senior staff that “we’re not going to support that loser’s funeral.” Upon seeing flags lowered to half-mast, he asked, “What the fuck are we doing that for?” President George H.W. Bush, meanwhile, was a “loser” for being shot down as a pilot during World War II. While the president denied the report’s contents on Thursday and claimed that he never called called McCain a loser, he did so in public in 2015.
Shortly after The Atlantic published its indictment of the commander-in-chief, its details were confirmed by the Associated Press:
While the president has been obsessed with the pageantry of the U.S. military, he has not extended that interest to wounded veterans. During the planning stage for a military parade in 2018, Trump asked staffers not to involve veterans who are amputees, reportedly saying, “Nobody wants to see that.”
Top military brass have long been frustrated with Trump’s record as commander-in-chief, from his failure to respond to Russian bounties on U.S. forces to his deployment of troops as campaign props and his tendency to craft his foreign policy in real time on Twitter. Now, according to a Military Times poll released earlier this week, that vexation is growing in the ranks: 49.9 percent of active-duty troops had an unfavorable view of the president (compared to 38 percent who view him favorably). If the election were held today, 41 percent of those polled would vote for Joe Biden and 37 percent would vote to reelection President Trump.