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Press: Trump gives military middle finger salute

The Hill logo The Hill 9/8/2020 Bill Press, Opinion Contributor
Donald Trump holding a sign: Press: Trump gives military middle finger salute © Getty Images Press: Trump gives military middle finger salute

Since he floated down that golden escalator in June 2015, Donald Trump has said a lot of outrageous things. In fact, almost daily, if not hourly. But nothing as outrageous, shocking, or dangerous as what he's reported to have said by Atlantic magazine.

In November 2018, on a trip to Paris to attend a ceremony marking the end of World War I, Trump canceled a planned visit to the nearby Aisne-Marne American cemetery. At the time, the White House blamed the weather. But, based on four anonymous sources involved in the decision, Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic's editor-in-chief, now reports that Trump skipped the event because he was afraid the rain would muss up his hair (and leave orange dye dripping down his neck?).

Not only that, according to Goldberg's sources, Trump questioned why he should honor those American troops in the first place. "Why should I go to that cemetery?" he reportedly said. "It's filled with losers." On the same trip, according to the Atlantic, he referred to soldiers slain in combat at Belleau Wood as "suckers" for getting killed.

With that report, the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan. Recognizing the danger to Trump's reelection chances, the White House went into full-time defense. Trump accused the Atlantic of making it up. Cabinet members and White House staffers were rushed out to deny ever hearing Trump utter anything but words of praise for the military.

Admittedly, it's hard to imagine any American president, Republican or Democrat, calling our soldiers, especially those killed in battle, "losers" or "suckers." Still don't believe it? Let me give you 10 reasons why you should.

One, Trump ducked military service in Vietnam by getting five deferments, including one of them for "temporary" bone spurs - based on a diagnosis written by a New York podiatrist, according to his daughters, as a favor to Trump's father. Two, this is the same Donald Trump who bragged to radio host Howard Stern in 1997 that his "personal Vietnam" was dating in the '90s without getting STDs.

Three, New York businessman Donald Trump fought repeatedly to ban disabled vets from selling goods on Fifth Avenue. "Whether they are veterans or not," he wrote in a 2004 letter to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "they should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street." Four, according to his niece Mary Trump, when Donald Jr. told his father he was considering joining the military, Trump said he would disown him.

Five, as candidate for president, Trump spent a week disparaging Gold Star parents of Army Capt. Humayun Kahn, after his father spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Six, he also insisted that John McCain was no "war hero" because he was captured and later, as president, resisted honoring McCain's death. "We're not going to support that loser's funeral," he reportedly told his staff.

Seven, he told the widow of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson "he knew what he signed up for." Eight, in 2017, according to the Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, he told top generals at the Pentagon: "I wouldn't go to war with you people. You're a bunch of dopes and babies." Nine, he called four-star General and former Defense Secretary James Mattis "not tough enough" and "overrated." Ten, when our intelligence agencies reported that Russia was paying Taliban terrorists a bounty to kill American soldiers, Donald Trump did - absolutely nothing.

Given that history, no wonder not one military leader has stood up to deny the Atlantic's report. They know the truth. Donald Trump's been bad-mouthing the military all his life.

Press is host of "The Bill Press Pod." He is author of "From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire."

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