Labour Day weekend is on our doorstep as the last marker of the summer arrives. Once this weekend is done, summer is effectively over, and we then move into the usual things that come with the Fall. Schools returning and our politics coming out of a few quiet weeks will be things that we’ll see that we would normally expect.
But this year this period will also mark what effectively is the start of the 2020 Presidential election in the United States. With the conventions (virtual as they were) now in the rear view and voting actually starting today in North Carolina, the phony war period of this election is now over. Of course in this age of the permanent campaign it’s hard to tell when it all begins and ends (or if it ends at all), but still this is the time when it all starts to get real and the minds of voters truly start to turn to the decisions before them.
Given the tumult that we have seen over the Trump Presidency to date, the stakes couldn’t be much higher. But even with the steady flow of awful stories and comments from Donald Trump and his administration, there are still some that come out that manage to shock. Last night brought another one of those from The Atlantic and wow, it really speaks for itself:
It’s hard to know where to begin with that story once the blood pressure comes down after reading it, but here is my best attempt. It’s honestly not shocking to hear that Donald Trump made ignorant and selfish comments about others who make self-sacrifice for the benefit of the country and not their own direct bottom lines. It’s not shocking that he would see soldiers that died in service as “losers”, mostly because he already told us he felt that way about former Senator and Vietnam prisoner of war John McCain. Heck he did it in public live on TV:
Of course it’s fitting that Trump denies that he called Trump a “loser”, despite the fact that there’s video of him saying it while he smirked and that he doubled down on those sentiments many times. This is all part of the Trump character, or lack thereof. He doesn’t hesitate to make disparaging comments about others who he deems as an opponent or insufficiently loyal to him, but when called on it when it blows up in his face, he doesn’t have the courage to admit what he did. He’s the prime example of the worst school yard bully, which is a terrible quality in a head of state.
Yet here we are, with the American head of state asking “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” We find ourselves in a reality when the sitting American President, the same one who is known as President Bone Spurs for his own refusal to serve in the military and his attempts to duck the Vietnam draft, calling “the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.” We are in a world where the leader of the Free World is so ignorant of history that he actually had to ask “Who were the good guys?” in World War One, before going onto state that he had no idea why the US would be on the side of the Allies.
All of those quotes are damning yet given Trump as he has shown himself to be, they’re not shocking on their face. If anything, they confirm what we already knew about him. But to see those words is just jarring, yet amazingly those weren’t the worst to come in the story. The details about Trump’s 2017 visit to Arlington National Cemetery with John Kelly, his cabinet member who later became his Chief of Staff, still managed to take this to another level of ghoulishness. They were visiting the grave of Kelly’s late son Robert, a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps who was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan at the age of 29. I can’t think of a much more solemn moment you can find yourself in, visiting the final resting place of a soldier who gave their life in service of their country, with his father. To any caring person, this would be a moment when you would find the empathy to handle this situation. Yet this is Donald Trump we are talking about, and in that moment, he reportedly turned directly to his Kelly and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Jaw, on the floor.
Again, I’m not surprised to hear that Trump was so selfish, so vapid and so uncaring because he’s shown that time and again that is who he is. But still it’s one thing to know that’s who they are, it’s another thing all together to see those words and the fact that he actually said those things. This guy is so emotionally stunted that he couldn’t bring himself to keep those thoughts to himself. Yet there he was, doing all this, thinking only of himself over and over again.
The sad part of this whole episode is that it likely won’t matter in the outcome of the election in November. Because of how toxic things are stateside right now, this just confirms what so many who oppose Trump already know while those who back him won’t likely change their minds over this. If anything, they will believe Trump’s easily debunked denials and get further behind him while he wraps himself in the same flag that he denigrates.
In any normal time, just one of those ugly quotes would sink the presidency of whoever uttered them. Yet today we see about half a dozen in a single story, and they are unlikely to move the needle any further. That’s just how toxic things have gotten, and they don’t look like they will get any better in the months to come. A few years ago I would have hoped that a story like this would have shaken the public awake from this dream, would have made people realize what they were dealing with and would have changed the channel. But after four years of this crap, it’s clear that as despicable, disturbing and disrespectful as that story is, it won’t change things. Ironically, that lack of reaction or willingness from those within his own party to hold him to account just confirms Trump’s view around those words, words he likely uses to describe those same party members. In doing so, it shows that there may be some “suckers” in all of this, but they aren’t the ones who Trump refused to honour the sacrifices of; they are the ones who stay silent and give Trump the agency he needs to keep uttering such crap with no consequences. It’s never too late to change that, but at this point, that’s not likely to happen.