Columnist John Sheirer: Why do Trump supporters ignore his disrespect for our military?

  • President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visit with members of the military at a dining hall at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018. AP PHOTO/Andrew Harnik

Published: 1/14/2019 8:55:21 AM

Back in 2010, one of my students approached me after the final class of the semester and asked if we could talk about something that was bothering him.

“Of course,” I replied.

“You’re a liberal, right?” he asked.

“I am,” I replied. My teaching focuses on helping students develop their own critical thinking skills rather than political indoctrination, and I try to model how critical thinking can lead to informed and reasonable viewpoints.

“Why do liberals hate the troops?” he asked with what seemed to be genuine curiosity.

“We don’t,” I said, gently, purposely masking my shock. “We just don’t want to see soldiers’ lives risked in ways that aren’t good for the country or the world.”

“That’s not what I read,” he replied. “I just saw online that Obama is cutting soldiers’ pay. How can he do that if he supports the troops?”

Always looking for “teachable moments,” I popped open my laptop and asked him to find the information. He directed me to a post on his uncle’s Facebook page and a claim that “Odumbo bin Laden” was cutting military pay for the first time in history.

“Remember when we talked about issues like respectful tone and fact-checking when we covered persuasion speeches in class?” I asked. “Does name-calling sound respectful? Did you fact-check this claim?”

“No,” he replied. “But this is Facebook. I thought that stuff was just for this class.”

“Being reasonable and factual is important in any kind of communication,” I said.

We spent about five minutes researching the subject and discovered that Obama had proposed a military pay increase, just as previous presidents had.

“Why did my uncle lie about this?” my student asked.

“I don’t think he meant to lie,” I said. “He just didn’t fact-check. But the people who gave your uncle this information are lying to push some kind of false agenda about how liberals hate soldiers.”

“This blows my mind,” he said.

“In a good way?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” he replied.

Nearly a decade has passed since that conversation. I haven’t seen or heard from that student since then, but I’ve often wondered if our brief fact-finding mission influenced the way he communicates about political issues.

For example, I’d love to know what he thinks about Donald Trump’s recent claims about military pay increases. Trump told our troops that he got them “one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received … You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years … Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent.”

Like so much of what Trump says, that’s an outright lie. And he told the “first time in 10 years” lie back in May 2018 to a group of military spouses and mothers. Someone must have told him that he was wrong then, but he repeated the lie anyway.

Republicans have always coddled Trump on military matters. Here’s a summary of the issues that Republicans have generally ignored about the president:

■Avoiding the Vietnam draft for suspect “heel spurs.”

■Claiming that not getting STDs while sleeping around was like going to Vietnam.

■Claiming that military prep school trained him more than actual soldiers.

■Attacking war hero John McCain.

■Repeatedly lying about his support for the Iraq War.

■Claiming that American soldiers stole millions of dollars during the Iraq War.

■Attacking Gold Star Parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan.

■Stigmatizing PTSD sufferers as soldiers who “can’t handle” their experiences.

■Claiming he donated to veterans organizations but only doing so after pressure from reporters.

■Saying he always wanted a Purple Heart.

■Approving a disastrous military raid in Yemen that killed a Navy Seal.

■Claiming that other presidents didn’t contact the relatives of fallen soldiers.

■Telling a fallen soldier’s pregnant widow that her husband, “knew what he signed up for.”

■Skipping a ceremony to honor WWI veterans during a trip to France because of rain.

■Attacking American military leaders who disagree with him.

■Sending thousands of troops to the border as a political stunt before the 2018 elections.

■Politicizing his Thanksgiving Day call to the troops.

■Pulling troops out of Syria against experts’ guidance.

Considering Trump’s terrible record, how do Republicans justify supporting a president who shows such hostility and disrespect toward our military? I’m guessing that many of them, like my student back in 2010, don’t fact-check Trump’s statements. Many simply dismiss responsible fact-checking of Trump’s lies as “fake news” from the so-called “liberal media.”

But no one can reasonably claim that Trump’s lies about military pay were just political spin or that Democrats tell equivalent lies. Trump lies constantly and egregiously, with The Washington Post documenting more than 7,600 lies during his time in office.

Trump’s Oval Office speech last week was full of yet more outlandish lies.

His supporters either don’t have the ability to know the truth or they don’t care. The fact that they ignore Trump’s military lies is a new low in hypocrisy.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent book is the satire, “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech” Find him at johnsheirer.com.



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