Trump uses the military as his personal political tool. That’s the opposite of respect he claims to have.

President Trump ordered troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in advance of a migrant caravan’s arrival.
President Trump ordered troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in advance of a migrant caravan’s arrival. Getty Images

To hear President Trump tell it, a greater friend to the military and veterans has never sat in the Oval Office. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, he said, “Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. … I just got them new equipment. They have stuff that was so old that the grandfathers used to fly it.”

But despite his words, Trump doesn’t seem to respect or honor those who serve — unless, of course, they outspokenly support him. Nor does he appear to respect, or even understand, the role of the military.

A commander-in-chief who understood that role, after all, wouldn’t send thousands of troops to the southern border at a cost of hundreds of millions in a transparently political pre-election stunt as part of his effort to whip up fear and hysteria about a migrant caravan. He called it a threat to national security before the election, but the caravan mysteriously disappeared from his radar once votes were cast.

Confirmation that this was nothing more than a political stunt came with the announcement that troops sent to the border are starting to come home — even as some parts of the caravan are just beginning to approach the border.

Then there is the way Trump responds to critics who used to serve in the military, from his infamous mocking of Sen. John McCain’s POW status to his recent slam against retired Adm. William McRaven for not getting Osama bin Laden more quickly — which was an abominable insult that only highlighted Trump’s ignorance of the interaction between the military and intelligence agencies.

On a more fundamental level, there is the question of how Trump’s administration is actually treating the military and veterans. Last year, Trump signed the Forever GI Bill, which greatly expanded educational benefits for vets. His Department of Veterans Affairs, however, has badly botched the implementation of the bill, and many veterans have gone months without receiving the housing checks they were promised and have been counting on. Some vets say they may become homeless as a result.

Trump doesn’t even manage the easy shows of respect. He didn’t visit Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day, a rainy Monday, just days after missing a ceremony in France to honor the sacrifice of soldiers in World War I because of the rain. And, two years into his first term, his failure to visit troops on active duty is becoming increasingly noticeable.

Worse, as David French put it in a recent National Review article, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that his support of the troops is conditional: “He loves the troops who love him. He turns on the troops who turn on him. Cross him, and all bets are off.”

Respect for the military is ingrained. Either you have it, or you don’t. It is certainly not conditional.

Trump wants the support and respect of the troops. But over and over again, he demonstrates that he cannot unequivocally return that support and respect. He will not hesitate to attack the military or those who have served in order to score political points.

For a commander-in-chief, that is utterly shameful.

Help veterans in debt

“The War Within” is a documentary video series produced by McClatchy journalists and running on Facebook Watch. The series chronicles the lives of three Afghanistan war veterans helping their brothers and sisters in arms cope with the myriad effects of war, while grappling with the struggles of reintegration themselves.

McClatchy has launched a campaign to help military families by removing one specific burden: medical debt.

In 2016, more than half a million veterans were uninsured, according to the Census Bureau. Even those with VA or other benefits too often face bills they can’t pay. Working in partnership with RIP Medical Debt, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that buys and forgives such debt, McClatchy is aiming to abolish millions in military medical debt. The organization buys large portfolios of debt at a discount, so your donation goes a long way: A $100 contribution eliminates $10,000 in such debt.

As The War Within Initiative honors their determination, courage and sacrifice, please consider supporting military families. Watch the series here and donate at mcclatchy.com/warwithin