by The SATimes News Service
Washington: President Donald Trump was on the defensive over the weekend over what critics said was a “pattern” of disrespect towards the U.S. military following media reports that he had disparaged fallen veterans, the fallout from which could harm his campaign for re-election on Nov. 3.
Democratic and Republican opponents alike over the weekend seized on the reports – which said that Trump had called U.S. soldiers buried in Europe “losers” – to attack his record on the military on news shows and in political ads.
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a Republican, told ABC’s “This Week” that the remarks, if true, were “despicable.”
Hagel said the reports were “credible” because they were consistent with previous public remarks Trump had made denigrating military personnel, including former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis as well as the late U.S. Senator John McCain. “It will resonate” with the military, he added.
The furor over the Sept. 3 report in The Atlantic could undermine Trump’s re-election message that he would maintain “law and order,” and that he strongly supports U.S. military personnel and their families – a key Republican constituency, which largely backed Trump in 2016.
Trump’s rival in November, former Vice President Joe Biden, like Trump, did not serve in the military, but his late son Beau did a one-year tour in Iraq as a National Guard captain.
Biden sought to capitalize upon the uproar on Sunday by highlighting his own record of support for the armed forces with an advertisement aimed at areas in battleground states with large numbers of military personnel.
The Atlantic reported that Trump made the disparaging remarks after canceling a visit to an American cemetery during a November 2018 trip to France, an account the president denied on Thursday and on Sunday said was “disinformation.”
“They will say anything, like their recent lies about me and the Military, and hope that it sticks,” he tweeted, referring to the media and the Democratic Party.
The Atlantic has stood by its report, which cited four unnamed people with firsthand knowledge of the matter and which was later confirmed by several other media outlets.
Trump’s core voters have in the past forgiven him for derisive comments on McCain and other issues, but there are signs that support among military personnel for their commander-in-chief may be slipping.
A Military Times poll of more than 1,000 active-duty personnel taken late July to early August and published last week, before the latest reports, showed waning support for Trump and a slight preference for Biden.
Trump has repeatedly touted his administration’s military spending while also moving to pull troops out of conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, as well from allied countries such as Germany.
Top Trump administration officials, including U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, have rallied to Trump’s defense as the controversy has grown in recent days.