xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Blubaugh: Whether voters believe Trump or sources depends on their previous view of Trump | COMMENTARY

For the most part, Donald Trump can say anything he wants about various groups of people without fear of how it might impact the election. That’s because he mostly talks negatively about groups that weren’t going to vote for him anyway.

Veterans, active military and their families don’t fall into that category, however.

Advertisement

Is it possible the Sept. 3 article in The Atlantic, in which anonymous sources said Trump called members of the military, particularly those captured or killed, “losers” and “suckers" and that the president, who did not serve, simply can’t grasp the concept of sacrifice will hurt him at the ballot box? Trump has denied saying any of it.

There are more than 18 million veterans, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, and more than 2 million active duty military, reserve or national guard in this country. They skew Republican and they usually vote in large numbers.

Advertisement
Advertisement

In 2016, Trump got somewhere around 60% of the vote from this demographic. But the comments in this article were damning and widely reported, the reporting confirmed by myriad news organizations, from the Associated Press to Fox News. So will the defamatory comments influence veterans — not to mention husbands and wives, sons and daughters and grandchildren of veterans — and military members? Enough to flip a swing state?

First off, do voters believe Trump said what is attributed to him in the article? That it is filled with anonymous sources is problematic for many, but whether you believe the story likely has more to do with how you already felt about Trump than your position on anonymous sources.

Those who despise Trump probably never considered for a moment that anything in the article wasn’t true, accepting it as gospel the moment they heard about it, maybe quoting it and recommending it without even bothering to read it.

Those who believe in all things Trump think anything negative about him is simply fake news. (Online trolls, er, commenters are even posting "#fakenews” on stories about Trump’s coronavirus comments — even though audio of Trump is provided.) Of course, the same people railing right now against the media and anonymous sourcing were lapping up New York Times reports, citing anonymous sources, about Hillary Clinton’s emails five years ago.

Advertisement

Here’s the deal, The Atlantic and Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor who wrote the piece, are highly respected. They didn’t make up these sources. The far more interesting question is, how reliable are the sources?

When the source is described as a senior staffer or a four-star general, that lends some credibility. When the source is described as someone with direct knowledge of the president’s view, well, couldn’t that be anyone who follows Trump on Twitter?

In addition to not being able judge the sources' credibility, readers also have no idea about possible agendas. Does the source have an ax to grind? A motive to lie? You don’t even have to enter the realm of complicated conspiracy theories to imagine a few well-placed current or former military members getting together over drinks and cigars and agreeing to find an outlet to make Trump look bad.

Still, the thing about the quotes attributed to Trump in the Atlantic article is that they are 100% plausible. Were these comments that different from what he has said in the past, on the record and into a microphone, about John McCain or a certain Gold Star family? And the article does contain verifiable facts about Trump calling off a visit to a French cemetery and overstating the number of times he has received the bodies of fallen soldiers.

That could be viewed as pretty compelling evidence that everything in the story is absolutely correct.

Or not. Again, it comes down to whether you were predisposed to believe the retelling of Trump’s insults or Trump’s denial of the story.

At this point, it seems like military households fall into the latter category, and the article will not damage Trump. According to Forbes, based on polling by Morning Consult, 52% of voters who are, or live with, a veteran or active-duty service member support Trump, as compared with 42% for Joe Biden.

There was no polling on whether they would still support Trump if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot somebody.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement