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What do Baltimore, fallen service members and POWs have in common? Trump hates them | COMMENTARY

President Donald Trump attends the American Commemoration Ceremony at Suresnes American Cemetery in Suresnes, France, Nov. 11, 2018. File.
President Donald Trump attends the American Commemoration Ceremony at Suresnes American Cemetery in Suresnes, France, Nov. 11, 2018. File. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

On Sunday, the 45th president of the United States posted on social media that Baltimore, the city that saved a young republic and inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is the “WORST IN THE NATION.” Had it been almost anyone else doing the tweeting, we’d be appalled. But given recent reports of Mr. Trump’s attacks on some of the nation’s more heroic individuals and institutions, to make this president’s enemies’ list is rather a badge of honor. Baltimore should take pride in the defamation.

Last week, some clarity on this issue could be found in the pages of The Atlantic, which published a detailed article recalling how President Trump had called Americans who died in battle “losers” and “suckers” during a trip to France in 2018. The president denied the claims in the anonymously sourced piece, but reporters and fact-checkers working furiously since then have largely reinforced its conclusions — and that includes Fox News, much to the president’s chagrin. Add to that the deafening silence of people like former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the retired four-star Marine Corps general who lost a son in Afghanistan and surely knows better than anyone what the president said or didn’t say during that trip, and the president’s denials are unconvincing.

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President Trump has routinely demeaned those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces with distinction. Most famously, he called the late Sen. John McCain a “loser” and denounced a description of the senator, who spent years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, as a war hero. “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Mr. Trump told a group of Iowa conservatives in 2015. The president once tweeted that General Kelly was “over his head” and “went out with a whimper” from his chief of staff position. And Mr. Trump criticized former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who served as a general in the Marine Corps, the “world’s most overrated general.”

President Trump’s willingness to denigrate those who fought for our country, some of whom gave their lives in the process, is hardly a surprise coming from someone who went to considerable lengths to avoid service during the Vietnam War and sees life generally through the lens of self-serving financial deals. “What was in it for them?” That’s what the president said, according to The Atlantic, while standing at the Arlington National Cemetery grave of General Kelly’s son, Robert Kelly, in 2017. No amount of shout-outs to the military or veterans at Trump rallies can disguise such an obvious lack of empathy. Meanwhile, all those “best people” Mr. Trump hires to work in his administration inevitably become objects of ridicule when they leave his service. John Bolton, H.R. McMaster, Anthony Scaramucci, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, the list goes on and on.

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The most recent mention of Baltimore by Mr. Trump was part of an apparent effort to boost the candidacy of Kimberly Klacik, the long-shot GOP nominee in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. Ms. Klacik is facing incumbent Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Democrat who bested her by a 3-to-1 margin earlier this year for the seat once held by Elijah Cummings. Mr. Trump promises that if she is elected “Baltimore will turn around, and I will help. Crime will go way down, money and jobs will pour in.” This raises two questions. First, why is the president of the United States waiting to turn this or any other U.S. city around based on which member of Congress represents a district? And second, why isn’t he throwing in a cure for baldness or a miracle weight-loss drug with it? Surely, the pitch is about the same. And about as believable.

A year ago, President Trump’s disparaging comments about Baltimore being rat infested seemed like fighting words. Last month, his promotion of Ms. Klacik’s similar characterizations of the city looked like part of his campaign strategy to scare white suburbanites about “Democrat-run cities.” Today, his tweets just seem pathetic. Baltimore is in good company when it comes to this president’s disdain, including those who lost their lives in World War I and now reside at Aisne-Marne. As the late Congressman Cummings would say, “We are better than this.”

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels, and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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