“Of course he thinks about war selfishly. He thinks of it as a transactional cost instead of in human lives and American blood spilled, because that’s how he’s viewed his whole life. He doesn’t understand other people’s bravery and courage because he’s never had any of his own.”
The press call Friday represented the Biden campaign’s latest effort to seize upon the damaging news stories which surfaced Thursday night, when The Atlantic reported that Trump canceled a planned 2018 visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris because the rainy weather would dishevel his hair and the burial ground was “filled with losers.”
Trump and administration officials as high-ranking as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have forcefully denied the reports in recent hours. Shortly after the conclusion of the Biden campaign’s press call Friday, the president again attacked The Atlantic from the Oval Office.
“It’s a fake story written by a magazine that was probably not going to be around much longer,” Trump told reporters. “But it was a totally fake story, and that was confirmed by many people who were actually there. It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things — and especially to me, because I’ve done more for the military than almost anybody else.”
The Atlantic’s account was subsequently corroborated in part by news outlets including The Associated Press and The Washington Post, which reported other explosive allegations about the president’s perception of the nation’s military.
For example, Trump was mystified as to why the U.S. government placed value on finding soldiers who were missing in action because he believed “they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got,” according to the Post.
On Friday, Duckworth homed in on another detail from The Atlantic’s report: the president’s request during a 2018 White House planning meeting for a military parade that the celebratory event not include wounded veterans such as amputees. “Nobody wants to see that,” Trump allegedly said.
Duckworth insisted that Trump’s remarks do not “diminish the sacrifices of wounded soldiers who gave up their limbs like I did for all Americans, including him.”
“The American people know that no one should be ashamed of a disability and that wounded warriors should be honored instead of hidden from view. I’d take my wheelchair and my titanium legs over Donald Trump’s supposed bone spurs any day,” she said, referring to the medical exemption that granted Trump a deferment from being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War.
Also featured on the Biden campaign call was Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004 and who has feuded with Trump since addressing the Democratic National Convention in 2016. On Friday, however, he leveled what appeared to be his most forceful and personal rebuke of the president yet.
“Words matter. The words we say are a window into our souls — of how we see the world and our place in it,” Khan said. “When Donald Trump calls anyone who places their life in service of others a ‘loser,’ we understand Trump’s soul. By his accounting, self-sacrifice does not make sense. Love does not make sense. According to Trump, the winners in life are those that put themselves before all and the losers are those that don’t. What kind of soul this man has.”
Khan went on to describe Trump’s life as a “testament to selfishness,” contending that the president is “incapable of understanding service, valor and courage. His soul cannot conceive of integrity and honor. And let me say very loudly and clearly so America can listen: His soul is that of a coward.”
Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, a Marine veteran and the final Biden surrogate to participate in Friday’s press call, was more reluctant to discuss Trump’s reported remarks, instead explaining the historical and symbolic significance of the Battle of Belleau Wood to the U.S. Marine Corps.
Many of the Marines killed in that battle are buried at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, which Trump declined to visit in 2018, and the three-week World War I conflict is widely regarded as “if not the most, certainly one of the most important battles in Marine Corps history,” according to the congressman.
“That battle and that burial ground deserve the utmost respect and veneration to any American,” Lamb said, but “for a president to pass up the opportunity to pay his respect at that site, it’s just a tragedy regardless of what was said or wasn’t said. We know that he was not there — that he did not take the time to go there, visit those Marines and honor people with his presence like he could have.”