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“I Like People That Weren’t Captured, OK?”: Trump Takes The Wrong Message To The Wrong Crowd In The Wrong Way

For those unfamiliar with the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally, the point of the annual gathering is to raise awareness of prisoners of war and American servicemen and women missing in action. If you tried to find the most out-of-place individual imaginable for this rally, you could do worse than pointing to a New York billionaire who avoided military service and who’s publicly mocked POWs, saying last year, “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

And yet, take a wild guess which high-profile speaker graced Rolling Thunder with his presence this holiday weekend?

Republican Donald Trump told a motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation’s military veterans, without backing up his allegation.

“Thousands of people are dying waiting in line to see a doctor. That is not going to happen anymore,” Trump told veterans gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the annual Rolling Thunder event, which brings thousands of motorcyclists to Washington each Memorial Day weekend.

The assertion that veterans often receive worse care than undocumented immigrants is demonstrably ridiculous, though that’s never stopped Trump before.

The presumptive Republican nominee was also apparently disappointed with the crowd size – organizers estimated about 5,000 people were in attendance – arguing that there were 600,000 people who wanted to hear his speech but weren’t allowed in.

Trump complained, “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington monument, right? Unfortunately, they don’t allow ‘em to come in,” without explaining who “they” are or where these 600,000 people were hiding.

Of course, the more Trump avoids King references when talking about his speeches, the better.

Regardless, think about the chutzpah it took for the Republican candidate to claim credibility of the subject of veterans in the first place.

Even if Trumps’ mockery of POWs wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s plan to privatize veterans’ care wasn’t enough to keep him away, and even if Trump’s avoiding military service during the Vietnam war wasn’t enough to keep him away, there’s also the fact that Trump and his campaign got caught lying about his financial support for veterans’ charities.

This happened, by the way, literally last week – just days ahead of his remarks to an audience committed to raising awareness about a group of veterans.

The GOP candidate might have been disappointed the crowd wasn’t larger, but Trump’s lucky those who were in attendance didn’t just laugh in his face.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, POW/MIA, Veterans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Let’s Not Be Misled”: In VA Scandal, Let’s Have Accountability For All — Including Congress

While Congress eagerly prepares its latest political stunt – a resolution to oust Gen. Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs Secretary – members might want to consider their own responsibility for the scandalous inadequacy of veterans’ health care. Unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki opposed the incompetent war plans of the Bush administration that left so many American service men and women grievously wounded. And unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki has done much to reduce the backlog of veterans seeking care, despite the congressional failure to provide sufficient funding.

Anyone paying attention knows by now that those secret waiting lists at VA facilities – which may have led to the premature deaths of scores of injured veterans – are a direct consequence of policy decisions made in the White House years before Barack Obama got there. The misguided invasion of Iraq, carried out with insufficient numbers of troops shielded by insufficient armor, led directly to thousands of new cases of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other physical and mental illnesses requiring speedy treatment.

A substantial portion of the estimated three-trillion-dollar price of that war is represented by the cost of decent care for veterans. But even as that war raged on, the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress repeatedly refused to appropriate sufficient funding for VA health care. This financial stinginess toward vets was consistent with Bush’s refusal to take any steps to pay for his expensive war (and to protect his skewed tax cuts instead). As Alec McGillis explained in The New Republic, legislators who voted for war while opposing expansion of the VA are hypocrites, particularly when they claim to care about veterans.  So are the Republican governors who claim to care about vets but refuse to expand Medicaid, which would provide coverage for more than 250,000 impoverished veterans.

Breaking down the voting record, year after year, the pattern along party lines is clear: Republicans regularly seek cuts in VA funding and oppose Democratic efforts to increase that funding – a pattern that extends back to the first years of the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and continues to this day. As recently as last February, Senate Republicans filibustered a Democratic bill that would have added $20 billion in VA funding over the next decade, which would have built at least 26 new VA health care facilities. The Republicans killed that bill because Democratic leaders refused to add an amendment on Iran sanctions – designed to scuttle the ongoing nuclear negotiations – and because they just don’t want to spend more money on vets. Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee, said the costs of the expansion bill would be covered by savings from the end of troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. But with cruel irony, according to The Washington Post, “Republicans indicated that they prefer to dedicate the savings toward deficit reduction” rather than improved services.

What those who have served should get is the kind of care that has made the VA among the most successful health systems in the world (for those who can access its services). Instead they will get political swaggering, as members of Congress seek to score points against President Obama by attacking Shinseki, and dogmatic opportunism, as right-wing ideologues insist the VA is just another big government program to cut or even abolish. The Republicans who are susceptible to such proposals should be very careful, lest they arouse the anger of the normally conservative American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, whose leaders react with anger and outrage to the idea of privatization. As American Legion commander Dan Dellinger said in congressional testimony last week, his organization overwhelmingly “finds that veterans are extremely satisfied with their health care team and medical providers.”

So let’s not be misled about the VA by Washington’s loudmouths and poseurs – the warmongers who never face up to the price of their enthusiasm in lives and treasure. When politicians demand accountability from their betters, including a war hero like Eric Shinseki, let’s remember that they should be held accountable, too.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, NationalMemo.com; Featured Post, The National Memo, May 23, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Veterans Administration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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