In recent weeks, Trump’s treatment of the military has been criticized repeatedly. On Veterans Day, the president didn’t leave the White House to visit nearby Arlington National Cemetery, which is customary. The previous week, Trump skipped a gravesite visit in France to commemorate the World War I centenary, although other world leaders attended. And Trump has sent troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to support border authorities in dealing with the “migrant caravan” of refugees seeking asylum — an exercise that will cost $220 million but the Pentagon views as needless and many called a political stunt to boost Republicans in the midterm elections.
As these stories surfaced, critics pointed out that Trump hasn’t yet visited U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. Asked why in a Fox News interview Sunday, Trump said, “I think you will see that happen. There are things that are being planned. We don’t want to talk about it because of security reasons and everything else.”
He has recently told advisers he’s ready to go, the Post reported. But what took so long? “He’s never been interested in going,” a former senior White House official said about Trump visiting combat troops, citing multiple conversations with the president. “He’s afraid of those situations. He’s afraid people want to kill him.”
Trump also doesn’t want to be associated with wars that he considers to be failures, the Post reported. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly excoriated Hillary Clinton for voting to approve the Iraq War as a senator — although at the time of the 2002 vote, Trump the civilian expressed support for it.
Despite the flurry of negative stories about his relationship with the military, Trump found time to court another this week. In the Fox News interview, Trump criticized the U.S. Special Operations soldier who led the raid that ended in the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Responding to an op-ed by retired Adm. William McRaven, which lamented Trump’s authoritarian and anti-democratic tendencies, Trump said that bin Laden should have been caught sooner. He also called McRaven a supporter of Hillary Clinton. McRaven said he didn’t support a candidate in 2016.
Eliot Cohen, a former George W. Bush administration official, has repeatedly criticized Trump for not visiting active troops. “The point is American servicemen and women are on the ground in these places,” said Cohen in an interview. “They are getting killed. I think any good leader would want to see something for themselves. And they would want to do something for the troops other than using them as props.”