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Former Washington Journalist
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The new report published by The Atlantic that Donald Trump’s denigrated US military veterans has brought out full denials and reprisals from Trump and his administration. But the reporting behind the piece has been defended in equally strong terms.
The article by Editor in Chief Jeffrey Goldberg has caused a pre-election firestorm for Trump, for clearly stating that Trump has said that those who have died for their country are “suckers” and “losers.”
Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, was quick to speak out as his late son, Beau, served in the Reserves in Iraq.
“I’m going to try to be measured in my response. If it’s true and based on the things he said I believe the article is true, I’d ask you the rhetorical question, ‘How do you feel? How would you feel if you had a kid in Afghanistan right now? How would you feel if you lost a son, daughter, husband, wife? How would you feel for real?'” the former vice president said. “I know it’s not your job to express that feeling, but you know. You know in your heart, you know in your gut, it’s deplorable. It’s deplorable.”
Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a one-time candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said that what was reported fits an established pattern of behavior by Trump.
“My immediate reaction is not something that I can say on television. I think that right now servicemembers, veterans, their families are furious, not just because what he said. But I guess the other thing I keep thinking of is where he said that. Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery is where the most recent American war dead lie, including people who were there when I was serving in Afghanistan a few years ago,” said Buttigieg, himself a Navy veteran from Afghanistan. “It’s a place I go to from time to time to pay my respect. Any cemetery, whether it’s abroad or whether it’s Arlington, is a place where Americans go to honor those who did everything for this country.
“And this president seems incapable of grasping what it means to sacrifice. As a matter of fact, he actually uncharacteristically said something that’s true when he said I don’t get it. He clearly doesn’t,” Buttigieg added. “This is a pattern of behavior that goes all the way back to when it was his turn to serve. He got out of it. And so I think a lot of us who served are processing the emotions of being, on one hand, shocked, and on the other hand, not surprised.”
Among those pushing back against the piece, calling the charges false was not only Trump himself, but his national security adviser, Robert O’Brien.
Journalist Goldberg stood by his reporting and fact-checking, however.
“They don’t want to be inundated with angry tweets and all the rest,” he said of his use of unnamed sources. “And we push hard, and that’s why you have to sort of do this reporting with even more belt-and-suspenders approach. You know, dotted i’s and crossed t’s and find multiple sources for it.”
But when it comes down to it, Trump’s behavior as reported in the piece shouldn’t be shocking given what is known of the man, political analyst John Heilemann said in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe host, Joe Scarborough.
“Because I don’t really think you, Joe, or I or others who have a dark view of how Donald Trump thinks about the world and how he thinks about service and selflessness and the profit motive, none of this is actually shocking,” he said. “What’s most shocking is that he said it to so many people in so many circumstances that he left so many bread crumbs around. And now the question becomes, in his defense, does he manage to provoke some of these people, these esteemed military leaders, who I was going to say at the start I think they owe us in some ways stepping out and putting it on the record, because if these stories are true, and we believe they all are, he’s unfit for office.
“So if he’s unfit for office and unfit to lead, unfit to be commander in chief, unfit to lead the military, these people have a an obligation, a moral obligation at this point to step forward and say these things,” Heilemann added. “But Trump, you are right, right now is, in the way he’s defending himself, risking forcing them to do something they have tried to avoid doing. And I think, you know, as we stare down the 60 days between now and Election Day, this is one of the great suspenseful dramas, how many of those people who saw it firsthand decide that they feel, because of their conscious or the way Trump is behaving, that they have to step forward and say, ‘Here is the whole story from an eyewitness point of view?'”
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