Donald Trump's proclamation of "National POW/MIA Recognition Day" rings hollow, given how he has treated captured veterans in the past.
Since taking office, Donald Trump has issued statements on a number of national and international days of recognition for various groups. In principle that should be a good thing, but the problem is that Trump often does so with no consideration for the optics.
In April, for instance, Trump’s proclamation of “World Autism Awareness Day” put more emphasis on the need for a “cure” than public accommodations, contradicting both psychologists and autistic self-advocacy groups, who do not consider the condition to be an illness.
This week, Trump fell into another trap when he honored “National POW/MIA Recognition Day,” a holiday first declared by an act of Congress in 1998:
As Commander in Chief, it is my solemn duty to keep all Americans safe. I will never forget our heroes held prisoner or who have gone missing in action while serving their country. Today, we recognize not just the tremendous sacrifices of our service members, but also those of their families who still seek answers. We are steadfastly committed to bringing solace to those who wait for the fullest possible accounting of their loved ones.
This is an honorable-sounding sentiment, and similar to President Barack Obama’s proclamation last year. But it lacks moral authority, given the way Trump has treated POWs in the past.
During the campaign, Trump famously dismissed Sen. John McCain’s military service by saying “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
McCain spent five and a half years interned in the “Hanoi Hilton” torture facility after his aircraft crashed in enemy territory during the Vietnam War. Despite being beaten until his ribs and arm broke, and thrown into solitary confinement for two years, McCain refused to give his interrogators any information. To this day, he is incapable of lifting his arms above his head.
Trump received multiple student and medical deferments from the Vietnam draft, but claims he understands the struggle of Vietnam soldiers because it was exactly like his personal struggle to avoid getting venereal diseases from all the sex he was having in the ’90s.
There is an expectation that as president, Trump will proclaim National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and carry it out just as his predecessors did. But he has never apologized for his derogatory remarks to McCain or any other veterans, or the families of fallen military, whom he has often insulted.
Until he does, any proclamation of respect for those who served rings utterly hollow.