I do not much care what trait — envy, materialism, cowardice — explains Trump’s apparent disdain for military heroes who, unlike Trump (who got out of serving in Vietnam with five deferments), sacrificed their bodies and in many cases their lives for their country. What we know is that Trump’s character is deeply deformed, and his narcissism knows no bounds. This report is anything but shocking. However, we are reminded about something equally, if not more, disturbing than the outbursts of an unfit president.
Why did the senior officials — who still refuse to go on record — not quit and tell their stories? Why did they not come forward with their accounts even during impeachment, when the president’s lack of loyalty to the country and betrayal of national security were at issue? We can only guess that the explanation is some mixture of cowardly careerism or, maybe, self-delusion that without them the country would be (more) endangered. Instead, they stayed, enabled him, defended him and kept critical information from their fellow Americans.
The silence of these senior aides is really no different from the silence of virtually all elected Republicans. They, along with intellectually corrupt right-wing pundits and media outlets, have denied, deflected, ignored or excused almost everything that has come out of Trump’s mouth. The so-called Republican hawks — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have stuck with him through thick and thin. They did not condemn him when he first slandered POWs, nor excoriate him for refusing to address the poisoning of yet another political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They have not denounced his unwillingness to raise with Putin the Russian bounties on our troops. They did not disown him for commuting the sentences of war criminals; they did not rebuke him for slandering troops by accusing them of stealing money in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems there is no insult, lie or exaggeration about our troops too great to prompt these Republicans to declare Trump unfit to serve as commander in chief.
One legacy of the Trump era is to discredit virtually all elected Republicans and the sycophantic right-wing media figures whose silence (or even worse, their cheerleading) has made them complicit in Trump’s defilement of his office and weakening of the United States’ image around the globe. They put party and personal careerism above country, and in doing so earn the contempt of their compatriots.