Thursday, November 28, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lied to American troops stationed overseas.

Trump made his first-ever visit to Afghanistan, three years into his presidency, for the Thanksgiving holiday. While there, he spoke to servicemembers. His speech was heavy on self-pity: he complained repeatedly about unnamed people who, supposedly, had criticized him for his pro-military stance. 

But mostly, Trump seemed concerned with painting a picture of himself as the savior of a weak American military. He repeatedly claimed he'd inherited an underfunded military, and personally restored it:

You know, when I took office -- if you can believe it, almost three years ago -- we were very depleted. Our military was depleted, in terms of equipment. You see, right? They were all shaking their heads. That's right. We have all those brand-new planes and brand-new helicopters and brand-new ships being built now. Brand-new, incredible submarines. Probably the most powerful submarines -- probably the most powerful weapon in the world, is what we're building, in the form of submarines. Nobody's -- nothing is even close.

In reality, Trump inherited a military that was bigger than the next seven biggest combined, and which accounted for more than a third of the world's military spending. Defense spending has not measurably increased under Trump, because Congress—not the president—sets the military's budget.

Trump returned to the theme at the end of his remarks with a "sir" story—a verbal tic of Trump's where someone—always unnamed—addresses him as "sir" and then lavishes praises him:

When I’m greeted -- and I’m often greeted -- by leaders of the world, they start off by saying two things: “Congratulations on what you’ve done with your country, from an economic standpoint. We’ve never seen anything like it.” And, “Sir, congratulations on rebuilding your military.”

Trump may genuinely believe that this is how "leaders of the world" have greeted him. But as a matter of actual numerical facts, the economy is no stronger under Trump, either.

Why should this bother me?

  • It's wrong to take credit for things you didn't do.
  • The United States military isn't supposed to be a political prop.