Tuesday, July 21, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said exactly why he thinks keeping Confederate names on military bases is more important than paying the soldiers stationed on them.

Today, Trump released a statement threatening to veto this year's National Defense Authorization Act, the main funding bill for the United States military. It passed the House today by a wide margin and with broad bipartisan support.

The issue wasn't the funding level or the specific line items, which Trump admitted he was satisfied with. Instead, the main issue was a provision that would have required the renaming of military installations named after officers who fought against the United States for the Confederacy.

Renaming Certain Military Installations and Other Defense Property (Section 2829). The Administration strongly objects to section 2829 of the bill, which would require renaming of any military installation or defense property named after any person who served in the political or military leadership of any armed rebellion against the United States. Over the years, these locations have taken on significance to the American story and those who have helped write it that far transcends their namesakes. The Administration respects the legacy of the millions of American servicemen and women who have served with honor at these military bases, and who from these locations have fought and died in two World Wars, Vietnam, the War on Terror, and other conflicts. Further, the drive to rename will not stop at the limits written into section 2829. Section 2829 is part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the Nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct. Beyond section 2829, loud voices in America are also demanding the destruction or renaming of monuments and memorials to former Presidents, including the our first President, George Washington; the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson; and the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. President Trump has been clear in his opposition to politically motivated attempts like this to rewrite history and to displace the enduring legacy of the American Revolution with a new left wing cultural revolution. 

Of course, renaming bases would not actually erase the Civil War from American history, or any of the military successes that have happened since. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln are not affected by the bill, as they did not take up arms against the United States. And while "loud voices" may say things Trump doesn't like, freedom of speech is not generally considered a threat to the United States military.

Trump also specifically objected to providing a basic needs allowance—money for food and uniforms—to low-income servicemembers because, by his reckoning, "military members are well-compensated."

A typical enlisted member with three years of service will be at the E-4 pay grade and make about $28,000. At lower grades, servicemembers are below the federal poverty line for a family of four. Many military families are on public food assistance because they cannot afford groceries.

The bill Trump is threatening to veto to protect Confederate naming rights is what funds military salaries.

Why is this a problem?

  • The national defense of the United States is more important than an election year culture war issue.
  • Any president who thinks a salary starting at $20,000 in the year 2020 is a lot of money is dangerously out of touch.