How Trump toys with veterans

 ·  Jon Soltz, NY Daily News   ·   Link to Article

Back in January, when he was still running scared from Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump bailed on a debate she was moderating, instead hosting what he billed as a fund-raiser for veterans — boasting immediately and repeatedly thereafter that that he had raised $6 million.

But for months, no one really knew how much money was given out to veterans groups. Investigative pieces by a number of news outlets found organizations that were promised checks were still waiting for the funds.

This week, veterans like me discovered that Trump was overselling his efforts by around $1.5 million, maybe more.

(Slightly chastened, the candidate posted an Instagram video on Tuesday claiming, “I raised almost $6 million, including putting up $1 million of my own money,” and adding that “I had no obligation to do anything.” That $1 million check was reportedly in the mail Tuesday, set to arrive by FedEx Wednesday morning.)

Trump claims that a lot of donors bailed on him — essentially saying the guy who mastered the “art of the deal” just couldn’t close the easiest sell of all time, donating to Americans who wore the uniform.

This continues a long pattern of the man saying one thing and doing another when it comes to veterans.

While Trump claims to have supported veterans through the years, when it came to supporting their right to make a living, he wanted them nowhere near his property.

After nearly 100 years during which our veterans have been allowed to make money by becoming street vendors, Trump declared that they were “downgrading” the area in front of the Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. In a 2004 letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Trump declared, “Whether they are veterans or not, they should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street.”

Thanks, Donald. Signed, The Veterans Downgrading Your Neighborhood.

Maybe Trump disrespects veterans because he never really understood what we sacrificed. He told a biographer that his time at a military-themed boarding school made him feel like “I always felt like I was in the military.” But when the time came to serve our nation in the real military, in Vietnam, Trump got four student deferments and a medical deferment for “bone spurs.”

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Infamously, on Howard Stern’s show, Trump wisecracked that sleeping around and trying to escape venereal disease were his “personal Vietnam,” adding, “I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

Then, most recently, he disparaged Sen. John McCain and other former prisoners of war, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Not person, singular. People, plural. Not John McCain, POW. POWs, plural.

Nor does Trump show an ounce of regret for having said that. This month, he said: “There are many people that like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up 7 points,” Trump told Don Imus.

For Trump, that’s always the bottom line: image and polls. Veterans and their sacrifice don’t deserve his respect, unless they can provide him with public relations cover. Then, he just loves veterans and cares about them so much. But, even then, he disrespects us by telling us he’s raised millions of dollars for us that he clearly hasn’t.

We should now presume that he is lying about how much he claims he has given to veterans over the years — and that that’s part of the reason he won’t release his tax returns.

After trying for weeks to get away with giving less to veterans than he bragged about, the big man is now playing catch-up. Good. But that won’t make up for his lies or his disrespect. Nor, I fear, will it make him think twice about having his mouth write checks that veterans can’t cash.

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