Donald Trump appeared on Monday morning at an event hosted by the Retired American Warriors PAC in Herndon, Virginia. Above, you can see a response to a question about military suicides in which Trump’s attempt to pander to the crowd by complimenting them for being “strong” and able to “handle” the trauma of war goes badly awry. The transcript of the relevant portion:
When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat, they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it. And they see horror stories, they see events that you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it, and we need a mental health help and medical and … it’s one of the things that I think is least addressed, and it’s one of the the things I hear the most about when I go around and talk to the veterans. So we’re going to have a very, very robust level of performance having to do with mental health. We are losing so many great people that could be taken care of if they had proper care.
(As it happens, a 2013 study found that more than half of the service members who had died by suicide in recent years had not been deployed.)
To his credit—and this is perhaps the first time I have written those words—Trump does seem to evince concern for traumatized veterans. And yet, what we have here is someone who avoided serving in the military by, among other things, claiming to have medically disqualifying bone spurs in his foot, and who mocked former POW John McCain for having been captured after his plane was shot down in Vietnam, asserting that some individuals who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan lack the mental strength to “handle” the experience.