President Donald Trump celebrated Memorial Day on Monday in the most Trumpian way possible, giving himself a pat on the back. In a tweet Monday morning, the commander in chief said servicemembers who were killed in action would be “very happy” with the way the country is going under his leadership. And as if that weren’t enough he wished a “happy” holiday when Memorial Day is usually thought of as a time to grieve and remember the fallen. “Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!” he tweeted at 8:58 a.m.
It didn’t take long for the backlash as many expressed their shock that even Trump could go as far as to claim the endorsement of dead veterans. “This is the most inappropriate #MemorialDay comment that a @POTUS has ever made. Self-promotion on a day to remember the fallen, and wishing those remembering their deceased loved ones a ‘happy’ holiday is appalling. #CadetBoneSpurs,” tweeted the progressive veterans political group Vote Vets. The hashtag refers to what Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in combat, called Trump, who got several Vietnam War deferments, including one for bone spurs.
Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and National Security Agency, reacted with three letters: “OMG.”
Retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Obama administration wrote a pointed reply to Trump without ever mentioning him: “This day, of all days of the year, should not be about any one of us. No matter how prestigious or powerful, no matter how successful we perceive ourselves to be.”
The Atlantic’s David Frum called Trump’s tweet “the grossest, most inappropriate, most self-flattering Memorial Day message in the history of the US presidency.”
“He should be ashamed,” Col. Morris Davis wrote on Twitter, “but shame requires a conscience.”
Less than an hour after Trump sent his Memorial Day tweet he was back to his regular live-tweeting of Fox News and his attacks on the Justice Department. He sent out three tweets in close succession that quoted what someone on Fox News was saying about what he has billed as “spygate.”
And then he was back to Memorial Day a few hours later, with a markedly different tone as he posted three tweets with excerpts from his tribute at Arlington National Cemetery. He also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Many were quick to point to a tweet by former president Barack Obama on the right way to honor Memorial Day. “We can never truly repay the debt we owe our fallen heroes,” Obama wrote. “But we can remember them, honor their sacrifice, and affirm in our own lives those enduring ideals of justice, equality, and opportunity for which generations of Americans have given that last full measure of devotion.”