On the campaign trail, Donald Trump crowed, “I love those vets.” So as commander in chief, one would imagine Trump’s Twitter wars would steer clear of offending our nation’s finest — the soldiers and veterans who have served to protect the country.
But when those vets begin needling the president, he’s not keen to engage them, positively or otherwise. Trump’s inability to absorb, deflect, or even respond to criticism in a mature way has resulted in yet another public spat on Twitter — this time with VoteVets, which calls itself the largest progressive veterans group in America, and which Trump blocked on Twitter Tuesday morning.
That’s right. The commander in chief just blocked on Twitter a veterans advocacy organization that lobbies on behalf of progressive causes and boasts half a million military veterans and families as supporters.
The entire back and forth gives a bit more explanation. The organization was trying to get under Trump’s skin, and seems to have succeeded.
Will Fischer, VoteVets’ director of government relations, who served in the Iraq War as a Marine, sees this as part of the president’s inability to receive commentary from anyone who is not a supporter. “It’s not just being unresponsive to veterans,” he says, “but about being responsive to any voice of dissent whatsoever. When I was in the Marine Corps I learned there were 14 leadership traits, including tact, integrity, courage, decisiveness — the leadership required to lead women and men in theater of war and certainly in combat — and Donald Trump literally possesses zero of those leadership traits.”
The organization has never shied away from criticizing the White House. It’s known for producing cutting videos like this one, in which a former soldier and amputee criticizes the president’s policies as bad for America, and for veterans:
In the video, the vet pumps iron while sneering at the president. The voiceover intones:
President Trump, I heard you watch the morning shows. Here’s what I do every morning. Look, you lost the popular vote, you’re having trouble drawing a crowd, and your approval rating keeps sinking. But kicking thousands of my fellow veterans off their health insurance by killing the Affordable Care Act and banning Muslims won’t help. That’s not the America I sacrificed for. You want to be a legitimate president, sir? Then act like one.
Other videos draw on veterans who now serve in Congress, or who are long retired, to critique the president on his reaction to Russian involvement in the 2016 election, his travel ban, and his attempts at health care reform.
The president’s Twitter account is an official arm of the White House. If veterans choose to address the Trump by tweeting at him, it’s likely because that seems to be his most favored method of communication — at all hours of the day and night. And being president means Trump doesn’t really have the luxury of picking and choosing which veterans he commands. He commands all of them. And if they have a grievance, it would behoove him to listen, rather than close his virtual ears.