Donald Trump portrays himself as a gung-ho supporter of the U.S. military, but over a year and a half into his tenure the president has yet to visit American troops in a war zone.
Since Trump took office, American troops have been killed everywhere from Somalia and Niger to Yemen and Iraq. In 2018 alone, eight US troops have been killed in Afghanistan.
But Trump has yet to visit Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria, among other places where U.S. troops are putting their lives on the line to execute his orders.
This is arguably out-of-step for a president who’s filled his Cabinet with generals, boasted about making the American military stronger than ever, called for an expensive (and thankfully cancelled) military parade in Washington DC, and accused NFL players of disrespecting the troops by kneeling during the national anthem before games.
The vast majority of Trump’s predecessors dating back to World War II visited troops in war zones. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama met with US troops in combat zones soon into their first terms.
Bush, for example, met with ground troops in Baghdad within 10 months of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. While in office, Bush made four trips to Iraq and two to Afghanistan.
Obama visited troops in Iraq in 2008 while he was still a senator and made another visit within his first three months as president. He made four trips to Afghanistan as president.
Presidential visits to troops stationed in harm’s way boost morale. The war in Afghanistan just had its 17th anniversary, and the nearly 15,000 US troops stationed there could benefit from seeing the president at a time when many Americans have seemingly forgotten about the conflict.
In an interview with Chris Wallace for Fox News Sunday, Trump was asked why he doesn’t visit the troops, and Trump said, “You will see that happen…As you know, I was very much opposed to the war in Iraq…I’ve had an unbelievable busy schedule, on top of which you have these phony witch hunts.”
Of course this reason is ridiculous. Obama opposed Iraq and still went to visit the troops there.
The real explanation is simpler: Trump detests physical or psychological discomfort and visiting the troops in war zones would be uncomfortable for him.
WALLACE: Why haven't you visited troops serving in war zones?
TRUMP: "You will see that happen…As you know, I was very much opposed to the war in Iraq…I've had an unbelievable busy schedule, on top of which you have these phony witch hunts." pic.twitter.com/oxIzNNvGz8
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 18, 2018