About a year ago Ghazala Khan wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, explaining her silence while her husband spoke of their son’s death. Trump, you may remember, later criticized the woman for standing quietly by while her husband Khizr Khan related the story of Capt. Humayun Khan’s 2004 death in the Iraq War. Mr. Khan, on stage at the Democratic National Convention, also accused then-candidate Trump of having sacrificed nothing—a fact which most observers will claim hasn’t changed.
Old news, yes, and for many Trump supporters, sadly, not a deal-breaker. And yet there was the halfwit again this morning, interrupting his “working vacation” (cf. oxymoron) to issue a few tweets condemning Richard Blumenthal for having lied about his Vietnam war experience. In 2010 the New York Times reported Blumenthal had misstated his military record, telling groups he “served” in Vietnam, when in fact he served in the reserves stateside. Blumenthal apologized. Inflating his contribution to the war experience was a mistake and I cannot defend it; but the fact that he apologized is noteworthy, since Trump has apologized for none of the hundreds of documented lies he has told since the inauguration.
But beyond that, Trump did not himself serve in the military, using several deferments to avoid the draft. I grew up in that time period: deferments were prized possessions handed out to people in certain essential professions, to men with children, and of course to those with some physical frailties that made military service impossible. Trump received four student deferments, like most other college students at the time. But his final deferment—for bone spurs in his feet—is questionable. In a 2016 interview with the New York Times Trump said the bone spurs had been “temporary” — a “minor” malady that had not had a meaningful impact on him. A doctor, whose name he could not remember, signed off on the condition however, and Trump was declared 4-F. (He also said that he lucked out in the draft lottery and drew a high number. An irrelevant lie since he was already 4-F. Practicing his technique, I suppose.)
(In the 1990s he told radio host Howard Stern that avoiding STDs while dating was his “personal Vietnam.” Fifty-eight thousand Americans died in that war—how can anyone with a a sense of decency make a statement like that, and how can any voter with a sense of decency vote for him? The first answer is easy; the second is another matter.)
Richard Blumenthal will have to live with his lie, and though there’s something to be said for owning a mistake, politics places no term limits on public opinion. But Trump’s lies are so numerous and varied that they disappear into the ether minutes after they’re uttered. I suggest we hang on to a few character-defining falsehoods—maybe those bone spurs of fifty years ago, real or imagined—and bring them up when it suits us. It may be true that at this point we don’t need anything more to judge his character, but stories like that make nice reminders.