Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was asked a softball question on CNN recently. His answer swung and missed.
Chris Cuomo asked Trump if he supports the GI Bill. Trump initially sidestepped, remarking only that he didn’t want to hurt veterans. When Cuomo repeated the question, Trump seemed to say “no” before dissembling into a rambling and self-celebratory string of incoherent talking points. The exchange left many scratching their heads.
Here’s the clip:
It’s an important question that deserves a better answer.
The post-9/11 GI Bill is a substantial benefit package, but rightly so … having been hard-earned by veterans and their families. Its provisions are under constant assault by bureaucrats and legislators looking to siphon from it to fuel other interests. This is an old American story. Politicians support veterans when there’s a clear electoral incentive to do so. When that incentive fades, neglect predominates.
Since the GI Bill is only as good for veterans as their ability to depend on it, they get understandably anxious about constant efforts to gnaw away at it. Beyond that, many see the GI Bill as an important statement of principle about America’s relationship with those who do its fighting, and therefore see efforts to erode the GI Bill as an unfavorable statement about that relationship.
For all these reasons and many more, it’s not asking too much for presidential candidates to take and defend a position on the GI Bill. Trump is certainly entitled to withhold support for it … but if he won’t be clear and explicit about his position, he should receive no credit for his answer and no benefit of the doubt when it comes to advancing the cause of America’s veterans.
His “answer” here is evasive and absurdly vague. Whether that’s because he lacks knowledge as to the basics of the GI Bill or because he doesn’t want to openly litigate a controversial stance on it, veterans deserve more straight talk and less tap dancing.
Trump’s likely opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton, supported the GI Bill while in the Senate. She has also discussed expanding its provisions, though not in any useful or challengeable detail. Of course, Mrs. Clinton also supported the invasion of Iraq, which made both military life and veteran care unsustainable.
This isn’t the first time Mr. Trump’s campaign has wandered into bizarre territory on veteran issues. All worth noting as the wild electoral ride continues.
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