Donald Trump has a simple reason for his long delay in explaining what happened to the money he raised for veterans’ charities: He didn’t want any publicity.
“Because I wanted to make this out of the goodness of my heart,” he told a news conference in which he castigated reporters for forcing him to provide details.
Of all conceivable explanations, “too self-effacing” ranks somewhere below “temporarily kidnapped by space aliens.” Let’s look elsewhere. The best possibilities seem to be:
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B) Tendency to make things up.
C) Difficulty in getting a disorganized, minimally qualified, perpetually short-handed staff to keep track of the cash.
Obviously, we’re going for all three.
The story so far: Trump was supposed to do a Republican primary debate in January on Fox News, a network with which he was feuding. So he staged his own counter-event, a much-publicized fundraiser for veterans’ charities. The highlight was an announcement that the veterans were getting $6 million, including a $1 million donation from the Donald himself.
Time passed. And he wouldn’t say where the money went.
People, I know you’re tired of hearing Donald Trump stories, but did you want the reporters to just drop the subject? Trump certainly did. Particularly when it came to his own personal million-dollar contribution, which did not actually materialize until the news media, particularly The Washington Post, started asking questions. Many questions. Which went unanswered.
“Oh, I’m totally accountable, but I didn’t want to have credit for it,” Trump said.
The money was turned over to a veterans’ charity about, um, a week ago.
We have heard a lot from Trump about his passion for veterans lately. It’s an intense interest that goes back at least … a year. Before that, his major involvement with the military appeared to be getting a deferment for “a foot thing” when he was eligible for the draft during the war in Vietnam.
It is not unusual for presidential candidates to have avoided military service. Bill Clinton did. Bernie Sanders did. Most of Congress did. Dick Cheney got himself five deferments — and, OK, when it came to Dick Cheney we took offense. But in general, we’ve gotten used to nonveterans as the political norm.
One of the very few major American politicians who did serve, under fire, is John McCain, and one of the first things Trump did in his race for president was to make fun of McCain’s years as a prisoner of war. (“I like people who weren’t captured.”) He also portrayed himself as a guy who had done way, way more to help veterans than John McCain, a claim that was … oh Lord, let’s not even go there.
The donations to Trump’s January fundraiser were supposed to be distributed through the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which had been around for years without previously making veterans a priority, or even an afterthought.
We will not bother to point out that Trump himself did not have a history of being a big donor to the Trump Foundation. In fact, Trump never seemed to give much money to anybody. This appears to be one of the most tightfisted billionaires since Scrooge McDuck.
Unless he’s not a billionaire at all. If Trump ever releases his tax records and it turns out that he’s only worth, say, $755,000, he'll deserve a big apology from those of us who thought he was a self-centered rich guy with zero interest in sharing his wealth with the less fortunate. Honestly, I will be the first to raise my hand.
But about the veterans. Trump brings up his commitment to our fighting men and women all the time now. Really, the only person he talks about more than the American soldier is Bobby Knight, the former basketball coach who is famous for roughing up his players and endorsing Trump for president.
On Memorial Day weekend, Trump spoke to a gathering of veterans and bikers in Washington, and managed to both drop Bobby Knight’s name and complain about the small crowd.
“I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people will be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument,” he said.
On Tuesday, Trump said he was just joking. Let’s accept that at face value and agree that he simply made a humorous remark in which he compared himself to a slain civil rights leader.
He also insisted the media was conspiring to undercount the attendance: “So instead of saying Trump made a speech in front of a packed crowd they said Trump was disappointed.”
Have we ever had a president who referred to himself in the third person? The answer, as a number of readers have been kind enough to point out is — yes! We had Richard Nixon.
See if that makes you feel any better.