Donald Trump is Schrödinger's candidate: capable of existing in two diametrically opposing states (or, at least, paying lip service to two diametrically opposing ideas) simultaneously.
Veterans? He loves them! But they're also crooks who steal millions from the federal government.
Trump made that last claim on Tuesday night during a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Trump implied to a cheering crowd that military personnel tasked with allocating funds during deployment in Iraq were, instead, pocketing the cash for themselves.
"Iraq, crooked as hell," Trump told his supporters. "How about bringing baskets of money, millions and millions of dollars, and handing it out? I want to know who were the soldiers that had that job, because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be."
The implication that veterans are money-grubbing thieves is a strange one, given Trump's ongoing—albeit hotly contested—claims of being the candidate with the most pro-vet agenda. Democrats leapt on Trump's comments immediately. On MSNBC's Morning Joe, Senator Tim Kane (D-VA) excoriated the presumptive GOP nominee, saying, "We do not need a commander in chief who is going to talk about our troops with disrespect and contempt. We ought to have a commander in chief who talks about our troops with respect and gratitude."
In fact, despite Trump's insistence that he is the candidate of choice among servicemembers, these latest comments have struck a particular nerve with some veterans, including Corbin Reiff, a music writer, who served several years in Iraq with the U.S. Army.
The morning after Trump's Greensboro remarks, Reiff took to Twitter to unload on the candidate, highlighting his personal experience to demonstrate just how out of bounds these latest comments truly are.
As the New York Times' Paul von Zielbauer explained in a 2007 investigation into the Foreign Claims process, the calculus involved in determining the nature of these sorts of incidents is incredibly complex, with "no specific guidelines to tell army field officers judging the claims how to evaluate the cash value of a life taken."
As Reiff explained, the work which Trump callously implied was the root of theft on the part of soldiers was, in fact, among some of the most important being done in the war effort—often at great mental and physical cost to those tasked with doing the job.
While Trump may not have actually served, himself, he did once describe the risk of getting an STI after having slept with a lot of women as his "personal Vietnam."
According to his campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks, Trump's comments were about to Iraqi soldiers, specifically. Politico noted that Trump had previously insinuated U.S. troops were responsible for the theft of military funds at a rally last September.
Trump's remarks in Greensboro occurred on June 14th—the anniversary of the founding of the the nation's military in 1775.