The president and his team have long used the U.S. Armed Forces as a political football, so to speak, having claimed, for instance, that NFL football players choosing to take a knee during pre-game national anthems were disrespecting current and former members of the military, along with the country as a whole.
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Those claims came in the face of the fact that service members don’t fight for a piece of cloth; they fight for, if we’re talking about something other than the actual lives of the people of the United States, rights like the right to free speech.
Now, members of the Trump administration are at it again. This time, the issue arose when Vice President Mike Pence took a trip to the Middle East. While there, he delivered a speech to American service members near the Syrian border that quickly proved to be a political spectacle, with the vice president seemingly attempting to drum up opposition to the Democrats while speaking to the troops.
As we’re all well aware of by now, the federal government has shut down due to Senators’ inability to pass an appropriations bill before Saturday dawned. The main point of contention between Democrats and Republicans was, and remains, the fate of the hundreds of thousands of young people protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which the Trump administration has moved to end.
This provided the context for the vice president’s remarks to some of our overseas troops on Sunday.
After some initial vague platitudes about how much he and Trump support the military, Pence commented:
‘I’m sure you’re all aware of what’s happening in Washington, D.C. Despite bipartisan support for a budget resolution, a minority in the Senate has decided to play politics with military pay. But you deserve better. You and your families shouldn’t have to worry for one minute about whether you’re going to get paid as you serve in the uniform of the United States.’
That’s not the point, Pence. It’s the Republicans who are refusing to allow for protections for those provided for under DACA to be extended in essentially any form, and it’s the Republicans’ repeated refusals that have made it so that the issue of funding important items like military pay and the future of DACA are tied up with each other.
If Pence wants to be in line with reality, then he can’t just pin responsibility for the government shutdown and subsequent stalled military pay on the Democrats.
Ironically, it’s a Democratic U.S. Senator — Claire McCaskill — who proposed a bill that would provide for military pay until the government re-opens. It’s a Republican — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who shot that bill down, as the Los Angeles Times reports.
Pence didn’t mention any of that in his remarks to the troops, instead going on to insist that they’re “not going to reopen negotiations on illegal immigration” until the federal government re-opens.
Numerous interests blasted the vice president for using his time with troops overseas to stage a political spectacle.
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol called the vice president’s behavior “a scene more appropriate to a banana republic.”
The Vice President uses American troops abroad as political props and tweets: "@POTUS & I and the American people are NOT GOING TO PUT UP WITH IT." One assumes Pence is merely indulging in vulgar tough-guy rhetoric. But in fact it is a scene more appropriate to a banana republic. https://t.co/cbtvRoqmJo
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 21, 2018
Journalist Carl Prine called Pence’s remarks “the wrong message at the wrong forum.”
This was the wrong message at the wrong forum. Troops might get used to being props and political footballs, but all administrations should preserve civil-military norms. Pence knows better. I’d say the same if a Democrat did it. https://t.co/lPhodrqnwE
— Carl Prine (@CarlPrinetweets) January 21, 2018
Check out video of Pence’s remarks below.
Featured Image via Screenshot from the Video