In her memoir “A Three Dog Life,” Abigail Thomas writes of her husband’s traumatic brain injury (TBI), “It’s hard for me to remember what we were like before the accident. The years since have been have been harrowing, Rich in and out of psychosis, terrible paranoias, rages, the kinds of things brain injury sets in motion.”
I was reminded of Ms. Thomas’s story on Jan. 22 when, two weeks after Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, it was reported that a few U.S. troops had been treated for TBI, and President Trump said, “I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things. I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen.”
The dismissive nature of the president’s comments would be stunning were they not so common. Consider the last week alone.
Following the end of the impeachment hearings, the president wasted no time having Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother, Yevgeny, not only dismissed from their White House positions but ceremonially escorted off the grounds as though they were criminals. All because Lt. Col. Vindman dared testify under oath, after obeying the law in answering a subpoena.
The president — who infamously avoided service himself by claiming, without evidence of medical records, bone spurs — tweeted that Lt. Col. Vindman, recipient of the Purple Heart, was “very insubordinate” and “given a horrendous report by his superior,” both lies according to a statement given to the Military Times by his former boss, retired Army Brig. Gen. Peter Zwack, who said, “I would trust Alex with my life,” adding that Vindman was “always smart, interesting, and had good judgment … I trusted him completely.”
In the hours after two soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Feb. 8, the president was busy sending out dozens of vitriolic tweets. “Senator Joe Munchkin in West Virginia. He couldn’t understand the Transcripts,” he wrote, and “lightweight Senator @DougJones cast a partisan vote for the Impeachment Hoax. Thought his boss, Cryin’ Chuck, would have forced him to vote against the Hoax. A Do Nothing Stiff!”
While the president tweeted nicknames like Joe Munchkin, the Stars and Stripes was reporting that SSgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, Texas, and SSgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, N.M. had been killed. It was SSgt. Rodriguez’s 10th deployment. Both men were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.
The president’s seeming disregard for the needs of our military is also financial. According to a Feb. 10 article in the Independent, “Last year the president took $2.5 billion from the military budget’s anti-drug programme for the wall. This year that figure could be much higher, with the Washington Post claiming as much as $7.2 billion could be diverted from the Pentagon help build the wall.”
The wall he insisted Mexico, not the Pentagon, was going to pay for.
We now know that more than 100 service members have been treated for TBI following the Iranian airstrike, a fact the president has yet to correct. And a TBI is not merely a headache. As Ms. Thomas wrote in her memoir, “It took a year to realize the severity of Rich’s injuries. His body was slowly recovering, but his mind was not…. Rich had suffered permanent brain damage. He was never going to live at home again, never going to drive a car, read a book, make a cup of coffee. I knew this and I didn’t believe it. But fourteen months after the accident, Sally and I moved him to a long-term care facility for people with brain injuries.”
If the president spent less time engulfed in the flames of Twitter self-pity and more time seeking guidance from experts (those intellectual elites he continually ridicules) or reading the occasional book, he would be less embarrassingly ignorant, a better leader, and a better human being.
The man will be 74 in June. Time is running out. May I suggest he start with “A Three Dog Life.”