Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, has authored an incendiary story about President Donald Trump. It accuses him of calling fallen soldiers “suckers” and “losers,” and of refusing to visit a military Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France because of that opinion. Of reacting to the death of Senator John McCain — a war hero tortured by the North Vietnamese — by declaring “we’re not going to support that loser’s funeral” and asking of flags at half-mast “What the f*** are we doing that for? Guy was a f***ing loser.” Of saying of wounded veterans “nobody wants to see that.”
It quotes an unnamed retired four-star general as saying “He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself. He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” In fact, come to think of it, there are no named sources in the piece.
And therein lies the rub. Many of the claims made in Goldberg’s piece are not even remotely difficult to believe. Trump is on the record trashing Gold Star parents. He’s on the record, as Goldberg notes, dismissing McCain’s service and expressing his preference for “people who weren’t captured.” That record makes me lean toward believing that the parts about him trashing McCain are probably true. Other parts are less convincing, however. As Jim Geraghty points out in the Morning Jolt, Trump has done numerous events with wounded veterans during his time in office and has never given off an impression of disgust, and those moments have often been among the most humanizing of his presidency. The dearth of named sources and contrasting background evidence means that anyone who says with 100 percent confidence that all of the incidents described did or did not happen is probably driven by confirmation bias.
Moreover, Goldberg’s article will persuade no one. No opponent of the president will be surprised by the piece. No supporter of the president will take Jeffrey Goldberg’s word for it that Trump is a veteran-hating monster. Tim Alberta says that Goldberg’s credibility is beyond reproach. Perhaps Alberta was less appalled by Goldberg’s loathsome and cowardly treatment of Kevin Williamson than I was. Regardless, he should have convinced one of his sources to put their good name behind the piece or held off. It’s irresponsible to make these weighty accusations of the leader of the free world without presenting the public with a shred of hard evidence. Goldberg should have known that.