Donald Trump has recently been heavily criticized by numerous media outlets for at least suggesting, if not outright saying, that military veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder simply “can’t handle” it and aren’t “strong”. At the very least it has been deemed a “gaffe”. And on Monday night at a rally for Hillary Clinton in Sarasota, Florida Vice President Joe Biden lambasted and excoriated Trump for his comments.
The Trump campaign and others have argued that the media is taking Trump’s comments out of context, creating controversy where there is none and acting as “the propaganda arm of Hillary Clinton” in order to damage Donald Trump. For some context here is the Trump quote run by most media, via CNN:
“When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it but a lot of people can’t handle it. They see horror stories, they see events you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it.”
Here is the full quote and video via Snopes who concluded that Trump did not say veterans with PTSD are weak:
“Yes I would. Look we need that so badly and when you … when you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it. But a lot of people can’t handle it. And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it.
“Now we need a mental health help and medical. And it’s one of the things that I think is least addressed and is one of the things that — like your question — one of the things that I hear the most about when I go around and talk to the veterans. So we’re going to have a very, very robust, level of performance having to do with mental health. We are losing so many great people that can be taken care of if they have proper care.
“You know when you hear the 22 suicides a day it’s a big part of your question. But when you hear the 22 suicides a day that should never be. That should never be. So we’re going to be addressing that very strongly and the whole mental health issue is going to be a very important issue when I take over and the V.A. is going to be fixed in so many ways but that’s going to be one of the ways we’re going to help.
“And that’s in many respects going to be the number one thing we have to do. Because I think it’s really been left behind. OK? Thank you very much.”
Upon reading the quote in a larger context it may be fair to say much of the media simply jumped on one portion in order to highlight what they deemed a story. In the larger quote Trump does comment on the strength of at least some veterans as well as the desperate need to improve the care for veterans in the United States. The larger quote, however, does not erase that one portion of the quote which could be interpreted as implying weakness in some veterans, especially given Donald Trump’s history of attacks on personal character. There is an argument both for and against Trump.
That is the real reason why the Trump campaign, Trump surrogates, Trump supporters and Donald Trump himself cannot attempt to criticize the media for supposedly twisting his statements. No one knows what he’s talking about.
His own campaign has had to reinterpret his comments on the first presidential debate, his “Second Amendment” comment towards Hillary Clinton, comments on abortion which were insulting to women, efforts to gain minority voters which insulted the African-American community, among other comments which have supposedly been taken out-of-context and misinterpreted. Donald Trump blatantly disagreed with his campaign regarding his birther claims. And reportedly clashed with his campaign over debate preparations. He even changed campaign staff in order to have more people who would be able to successfully defend his anti-establishment tactics and rhetoric.
But if Trump’s own campaign is at odds with him and struggles to interpret his statements, how can other people can expected to properly interpret what he’s saying?