Alden Graves | Graves registry: The importance of being Donald

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I understand that international travel guides are including a warning about traveling in the United States, labeling the country as a serious health risk. There were seven people killed and at least 20 injured, including a 17-month-old child, in America's latest gun rampage. Republicans must consider it something of a respite from double-digit death tolls, hardly worth the energy to find another dumb excuse to cover the guns-at-any-cost crowd's collective butts.

Texas governor Greg Abbott is "heartbroken," but he is expected to recover.

Finding fault with Donald Trump is a little like looking for leaves in a forest, but I think that the thing I dislike most about our president has nothing to do with his meek genuflections to Wayne LaPierre and the gun lobby, his epic incompetence, his compulsive lying, or his alley cat conception of morality.

It isn't his bully posturing either. At least a schoolyard bully is standing face to face with his victim. Trump's insults and the name-calling are hurled from the safety of a secure room in the White House. That makes the bully a coward. And it brings me to the aspects of Donald Trump's personality that I like the least: his utter phoniness and his complete lack of humility.

You would think that a man who received five deferments during the Vietnam era, including one for bone spurs diagnosed by a doctor who owed Trump's father a favor, would prefer to avoid the issue of military service entirely. He is very good at avoiding a lot of other subjects he doesn't want to talk about--his tax returns or his shoddy liaisons with porn stars for starters.

I don't believe there is anything inherently wrong with not wanting to end your life face down in some godforsaken rice paddy for a cause no one seems even to be able to articulate intelligently. But Trump doesn't possess the humility, the introspection, or the honesty to acknowledge the truth that he fraudulently avoided going to Vietnam. Not this guy, he "would have been honored to serve." And, if you believe that, you deserve him.

Small wonder Trump mocked John McCain's heroic military service. McCain was the living embodiment of everything Trump was not. He may have sneered that he didn't admire soldiers who became prisoners-of-war, but even a man so basted in the juices of his own ego must have known that capture was a far more commendable fate than counting on daddy's connections to avoid being drafted at all.

The president recently spoke in Louisville, Kentucky at the 75th meeting of a service organization called American Veterans. He paid tribute, with his disjointed conception of eloquence, to Woody Williams, who fought on Iwo Jima in World War II and became a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Trump spouted, "Thank you, Woody. You're looking good, Woody. Woody's looking good." I'm sure that's what most Medal of Honor winners are envisioning when they risk their lives for the sake of their country—to be told by an overweight draft dodger that they were "looking good."

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Trump went on to say that he considered giving himself the Medal of Honor. It is some indication of the low esteem in which he is held that most of the people who heard that appalling remark thought he was perfectly serious. He probably was. He claimed that members of his staff talked him out of it. They probably did.

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award that America can bestow on those who serve in the military. There is something despicable about a pampered, elitist dilettante, whose biggest risk during the Vietnam War era was getting turned down at a tony disco, claiming that he deserved the award whether the remark was intended as a joke or not. Trump has absolutely no conception of decency so it follows that he doesn't feel obligated to stay within the boundaries of either propriety or taste.

James Mattis, a retired four-star general, was Trump's secretary of defense until he resigned in December of 2018 over the president's impulsive order to withdraw troops from Syria. Gen. Mattis told Trump in his farewell letter, "You're going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS. I'm not going to do it." Trump fumed about the audacity and later claimed that he "essentially fired" Mattis. Another lie.

Mattis has a deep respect for the office of the president even if he has little good to say about its current occupant. He recently told an interviewer from The Atlantic that he found Trump to be a man with "limited cognitive ability" and that he displayed "dubious behavior." (Literal translation: dumb and dishonest.) To anyone familiar with the three-ring circus going on in Washington for the past few years, the assessment comes as no surprise.

Gen. Mattis' dedication to the country he has served honorably for most of his life is admirable, but it is high time he and others like him confronted the fact that we are dealing with a man who is intent on destroying values and traditions that have sustained us for over two centuries without equivocation or verbal niceties.

Most of us, when we start our seventh decade on earth have matured enough to recognize the bumpy road we traveled to reach that milestone; filled with the potholes of our mistakes and the detours of bad decisions. It has formed our characters and informed our judgment. Donald Trump, with his inability to recognize his own faults and failures, has dishonored his office and proven himself eminently unworthy of being protected by it.

It could be that Donald Trump's biggest con has always been to himself.

Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist.


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