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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Donald Trump’s Astonishing Lies About Vietnam

When politicians talk in private, they regularly use a cruel shorthand. For example, a candidate who is uninformed, unreflective and uncurious is often branded a “lightweight,” as in, “He is so lightweight he could tap-dance on a souffle.” Conversely, a “heavyweight” would be a politician of some substance, some political clout and personal gravity.

Al Gore — the Democratic presidential nominee who won 543,895 more votes than George W. Bush in 2000 but ended up losing the election in a 5-4 Supreme Court split decision — was regularly dismissed for being so unexciting that his favorite color was beige. The line at the time was, “Al Gore is so dull that his Secret Service code name is Al Gore.”

That was cute but inaccurate. I once asked then-Sen. Gore of Tennessee why he — almost alone among his Harvard 1969 classmates — volunteered to join the U.S. Army to go to Vietnam. Gore’s answer was revealing: “I come from a small town (Carthage) of 3,000 people. I concluded that if I didn’t go, somebody else would have to go. And I knew just about everybody else who was going to have to go in my place…For me, that sort of reinforces the sense of community and nation that is at the root of why you have a duty to serve your country.”

Gore also knew Charles Holland, Walter Pope, James Stallings, Jackie Underwood, and Roy Wills. Like Gore, all five came from Smith County, Tennessee. Their names can today be found on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a place Al Gore visited.

What brought this all to mind was the television interview President Donald Trump did with Piers Morgan of Good Morning Britain during his D-Day trip. Asked about his own avoidance of military service during the U.S. war in Vietnam, Trump answered: “Well, I was never a big fan of that war, I’ll be honest with you. I thought it was a terrible war. I thought it was very far away.” Trump added, “At that time, nobody had ever heard of the country.”

Trump was referring to the summer of 1968, when he, as a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, had just lost his student deferment from his country’s military draft. There are only two possible explanations for what he said: Either, now in his eighth decade, he is losing his memory, or he really is a compulsive liar.

Take the manifest untruth “at that time, nobody had ever heard of the country.” In 1968, there were 540,000 Americans fighting in Vietnam. May, graduation month, was the deadliest month of the entire war; 2,403 Americans lost their lives. That year, the American death toll reached 30,857 in the war, which became the longest in American history while “nobody had ever heard of the country.”

Both of President Lyndon Johnson’s daughters’ husbands were fighting in Vietnam. There were 221 major student demonstrations against the war on 101 campuses. Columbia University was closed by anti-war protests. Johnson, facing serious anti-war challengers in his own party, announced he would not seek renomination. All this occurred while “nobody had ever heard of the country” where Americans were fighting that long, divisive war. President Trump’s trousers are combustible.

Herodotus, the Greek historian, was right, as we are forced, 25 centuries later, to learn again: “Character is destiny.”

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

IMAGE: A section of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Danziger: Draft Dodgy

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at

Danziger: A Bully Is Always A Coward

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at

John Bolton, A Chickenhawk Bully Who Reflects Trump Perfectly

When Donald Trump mentioned the other day that he is “finally” assembling a cabinet and staff that please him, he was foreshadowing this week’s appointment of John Bolton — a dubious figure whose characteristics and history resemble nobody so much as Trump himself.

Those resemblances go well beyond the obvious, namely that Bolton is a dangerous crank whose monotone of belligerence could lead the United States toward actual hostilities against North Korea, Iran, or both, with unforeseeable consequences. In those crude policy positions he certainly fits well with the boorish aggression of his new boss. Their only difference is over the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a disastrous decision that Bolton, unlike Trump, continues to praise — presumably because he advanced the lies that made it possible.

Bolton is an anti-Muslim extremist and conspiracy theorist who fervently supported Trump’s unlawful “ban” on Muslim immigration, and he was a longtime aide to the late Senator Jesse Helms, an unapologetic North Carolina “white nationalist.”Beyond ideology and prejudice, however, Bolton and Trump appear much alike in their ugly, harshly overbearing style. When George W. Bush named him as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — a nomination twice rejected by the Senate — one top State Department official described him as someone who “kissed up and kicked down.” Carl W. Ford, who had served as chief of the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, testified: “I’ve never seen anybody quite like Bolton … I don’t have a second, third or fourth in terms of the way that he abuses his power and authority with little people.”

Like Trump, Bolton is a tough-talking draft-dodger. While Trump cited “bone spurs” in one of his feet as a reason to avoid the Vietnam draft, Bolton — a Goldwater conservative — dodged service in the war he vocally endorsed by joining the Maryland National Guard.  “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,” he said in 1995. “I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.” Now this pair of chickenhawks may well send other young men and women to their deaths in war.

Although Bolton isn’t known to have pursued porn stars, he appears to share some of Trump’s misogynist proclivities. Melody Townsel, a State Department contractor who had worked for USAID, testified during his confirmation hearings in 2005 about the horrific treatment she had suffered at the hands of Bolton after she criticized a company that he represented as a private lawyer. The firm had performed shoddy work for the government, which she duly reported. In retaliation, a screaming Bolton smeared her reputation, spread false rumors that she was a lesbian, and even threw objects at her in a Moscow hotel corridor.

Townsel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton had lurked outside her hotel room, banging on the door and ranting at her in a continuing outburst that lasted two weeks in 1994. She said that Bolton had behaved “like a madman,” and that when she attempted to return to her job, she learned that he had preceded her to spread false rumors that she was “under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time,” while making “unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe, and…my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I’m not).”

In short, Bolton is precisely the kind of bully that Trump finds attractive and admirable. And suddenly, with his appointment, the White House is an even darker place.