September 9, 2020

Sen. Whitehouse Condemns Pres. Trump’s Disrespectful Comments About Veterans

As delivered

Mr. President, I am honored to join Senator Duckworth in supporting this proposal. It gives me great pride to serve in the Senate with her. She is the living embodiment of the kind of sacrifice that our President does not understand.

There are two things here, though, that are very wrong. One is a President who thinks that the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have laid down their lives for this country are “suckers” and “losers” and that it is OK to say that about them. It is beyond disrespectful. It is beneath contempt, and it is totally in character for this man. Those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines can’t answer; they can’t speak for themselves any longer. So when something like that is said, it is very important that people in the highest offices of the country stand up and push back.

In graves in France and Belgium and Manila and around the world lie the mortal remains of men, boys, women who gave their lives and who cannot speak for themselves. It is heartbreaking for me to see that we cannot come together to agree on that in this body.

I can promise you that if President Obama or President Clinton had said anything like this, the other side of this Chamber would have been in pandemonium. It would have been a scene of hysteria. Senators would have been lining up through the doors to come and condemn this foul and hateful speech. We would have been hearing a lot about the last full measure of devotion. Instead, we are seeing the last measure of devolution of a great party into what now resembles, as much as anything, a cult.

I will be interested to see what my colleagues have in mind as they go through next year’s Veterans Day and Memorial Day having been unable to say one word against this calumny of our troops today. It is, frankly, heartbreaking.

I traveled a lot with John McCain, and one of our trips took us to the Philippines. I got up very early in the morning to go and have basically a dawn visit to the Manila American Cemetery. The particular reason I went there is to see a name on the wall of the memorial: George Bruen Whitehouse. George was 21 when he was killed. He was flying fighter planes as a Navy pilot off an aircraft carrier called the USS Cowpens. His body was never recovered. His plane was shot down and crashed into the wilderness, and that was the end of it, but his name is still there, carved high up in the marble as a last memorial of his sacrifice. A President who doesn’t get that is a disgrace.

I yield the floor.

Particularly, I yield the floor to a colleague who is an American combat veteran from the Vietnam war, to which my father dedicated 5 years of his life. It is a remarkable honor for me to be able to speak in between Senator Duckworth and Senator Carper. I am cognizant of that honor.

I yield the floor.