Two Naval Academy graduates called Donald Trump a “physical coward” in a Baltimore Sun op-ed piece, published days before the president addressed the Academy’s 2018 graduating class.
It’s not uncommon for presidents, vice presidents or other high-ranking members of a sitting administration to give the commencement address at service academy graduations (Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Naval Academy’s graduation in 2017). And this year is no exception: as USA Today reports, Trump addressed the 2018 graduating class on Friday.
“America is back. We are witnessing the great reawakening of the American spirit and of American might.”
However, at least two former Midshipmen did not welcome Trump’s presence at their alma mater’s graduation.
Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Daniel Barkhuff, William Burke, two 2001 Naval Academy graduates, thoroughly berated Trump, calling him a “physical coward” and listing the multitude of ways in which they believe Trump should not be president.
“Trump: the assaulter-in-chief.”
The men lay out their case by contrasting where Trump was and what he was doing at several points in his life, vs. what graduates of the Naval Academy were doing at the same time.
First, they mention James Stockdale, whom you may remember was Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992. Stockdale was a POW at Vietnam’s infamous Hanoi Hilton back in 1969, while Trump was “enjoying the comforts of Wharton Business School, having received four draft deferments to attend college.” At one point during his imprisonment, Stockdale pounded his own face beyond recognition in order to avoid being used as a propaganda piece by his captors – Trump, by comparison, was busy getting draft deferments due to bone spurs in his heels.
The men then point out the actions of John Ripley, who in 1972 evaded enemy fire and earned the Navy Cross for Valor, while Trump was “a year away from being sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments in one of his buildings to black people.”
From there, they go to more recent history and compare and contrast what Trump was up to vs. what Naval Academy graduates were up to: the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Columbia disaster of 2003, the War in Afghanistan in 2005.
From there, Barkhuff and Burke point out that the Naval Academy instills values of honor, integrity, and sacrifice, while Trump, they say, is “guided by self-interest, ego, impulse and immediate self-gratification.”
“He is a physical coward, a liar and no leader at all.”
Barkhuff and Burke now work for Veterans For Responsible Leadership, a group of veterans concerned with the lack of “integrity, sobriety, and civility” in elected officials.