Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trolling for Troops

After the falling out between 2016 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump and the Fox News , (the organizer and broadcaster of the only GOP Iowa Debate),  the mercurial mogul announced that he would boycott the debate and instead attend a fund-raiser for veterans at nearby Drake University.

Since Trump put up a fuss over Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly asking questions, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed a mano-a-mano debate with Trump. Suggested moderators included Mark Levin, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, or it could be a 60 minute Lincoln Douglas like debate.

In addition, a Cruz Super PAC offered to donate $1.5 million to veterans' causes if the populist politician would show. Trump demurred unless the Republican race was whittled down to just two candidates. Not content with that one-on-one evasion, Trump spokesman Corey Lewindowski said that Trump would agree to debate Cruz once a federal judge declares him eligible to run for President.

 It would seem that Trump is using veterans as props to advance his campaign cause more than raising money for a worthy cause.  But to be fair, the Cruz Super PAC double dare also has the stench of politics over charitable concern.

A couple of also rans in the 2016 Republican Presidential race have expressed interest in showing up to the Trump inspired rally.  Trump was tickled to tweet about how ex Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and ex Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) wanted to share the stage with Trump if it was a charitable fund raiser for veterans.  Santorum said that he had nothing to do after the under-card Republican debate.

It seems dubious that Trump will share the stage with a couple of also rans in a campaign counter-programming event that just has a veneer of charity for veterans.. The Huckster and Little Ricky still haven't heard back from The Donald.

This is not the first time that Trump has trolled to exploit veterans during the campaign. After the spectacular ratings for the first Fox News GOP debate, Trump tried to bully CNN to contribute their huge profits from his appearance on the debate stage by donating the veterans' causes. Although Trump toyed with being a no-show as leverage, he appeared on stage in the end.

In the fall, Trump partnered with Veterans for a Strong America for his big military announcement aboard a battleship which amounted to "We'll build a military that will be huge so no one will want to fight us and Americans will get tired of winning."  Well, Veterans for a Strong America lost their non-profit status and endorsed Trump.

 Per 990 tax filings, The Donald J. Trump Foundation has only donated $57,000 to veterans groups between 2009 and 2013.  Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks insisted: "Mr. Trump has made significant financial and in kind contributions to many Veterans organizations, personally and not through the Donald J. Trump Foundation." However Hicks declined to estimate the charitable contributions towards veterans' causes.

Several veterans groups distanced themselves from any Trump charity event for Veterans in Iowa. Veterans for America founder Paul Rieckhoff chaffed at being used for a publicity stunt.

After the VA scandal and the need of our wounded warriors in the long-war against Islamist extremism, it is praiseworthy to support veterans' policy concerns and share the spotlight. But it is bravo sierra to use them as political pawns or props.

Post Scriptus 01/29/2015  The Trump Veterans Rally was held in a small 175 person auditorium at Drake University, which was a couple of miles away from the GOP Debate site. Contrary to expectations, Mr. Trump did share the stage with a couple of his rivals, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (who had previously won the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 and 2012 respectively).

The big news from the event was that the rally had raised $5 million overnight, including a $1 million check directly cut from Donald Trump.  This money is supposedly earmarked for 22 veterans organizaitons. But all of the proceeds are funneled through the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The setup seems reminiscent of the Clinton Foundation, in which private entities are encouraged to make charitable contributions funneled through a single entity with the appearance of currying favor later with a politician poised for a powerful position.

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