Photo by David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS

Trump gets political at VFW National Convention

July 24, 2018 - 4:31 pm

By Kaylah Jackson and Matt Saintsing

President Donald Trump took the stage in Kansas City, Missouri, Tuesday, in what was supposed to be a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention. Instead, the VFW got more of a political rally. 

Robert Wilkie

Trump quickly mentioned Robert Wilkie—his third nominee to lead VA in 18 months—and how he was “overwhelmingly” approved by the Senate on Monday evening. But, instead of championing his qualifications to lead the federal government’s second largest agency, he focused on the party lines behind Wilkie's vote.

“If you want to know who's running, just look at Wilkie’s score,” said Trump, in a clear reference to the nine senators who voted against Wilkie’s confirmation. 

“The only ones who voted against him were all of the people, Super Lefts, who are(sic) running against me in two and a half years,” he added. 

Political Races

He then mentioned several congressional Republicans in the Missouri delegation but singled out one to come on stage and take the mic, Josh Hawley, the Show Me State’s attorney general who is running to unseat the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill. 

Photo by John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS/Sipa USA

“We need Josh badly,” Trump said. 

To Hawley’s credit, he at least recognized why they were there before complimenting the president. 

“Thanks to all of you to your service and what you mean to this country, but how about the leadership of President Donald Trump,” said Hawley.  

America First Foreign Policy

Trump touted his fulfillment of a few campaign promises, such as transferring the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and other “incredible results” of his America First policies. And he brought up the “horrible” and “one-sided” Iran deal at a speech meant to honor veterans. 
Although he did add, “we’ll see what happens” when it comes to getting another deal with the adversarial nation. 

National Anthem

Though only for a moment, he didn't fail to weigh in on the NFL anthem “controversy.” 
“And we stand up for our national anthem,” he said. These comments were the most fitting, given that the VFW’s national commander has voiced displeasure with NFL players’ protests.

“I stand for our flag and anthem,” said Keith Harman, a Vietnam combat veteran, in a statement last year. “And I kneel for our fallen.”

Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA

Korean Peninsula

When it comes to North Korea, the president praised his “fantastic” meeting with “Chairman Kim,” and said, once again, how his administration continues to work to repatriate the remains of fallen American troops killed during the Korean War. 

 “I hope these fallen warriors will begin coming home to lay at rest in American soil,” he said. “That’s starting the process.” Trump didn’t give a timeline. 

Richard Gray/EMPICS

A topic he reliably brings up is when it comes to North Korea is the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. 

Trump said that Kim began to dismantle a “key nuclear site,” in a clear reference to reports that came a day earlier that showed new satellite imagery of “dismantling” of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, North Korea’s main launch facility.


Not only did the Trump mention the level of veteran unemployment, he also made a promise that it will be much higher.

“Veterans unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in almost 18 years, we’re working to make it better," said the president. "I’ll guarantee within a month or two that 18 years will be a much higher number."


Before mentioning that “one-third of ICE officers are veterans”, the president drew divisions against Congressional staff who disagree with this border policies.

"Instead of supporting our ICE officers, many of these Democrat politicians who are really disciples of a very low IQ person, Maxine Waters and perhaps even worse, Nancy Pelosi, they’ve launched vicious smears on the brave men and women who defend our communities,” to which many in the convention crowd booed vehemently in support.

(Photo by Jetta Disco/DHS

His national convention speech wasn't that different from when Trump spoke as a then-candidate for the presidency, harping on bipartisan points. 

Joe Davis, director of communications, publications, and public affairs for the VFW stated “We are a non-partisan agency” and veterans “come from every cross-section of America,” but Trump used his stage time to repeatedly pit himself and the Republican Party, against Democrats.

Along with making claims mirrored by his campaign trail, the president didn’t hesitate to call out the “fake news” media which received resounding applause from VFW members. Davis however, thought that was disrespectful on the part of the membership in the audience.

“I cannot communicate the great things that the VFW does for veteran servicemen and their families without even going through the news media and the news media in the audience were our guests as well,” said Davis.

The President spoke to thousands of veterans at the VFW National Convention, erring less on primarily veterans issues and more on how his campaign points differed from his running mates.

Davis said, “He’s the president of the United States, he’s a guest in our house, once he’s on that microphone, on that stage, he controls it…It was a typical Trump speech,” and that, it was.

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