It must be nice being this president. What an amazing fantasy world he lives in.
Mr. Trump had the occasion to make some rambling remarks
this week on the way to an FBI graduation ceremony. Among them was yet another empty claim regarding our veterans. Good to know that their use as background props remains the hallmark of Republican administrations.
President Donald Trump bragged to the Marines Friday on the proposed 2.4 percent military pay raise, even though it's not a done deal.
In exuberant remarks to the Marines of Helicopter Squadron One, who fly the presidential helicopters, Trump also jokingly resurfaced the nickname "Mad Dog" -- for Defense Secretary and retired Marine general Jim Mattis.
"I love that name. I don't know if he likes it, actually. I've never figured out if he likes the name," Trump said, "but he really deserves the name."
Actually, he doesn't like it. Shortly after he took over as Defense Secretary, Mattis met off-the-cuff with a group of Pentagon reporters. He was asked about the "Mad Dog" nickname Trump had been using. Mattis made clear that "just Jim" was fine with him.
Trump's wide-ranging remarks on nicknames, pay raises, ballcaps, Afghanistan, the defense budget, the fight against ISIS, and his win over Hillary Clinton came in a stop at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, on his way to an FBI graduation ceremony.
"This week, I signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes major investments in weapon systems, equipment, and, most importantly, in you," Trump told the Marines.
"I'm pleased to report this legislation also includes the largest pay raise you have received in more than eight years," Trump said of the proposed 2.4 percent raise.
He joked that "I guess I'm a bad negotiator." He also did not mention that the White House initially proposed a pay raise of 2.1 percent.
However, the raise and the entire defense budget is caught up in the perennial battle in Congress over continuing resolutions and tradeoffs between military and domestic spending.
The military currently is operating at 2017 spending levels under a continuing resolution that expires on Dec. 22, raising another possibility of a government shutdown.
Congressional leaders have proposed another continuing resolution into next year that would fund the military at 2018 levels of nearly $700 billion, while keeping domestic spending at 2017 levels. It was unclear whether the administration had the votes in the Senate to pass the proposal.
The back and forth in Congress did not stop Trump from touting the $700 billion for defense.
"You know, we just approved -- our enemy is in trouble -- we just approved $700 billion, which is the largest ever approved," Trump said.
700 billion is an awful lot of dough. (Our newest aircraft carrier just cost $13b to build) But I wonder how much redundant and useless hardware is in there? Skimming the news this morning, I was surprised to learn that Bell/Boeing is working on a new iteration of the V-22 Osprey. Tilt-rotor aircraft are certainly interesting, but seeing that they were actually invented in the 1950s, their usefulness has been somewhat suspect.
Nevertheless - there's a new one already on the horizon. No word on what the final tally may be, but the Bell V-280 has made its first flight
and was publicly exhibited at the famed Farnborough Airshow in England recently. Considering that the V-22 Osprey cost over $35b (not to mention dozens of lives), it is almost certainly not worth the cost.
But of course, we're still a veteran's column here. We'll actually take a rare peek at a Vietnam Veteran today, and a sitting Senator. It was reported over the weekend that John McCain was headed back to Arizona to recover after an apparently difficult chemo cycle. As I posited yesterday, he strikes me as the type that will work for his cause until he can't anymore, and the fact that he's going to miss a key vote does not strike me as a good sign.
Nevertheless - cancer hitting close to home here. Be well, Senator.
Sen. John McCain sent out a Tweet Monday saying that he was "feeling well" in his battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer and planned to return to the Senate after the holidays.
"Thanks to everyone for your support and words of encouragement," said McCain, an Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I'm feeling well and looking forward to returning to work after the holidays."
The 81-year-old McCain went home to Arizona for Christmas over the weekend following a stay at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland for complications from radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
McCain will be unavailable for the vote on President Donald Trump's tax bill, which he supports, but Republicans appear to have enough votes to pass it without him.
When he entered Walter Reed, his daughter, Meghan McCain, Tweeted that "My father is doing well and we are all looking forward to spending Christmas together in Arizona."
President Trump told reporters Sunday that he had spoken to McCain's wife, Cindy McCain. "I wished her well. I wish John well," said Trump, who has had his differences with McCain on a wide range of issues.
He said the couple was headed back to Arizona "but I understand he'll come if we ever needed his help, which hopefully we won't" on the tax bill.
"But the word is John will come back if we need his vote. It's too bad. He's going through a very tough time, there's no question about it. But he will come back if we need his vote," Trump said.
In Arizona, McCain will undergo treatment and physical therapy at the Mayo Clinic, according to his staff.
McCain received a diagnosis earlier this year of glioblastoma, an aggressive, malignant form of brain cancer that can cause headaches, seizures, blurred vision and other symptoms.
In a statement, the senator's office provided an assessment from Dr. Mark Gilbert, chief of neuro-oncology at the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute:
"Senator McCain has responded well to treatment he received at Walter Reed Medical Center for a viral infection and continues to improve," Gilbert said.
"An evaluation of his underlying cancer shows he is responding positively to ongoing treatment," Gilbert said.