With less than two weeks left before the election, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump finds himself in the middle of a new round of military-themed controversies that opponents say shows he's unqualified to be commander in chief.

The problems began Monday, during an interview with a Florida television station where Trump stated that his campaign has impressive support among veterans and "I've been endorsed largely, at least conceptually, by the military."

Campaign officials offered no further explanation of the remark, which drew criticism and confusion given the military's strict rules against politicking in the ranks. The most recent Military Times/Institute for Veterans and Military Families Poll showed about 40 percent of active-duty troops plan to vote for Trump next month.

Later that day, in a Florida rally speech, Trump blasted officials involved with the California National Guard bonuses scandal as "stupid" and "incompetent people." It wasn't clear whether those remarks were directed at military leaders, at least some of whom would still be serving in a Trump administration, or only at President Barack Obama's appointees.

On Wednesday, the New York Times published unreleased excerpts from Trump's 2014 interviews with his biographer, which included new controversial remarks on women in the military.

"Well, I went to a military academy, which was from a different planet. ... We didn't have women in the academy at that time," he said. "Today you have women, which is a whole other story, women in the Army and you see what's going on. It's like, it's like bedlam. It is bedlam.

"... It's something that people aren't talking about, but what's going on is bedlam, bringing women in the Army."

In recent months, Trump has drawn the ire of women’s military advocates for allegations of sexual misconduct and past comments about female troops’ ability to serve. The newly released remarks also contradict military leaders’ efforts to expand all combat roles to qualified women, arguing it makes the force stronger by broadening the talent pool.

Then, in an ABC interview on Wednesday, Trump blasted former Army War College Dean Jeff McCausland, who has publicly criticized Trump’s military plans.

"You can tell your military expert that I’ll sit down and I’ll teach him a couple of things," Trump replied, then continued his assertions that military leaders have erred by making public some elements of the latest Iraq offensive against Islamic State fighters.

"One of the reasons they wanted Mosul, they wanted to get ISIS leaders who they thought were, you know, in Mosul. Those people have all left," he told ABC. "As soon as they heard they’re going to be attacked, they left. The resistance is much greater now because they knew about the attack. Why can’t they win first and talk later?"

Defense Department leaders and outside military experts have disputed Trump’s assertions that the ongoing Mosul operation is failing, or that talking publicly about the massive military operation undermines its success. Trump has also faced criticism for past comments suggesting that he knows more than military leaders, and is better equipped to combat terrorism than many generals.

Campaign officials with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have responded by attacking the latest Trump controversies and releasing a series of military-themed ads for the final days of the campaign.

They include one profiling Army Pvt. Damian Lopez Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant who was granted citizenship posthumously after being killed while serving in Iraq. The ad raises Trump’s past comments on immigration and Mexicans, calling both insulting to military families like that of the fallen soldier.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at


Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

In Other News
Load More