Retired Army General Assails Trump for ‘Disrespecting’ Military

February 15, 2024 by Dan McCue
Retired Army General Assails Trump for ‘Disrespecting’ Military
Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, with his wife, Shari, during a press conference alongside the USS Yorktown on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan McCue)

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — A week after former President Donald Trump appeared to throw shade on the military service of Major Michael Haley, a one-time ally of the former president called for an end to his “disparaging comments about veterans and members of the U.S. military.”

Speaking in the shadow of the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier permanently moored at Patriots Point, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Don Bolduc, a veteran of 10 tours in Afghanistan, said Trump’s bringing the husband of his political rival, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, was “absolutely wrong.”

He then went on to recall a series of other disparaging remarks the former president has made or is alleged to have made about everyone from former Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to the war dead at Arlington National Cemetery, and called those “absolutely wrong” as well.

“Perhaps someone can prove me wrong, but while presidents have differed over the years in their policies on defense, I don’t think any other president in the history of this country has cast aspersions on service members, veterans and their families the way that Donald Trump has,” he said.

“Donald Trump has that distinction,” Bolduc continued. 

The retired general, who was also the recipient of two Purple Hearts, went on to say Trump’s making derogatory comments about Haley, or any military member, simply mystified him, especially in a state that’s home to multiple military bases.

“Donald Trump sought five deferments due to bone spurs,” he said. “I went through Army ranger school with bone spurs. Over the course of my career, I’ve known both men and women who have served their country whether they were hurt or hurting. It did not matter.

“They knew ensuring the security of our country is serious business and worthy of personal sacrifice,” he continued.

“No one who can’t honor the fallen and those who serve should ever be president of the United States,” Bolduc said.

The general’s appearance was part of the Haley campaign’s response to Trump’s visit to the Lowcountry on Wednesday for a rally in North Charleston. As he spoke, the pro-Haley Stand for America PAC had a mobile billboard that highlighted Trump’s past comments on the military.

The same mobile billboard would show up later outside the performing arts center in North Charleston, where Trump was joined onstage by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C.

The context for the efforts were remarks Trump made Saturday while speaking before a crowd of more than 3,000 at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

“Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away,” Trump said of Haley’s husband, a commissioned officer with the South Carolina National Guard, shortly after he took the stage.

“What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone,” Trump said.

Haley, who was kicking off a multi-day bus tour of the state at the time, responded immediately during a stop in Lexington, South Carolina.

“Donald Trump had a rally today and in that rally, he mocked my husband’s military service,” Haley said. “I will say this, Donald. If you have something to say, don’t say it behind my back, get on a debate stage and say it to my face.”

Haley, as his spouse has reminded attendees over the past six weeks, at campaign events in Iowa, New Hampshire and now, South Carolina, is currently in the middle of a year-long deployment with the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in the Horn of Africa. 

Haley went on to defend her husband’s military service, noting that his deployment has been a family sacrifice.

“We can’t have someone that sits and mocks our men and women trying to protect America. It’s a pattern of chaos,” she said, and she’s sought to keep the spotlight on his comments ever since.

Bolduc, a native of Laconia, New Hampshire, was both an interesting and inspired choice to advance that message. 

On the one hand, his military credentials are unassailable, with his having multiple assignments leading special forces and special operations forces.

At the same time, a try at a post-military political career has foundered.

In 2022, he was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, but lost that race to incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan. 

Two years earlier he had made another bid for the Senate, but failed to win the primary. That didn’t stop him from making headlines, however.

At one point during the campaign he took a shot across the bow at Democrats in a TV ad, dismissing those of that political persuasion as “a bunch of liberal, socialist pansies.” The remark was largely construed as being homophobic.

Between his two Senate bids Bolduc continued to hew to the far right and eventually wound up in Trump’s orbit. 

While there, he railed against such Biden administration initiatives as the Inflation Reduction Act, and became a well-known and ardent 2020 presidential election denier, embracing Trump’s assertion that the election was rigged in favor of Joe Biden.

How and why he ultimately broke with Trump has never been definitively explained, but by September 2022, in the midst of his electoral battle with Hassan, he abruptly changed his position on the 2020 election.

In an interview with Fox News that month, Bolduc said, “I have come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this, that the election was not stolen.

“Elections have consequences. And unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country,” he added.

Earlier this year, Bolduc explained his decision to become Haley’s New Hampshire campaign chair by saying she had become a mentor to him.

“I realized I was making a lot of mistakes,” Bolduc said before a Haley audience of over 700 at the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club in Milford, New Hampshire, in early January.

“It was made clear by a lot of people while I was running, ‘The guy’s not a politician,'” he said.

Asked about his current outlook and the winding road it apparently took him to get there, Bolduc on Tuesday said he’d finally “figured out how to give back … and serve my community.”

Now a rookie cop — “the most junior patrolman at the age of 61 at my local police department” — the general said past is past.

“This is about Nikki Haley,” he said. “This is about voting for her. And this is about not voting for Donald Trump.”

As for anything else, he said, “I reserve my right as an American to change my mind.

“I have only one other thing to say, and that’s this: I ask that every Republican, independent and Democrat who is eligible to vote in the South Carolina primary do a lot of soul searching,” Bolduc said.

“Voters here have a choice to vote for someone who has honor and integrity, who served the state with distinction, and then went off to the United Nations and took the ‘kick me’ sign off our backs.

“As for the military, Nikki Haley is a military wife. She knows and will take care of our service members. And I wouldn’t be here saying this if I didn’t firmly believe it.

“So go to the polls and vote for Nikki Haley,” Bolduc continued. “Go to the polls and send Donald Trump a big message — tell him that his divisiveness, his grievances, his hatred and all the things that he does to tear this country apart are unacceptable.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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