President Donald Trump began Thanksgiving Day with a message thanking American troops for their service and achievements while criticizing previous administrations' approaches to the Iraq war.
After sending two early morning tweets praising his own administration, Trump addressed troops stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Bahrain and on the USS Monterey from a room at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida where, according to a pool report, club members could be seen sitting outside at a table.
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“HAPPY THANKSGIVING, your Country is starting to do really well. Jobs coming back, highest Stock Market EVER, Military getting really strong, we will build the WALL, V.A. taking care of our Vets, great Supreme Court Justice, RECORD CUT IN REGS, lowest unemployment in 17 years....!” Trump tweeted early Thursday. He followed up with “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
In the address that lasted under eight minutes, the president told troops “You’re very, very special people. ... It doesn’t get more special,” saying they are now allowed to do things that other administrations would not allow them to do, particularly in Iraq.
“We’re really winning. We know how to win,” Trump said, making a point that previous administrations “weren’t letting you win before [in Iraq.] They were letting you play even. We’re letting you win.”
Without naming his predecessors, Trump referred to the roles of both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama’s administrations in the protracted conflict, which officially began in 2003. The U.S. mission there formally ended in December, 2011. In June 2014, troops were again dispatched to the country to begin fighting ISIS.
“They say we’ve made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration. And that’s because I’m letting you do your job,” Trump told Lt. Colonel Greg Warsh, stationed at an Air Force base in Turkey. “You’re performing more than 1,000 missions over the skies of Iraq and Syria in the last four months. We’re very, very proud of you. And believe me, everybody in this country is watching and they’re seeing, and they’re seeing positive reports for a change instead of the neutral and negative reports. It’s all positive.”
Later Thursday evening, Trump rehashed the ongoing health care debate and sought to pin blame for premium increases within Obamacare exchanges on Democrats. The president, who frequently mentions his frustration that congressional Republicans failed to uphold their promises and repeal Obamacare, promised that "repeal and replace" will return after the GOP finishes its tax plan.
"ObamaCare premiums are going up, up, up, just as I have been predicting for two years. ObamaCare is OWNED by the Democrats, and it is a disaster."
While premiums have increased in some states, both insurance companies and state regulators have said they blame uncertainty caused by Trump and the GOP's efforts to repeal Obamacare without a clear direction on how the administration will run the exchanges in the interim -- including the administration's decision to stop paying a key insurance subsidy.
According to a Kaiser Health tracking poll from last week, 61 percent of Americans says Trump and Republicans in Congress bear responsibility for any issues with the law going forward.
The president has rarely made public comments on U.S. activity in Iraq. In March, he told a group of senators, "our soldiers [in Iraq] are fighting like never before.” He made headlines shortly after his inauguration when he said in an interview with CNN that the U.S. “should have kept the oil” in Iraq, saying if that had happened, “we wouldn’t have ISIS.”
A recent investigation in the New York Times Magazine revealed that U.S. airstrikes in Iraq have killed far more civilians than acknowledged by the coalition, an issue the president has not commented on.
The president has come under scrutiny for his response to the latest in a series of accidents involving the U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet in Japan. The fifth incident this year occurred Wednesday when a Navy aircraft carrying 11 crew members and passengers crashed in the Philippine sea. Eight people have been rescued so far. Search efforts to find the remaining three are under way.
Toward the end of his video conference remarks, Trump threw in a plug for tax reform, saying he’s working on “big, fat, beautiful tax cuts.” He added that the economy at home is “doing great. ... So you’re fighting for something real, you’re fighting for something good. A lot of things have happened with our country over the last very short period of time, and they’re really good, they’re really good.”
Trump ended with praise for military families, saying they missed and loved the troops, and that they “endure it because they love our country and because they love you. ... Believe me, I know so much about military families.”
Later, Trump visited the Coast Guard Station Lake Worth Inlet to serve food at a mess hall. "If you were looking at it as a brand," Trump said of the Coast Guard, "there’s no brand that went up more than the Coast Guard, with what happened in Texas." Referencing Hurricane Harvey's impact on Texas, Trump lauded the group for having saved some 16,000 lives.
The president again applauded the stock market, noting prospects for the Coast Guard members' 401ks, and increases in military spending. "We’re ordering tremendous amounts of new equipment — we’re at $700 billion for the military. And, you know, they were cutting back for years. They just kept cutting, cutting, cutting the military."
After asking if the audience if had any questions, no one responded. “I love it when you don’t. See, that means you’re doing great. I love that. That’s the greatest."
"The press, I know, doesn’t have any questions. If you do, we won’t take them, but that’s OK."