Could it be that Donald Trump thinks that the military is the enemy of the people, too, in addition to the media? The Trump administration has ordered the defunding of Stars and Stripes, the “local paper” for the military. The publication has been in existence since 1861 but the fiscal year 2021 defense budget has zeroed out the $15.5 million annual subsidy which keeps it in business.
Stars and Stripes has a colorful history. It was started when a group of Union soldiers under Ulysses S. Grant, who were pressmen before the war, took over a local newspaper office which had been abandoned by a fleeing Confederate sympathizer publisher and began to ply their trade on behalf of their fellows in uniform. USA Today:
Since then Stars and Stripes has launched the careers of famous journalists such as cartoonist Bill Mauldin and TV commentator Andy Rooney. And its independence from the Pentagon brass has been guaranteed by such distinguished military leaders as Gens. John G. Pershing, George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower once reprimanded Gen. George Patton for trying to censor Mauldin cartoons he didn’t like.
Just one more battle between the Trump administration and the rest of sane government, where, not surprisingly, there is push back.
…the president’s fiscal year 2021 defense department budget request… zeroed out the $15.5 million annual subsidy for Stars and Stripes. But Congress, which under the Constitution has the power to make decisions about how the public’s money is spent, has not yet approved the president’s request.
In fact, the version the House approved earlier this summer explicitly overruled the decision to pull the plug on Stars and Stripes, restoring funding for the paper.
So far, the Senate hasn’t acted. But in a letter released earlier this week, 15 members of the chamber, including combat veteran Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and four Republicans, called on Defense Secretary Mark Esper to “take steps to preserve the funding prerogatives of Congress before allowing any such disruption to take place.”
In a separate letter, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Trump ally, makes a similar request. “As a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value Stars and Stripes brings to its readers,” he wrote, telling Esper that shutting down the paper before the Senate acts would be “premature.”
There’s a $700 Billion defense budget on the table and a palty fifteen million is not going to make it or break it. Stars and Stripes is on the front line daily, informing and entertaining troops and frequently it’s in place when the internet is not. Nevertheless, the memo the Trump administration sent out is putting it out of business unless cooler heads prevail.
In a heretofore unpublicized recent memo, the Pentagon delivered an order to shutter Stars and Stripes, a newspaper that has been a lifeline and a voice for American troops since the Civil War. The memo orders the publisher of the news organization (which now publishes online as well as in print) to present a plan that “dissolves the Stars and Stripes” by Sept. 15 including “specific timeline for vacating government owned/leased space worldwide.”
“The last newspaper publication (in all forms) will be September 30, 2020,” writes Col. Paul Haverstick Jr., the memo’s author.
This is yet another time to call and write our elected officials. Our troops need our support on a daily, personal basis and Stars and Stripes provides that. Whoever thought up this daft idea of defunding Stars and Stripes does not have the best interests of the military at heart. Here’s what Charlie Pierce says:
My guess is that it comes from the same authoritarian impulse that has led Camp Runamuck to attack the independence of the Voice of America, which was handed over to an administration* crony who’s already meddling with VOA’s political coverage. The president* doesn’t approve of an independent private media, so it’s logical that he’d move like a bitch on any government media that acts independently. But S&S is an institution dating back to the Civil War.
So, like so many things, the survival of S&S rests at the moment with the invertebrate body that is the Republican majority in the Senate. Maybe.
This is a terrible idea. If the Senate approves this, they’re out of their minds. There is no other way to view this other than as another slap in the face to the free press and one more unjustifiable outrage on the part of this president* to the military. Trump is already trailing in polls with the military and doing this, the month before the election, is throwing gasoline on the fire.
UPDATE: 2:30 p.m. PDT
Trump folds under pressure.
The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch. It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2020