Trump to veterans on PTSD: Some people are strong and can handle the stress of war, but not everyone can

Lots of breathless headlines about this soundbite today but the actual quote is much less offensive than most media outlets seem to suggest. In isolation, the idea that PTSD is a form of weakness to which the “strong” are immune is egregious and malignant insofar as it might discourage vets who need it from seeking treatment. But context is everything. This isn’t Patton slapping soldiers for suffering from combat trauma. Trump is sympathetic to them:

He’s in trouble here for his poor choice of a single word — “strong” — but clearly he’s not trying to denigrate soldiers with PTSD. (He saves his contempt for soldiers who are captured in battle.) I think in his own Trump-y way he’s making the prosaic point that different people have different natural thresholds for how much war-related trauma they’re able to endure. He reached for the word “strong” to describe those with higher thresholds because he’s Trump and “strength” is his go-to word for “health,” “resilience,” and so forth. I don’t see any intent to stigmatize treatment for combat-related trauma here. On the contrary, he spends most of his answer on how treatment is more urgently needed. I realize the media is kitchen-sinking him now that it’s October, but if you want to kill him for casually smearing troops, you’ve always got the McCain/POW comments from last year.

Update: The veteran who asked Trump the question at today’s town hall also thinks his answer is perfectly fine.