Republicans feign outrage over White House press secretary's Space Force joke

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Some lawmakers say they're upset that Jen Psaki compared a question about the military branch to an inquiry about Air Force One's color scheme.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki's response to a question about the U.S. Space Force on Tuesday has drawn backlash from Republicans and conservatives, who claim the joking remark was disrespectful.

During the daily press briefing, a reporter had asked whether President Joe Biden had made a decision to keep Space Force or its scope.

"Wow, Space Force. It's the plane of today," Psaki responded, appearing to compare it to a previously asked question about whether Biden had picked the color scheme of Air Force One yet. Psaki had responded to that question, asked during the Jan. 25 briefing, by saying that Biden had "not spent a moment thinking about the color scheme of Air Force One."

Referring to the Space Force question on Tuesday, Psaki added, "It is an interesting question. I am happy to check with our Space Force point of contact. I'm not sure who that is. I will find out and see if we have any update on that."

The first independent Space Force branch was created under Trump in 2019. Prior to that, the Air Force carried out many of the same responsibilities within its Space Command division.

It faced initial pushback from Trump's critics who questioned its necessity and Trump's claim that the idea was solely his (it was not but had rather been suggested by Republican members of Congress previously).

Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize Psaki's response this week.

"It’s concerning to see the Biden administration's press secretary blatantly diminish an entire branch of our military as the punchline of a joke, which I'm sure China would find funny," Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), who first proposed the idea of an independent Space Force in Congress in 2019, told Politico. "Jen Psaki needs to immediately apologize to the men and women of the Space Force for this disgraceful comment."

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), a staunch Trump advocate, tweeted on Tuesday, "The Space Force is an official branch of our armed services and the Biden administration goes out and openly mocks it on television for all to see? The level of disrespect they have for those who serve is disgraceful."

On the same day, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL), another Trump supporter, tweeted, "@PressSec brushed aside @SpaceForceDoD when asked a legitimate question about the future of the agency. The hardworking men and women of the Space Force aren't a joke. She may want to 'circle back' with an apology."

Amid the GOP pushback, Psaki released a statement late Tuesday, tweeting, "We look forward to the continuing work of Space Force and invite the members of the team to come visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work."

The criticism stands in contrast with the prior White House occupant's long record of disrespecting the military.

Last September, the Atlantic, citing multiple sources, reported that in 2018, Trump did not want to visit the World War I Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris, telling senior staff members, "Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with losers." Trump reportedly called the 1,800 marines killed at Belleau Wood "suckers" for dying in battle.

The Atlantic also reported that, at a 2018 meeting for a White House military parade, Trump had asked his staff to exclude amputees and wounded veterans from the event, saying, "Nobody wants to see that."

Trump has denied ever making those statements.

Trump, who dodged the draft five times, also repeatedly disparaged the late Arizona Sen. John McCain for being captured and tortured as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.

"He's not a war hero," Trump said of McCain in 2015. "I like people who weren't captured."

He also famously undermined the authority of military officials in granting pardons to service members accused of war crimes.

Still, Trump has tried to praise himself for helping the troops and supporting veterans, despite spending less on boosting the military than his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. He has tried to credit himself with policy maneuvers at the VA, first implemented under the Obama administration as well.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.