‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.” – Aldous Huxley
ROLLING FORK — When I heard last Friday that The Atlantic magazine had made public that which was all too common knowledge in administration circles – that the 45th President of the United States considers those who volunteer to fight for our country are “suckers,” and those who give their lives for it are “losers,” I frankly did not believe it and it still made me mad.
The very notion that any American president any American commander-in-chief could think, much less verbalize such heresy was unthinkable. Right?
After all, the American armed forces and the men and women serving within them make up the single most admired institution in the country. Right?
And then an hour later, The Associated Press’ Pentagon reporter, citing his own sources, confirmed the magazine story virtually verbatim. That got my attention and that made me about as mad as I thought I could get. I mean, The Atlantic is a well-respected news and commentary periodical, but 40 years in this business has taught me that The Associated Press is something else, altogether. Other confirmations from other news sources quickly followed, and I remember thinking, before finally dropping off to what proved a fitful sleep, that this had been the real night of the generals.
But I had been wrong about thinking my anger had reached its zenith, because the next day I made it my business to get my hands on a copy of that Atlantic story, written by none other than its editor-in-chief. And then I read it. And then I read it, again.
And when I put it down, sitting at my desk, my old dog lying at my feet, her unease telegraphing she sensed the change in her master’s demeanor, it occurred to me that something the great English man of letters C.S. Lewis had once written of Christianity, applied as well to what I had just contained my disgust enough to finish reading: “it has that ring of truth that real things do.”
The story was true, all right. And because it was, because it is, I can no longer honestly tell people what I frequently have in the past when they asked why I so disliked President Donald J. Trump. “I don’t dislike Trump personally,” I would tell them. “I have never met the man and I have to know somebody in order to dislike him. I do, however, greatly dislike what Trump does and I deeply resent what he has done to my country.”
And that was true then, but not now. Not after this. Now, I dislike President Donald J. Trump, the man – a lot.
And if you are one of the legion of people who hours upon end, day after day fill my social media feeds with seemingly endless patriotic posts, you very badly need to read Jeffrey Goldberg’s reporting in his magazine because you need to know that the president so many of you also revere, privately thinks about the hard, often dangerous and sometimes dirty work our men and women in uniform do to protect this land of ours. You need to know what the oh, so flawed man we the people elected to the highest office in the land privately thinks about those who have died doing it.
So, I am going to tell you. All his other character flaws notwithstanding, here is the real damnable Donald Trump:
He refused to go to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because it was raining and he was afraid the rain would muss his hair and because, according to four senior staffers, he said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” That final resting place is sacred to the Marine Corps because of the more than 1,800 Marines who are buried there after winning the Battle of Belleau Wood and changing the course of World War I, that minor conflict about which Trump reportedly inquired, “Who were the good guys in this war?”
After having trashed the late Sen. John McCain while running for office in 2015, denying his war hero status, Trump did so again upon his death. “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” and was reportedly furious when some patriots ordered the flags to half-staff. In addition to dismissing McCain’s POW status, he similarly demeaned George H.W. Bush’s being shot down in World War II. Another “loser,” no doubt.
On Memorial Day, 2017, standing next to then chief of Homeland Security John Kelly at his 29-year-old soldier son’s grave in Arlington, turned to him and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”
According to another four-star general, “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.”
While discussing the recurring theme of having a Kremlin-like military parade in his honor, Trump told the staff not to include any wounded vets because he thought the sight of amputees would be uncomfortable. “Nobody wants to see that,” he said.
So, there you are, The prosecution rests. It’s true in all its ugliness and since you now know it, if you can still simultaneously share patriotic musings and support the only American president to hold its military in contempt, the verdict will come for Trump in November, but it is already in on you, and I’m afraid it is “hypocrite.”