Back in February, Emily Flitter filed a curious background story for Reuters:
Presidential candidate Donald Trump admires the late Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, both World War Two generals. They were winners, unpredictable, and not especially nice guys, he says in campaign speeches. But Trump’s pledge to imitate their styles sets modern-day military experts on edge.
Although unquestionably in the pantheon of U.S. military heroes, MacArthur and Patton were also controversial figures remembered by historians as flamboyant self-promoters. The commander in the Pacific, MacArthur was eventually fired by President Harry Truman for speaking out against Truman’s policies in the Korean War, which followed World War Two. Before Patton died in December 1945, he questioned the need to remove Nazis from key posts in postwar German politics and society.
It seems that Donald Trump doesn’t attend to details:
Born in 1946, a year after World War Two ended, Trump often praises MacArthur and Patton for the blunt ways he says they commanded respect. “George Patton was one of the roughest guys, he would talk rough to his men,” Trump told an audience last week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “His men would die for him,” Trump added. “We don’t have that anymore.” He said Patton would wipe out Islamic State without hesitation, were he still in command.
His audiences cheered, but others didn’t:
Interviewed by Reuters, recently retired military personnel voiced doubts about Trump’s grasp of U.S. military operations. One retired four-star general called Trump’s references to Patton and MacArthur “bumper sticker foolishness.” Another said Trump was comparing “apples to oranges” by likening America’s role in World War Two to the fight against Islamic State.
“He has no understanding of how it works, at least in my view,” said an aide to a third retired four-star general. “He makes these bold statements and one-liners, but that doesn’t translate into understanding what it takes to be a military leader, what it takes to develop a plan.”
They’d rather not see him as commander-in-chief, because he’s an amateur pretending he knows stuff that he doesn’t know. Trump did seek and obtain a deferment so he didn’t have to go to Vietnam back in the day – a bad toe or something – but he’s seen the movies. That may be the problem:
Trump often says that in the spirit of MacArthur and Patton, he never wants to reveal his specific plans for military operations, since that would give the enemy a chance to prepare and counterattack. “I don’t want my generals being interviewed,” he said in Myrtle Beach.
Trump’s statement had an irony about it, given his oft-repeated comment that he knows what military experts have to say from their interviews on television. But historians said the comment also showed he has little understanding of just how often MacArthur and Patton spoke to the press.
“They were the media whores of their time,” said Daniel Drezner, a professor at International politics at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University who often writes on national security. He said anyone vaguely familiar with Patton by way of the 1970 George C. Scott film “Patton” would know he got into trouble for remarks that were politically controversial.
Trump may not remember this:
In early August 1943, Lieutenant General George S. Patton slapped two United States Army soldiers under his command during the Sicily Campaign of World War II. Patton’s hard-driving personality and lack of belief in the medical condition post-traumatic stress disorder, then known as “battle fatigue” or “shell shock”, led to the soldiers becoming the subject of his ire in incidents on 3 and 10 August, when Patton struck and berated them after discovering they were patients at evacuation hospitals away from the front lines without apparent physical injuries.
That was in the movie – Patton slapping the troubled soldier in the hospital and calling him a coward – and maybe Trump liked that scene. Trump’s like that. Everyone else is a coward. He’s not. Even if he didn’t go to Vietnam, he did attend a military academy, not a regular high school, so he knows about such things, or so he says:
Donald J. Trump, who received draft deferments through much of the Vietnam War, told the author of a coming biography that he nevertheless “always felt that I was in the military” because of his education at a military-themed boarding school.
Mr. Trump said his experience at the New York Military Academy, an expensive prep school where his parents had sent him to correct poor behavior, gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”
Those who will vote for him buy that. Everyone else just sighs. But Patton paid for slapping those soldiers:
Word of the incidents spread, eventually reaching Patton’s superior, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who ordered him to apologize to the men. Patton’s actions were initially suppressed in the news until journalist Drew Pearson publicized them in the United States. While the U.S. Congress and the general public expressed both support and disdain for Patton’s actions, Eisenhower and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall opted not to fire Patton as a commander. He was nonetheless sidelined from combat command for almost a year.
In the end, Patton, the tough guy some folks still loved, was more trouble than he was worth:
Seizing the opportunity the predicament presented, Eisenhower used Patton as a decoy in Operation Fortitude, sending faulty intelligence to German agents that Patton was leading the Invasion of Europe. While Patton eventually returned to combat command in the European Theater in mid-1944, the slapping incidents were seen by Eisenhower, Marshall, and other leaders to be examples of Patton’s brashness and impulsiveness. Patton’s career was halted as former subordinates such as Omar Bradley became his superiors.
Brashness and impulsiveness ended Patton’s career. Someone needs to explain that to Donald Trump, slowly and carefully, not that it matters. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” He is convinced that he has a brilliant military mind. After the New York Military Academy, he saw George C. Scott win the war. Case closed.
All of this is a minor matter, given everything else that has happened in the campaign, particularly in the last week – his disastrous performance in the first presidential debate, his unhinged elaborate predawn tweetstorm fat-shaming and slut-shaming Miss Universe of 1996, who made him look bad, the folks on Saturday Night Live mocking him mercilessly, and then the New York Times story showing he took a loss of almost a billion dollars in 1995 and, using that as a personal carry-over loss, almost certainly hasn’t paid any income tax for the last twenty years or so, making him an absurdly bad businessman and someone who hasn’t chipped in a dime to keep the country running for all those years – or as he calls it, brilliant. He’s been busy with other matters. Patton can wait.
No, Patton can’t wait. Aaron Blake reports on how he just went back to that well:
There will be plenty of quibbling in the hours ahead, but Donald Trump clearly just created a new batch of problems for himself with his comments Monday morning, in which he suggested that veterans dealing with mental health problems aren’t “strong” and “can’t handle it.”
“When people come back from war and combat, they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” Trump said to a veterans group in Northern Virginia. “And they see horror stories – they see events that you couldn’t see in a movie. Nobody would believe it. And we need mental health help, and medical. And it’s one of the things that I think is least-addressed, and it’s one of the things that I hear the most about, when I go around and am talking to veterans.”
Well, at least he doesn’t want to slap these weak sisters around:
Some suggested Trump was saying veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are weak. Others suggested that maybe he just got his words mixed up and shouldn’t be raked over the coals.
General Eisenhower also had to decide which it was with Patton back in 1943 – it’s the same sort of thing – but Blake argues it wasn’t:
What Trump did here is thoroughly Trump. He was talking about an issue in very general terms and was trying to express sympathy. He used the kind of platitudes that you would expect from an amateur politician – but he also stumbled into the kind of language that anybody who is familiar with these issues would know to avoid.
Veterans’ allies work hard to fight against the idea that problems like PTSD arise because people aren’t strong enough – especially given the culture of strength that exists within the military and lingering resistance to the very idea of PTSD.
Blake offers a lengthy review of that controversy, but this comes down to Trump being a bit of a military fan-boy:
In contrast with other controversial Trump statements, this one wasn’t Trump trying to be provocative or appealing to his base. Indeed, saying anything that would alienate veterans would be a very bad idea for any Republican politician, and even Trump knows that.
But he is betraying his utter lack of sophistication on policy issues. Trump’s stock response on veterans’ issues is that things are very bad and that there are twenty-two veteran suicides per day (which isn’t actually accurate) and that the Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t doing a good job. But in this case, he was asked about specific ways in which he would address the veteran suicide epidemic, and he has no real response for that – because he has no real policy prescription that he can enunciate. So he wandered into territory that even he must recognize now was a bad idea.
The Trump campaign will surely complain about the way his comments are written up. But he messed up on Monday. And he did it because, in a lot of ways, he’s still an amateur.
He also did it because he really didn’t understand what a jerk George Patton could be, and what ruined him. Trump probably deserved to be slapped around on this, although this was hardly the big story of the day. Someone else slapped him around.
Josh Voorhees explains that:
Donald Trump’s already bad start to the week just got a little bit worse. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Monday that his office has informed the Trump Foundation that it violated state law earlier this year, and ordered the nonprofit to cease its fundraising in New York immediately.
As the Washington Post’s first reported last week, the foundation appears to have been operating without the necessary paperwork to raise large sums of money in New York. Under state law, a New York–based charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of certification to do so. The AG’s office claims that “based on the information” the state has received, the New York–based Trump Foundation never filled out the necessary paperwork despite crossing that threshold. The state hasn’t cited specific examples of when and how Trump’s charity specifically violated the law, but the most obvious candidate is the roughly $1.7 million it claims it raised online earlier this year in conjunction with a veterans fundraiser Trump staged as counterprogramming to the GOP primary debate he skipped in January.
The AG’s office informed the Trump Foundation this past Friday that it has 15 days to file the missing paperwork. Failure to cease fundraising and submit the necessary paperwork “shall be deemed to be a continuing fraud upon the people of the state of New York,” according to the official letter the state sent to the nonprofit.
That’s bad news for Trump, and it may not be a minor matter:
This isn’t some inconsequential paperwork mistake. A charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year may undergo annual audits from independent accountants in New York. By not registering with the state charities bureau, Trump’s foundation was able to operate with far less oversight than it otherwise would have. As charity-tax-experts told the Post, if the Trump Foundation would have filed the paperwork it was supposed to, outside accountants would have had a chance to check its books, as well as to examine explicitly whether the foundation had spent any money that benefited Trump or his businesses in violation of other statutes. In short, they’d have likely spotted any number of the red flags that the Post’s David Fahrenthold has uncovered through his dogged reporting into a foundation that Trump has apparently used to play the role of benevolent billionaire without actually being one.
David Graham adds detail to that:
Despite bearing Trump’s name, the foundation has largely been run using other people’s money for about a decade now, as it draws donations from other givers, and then donates them under Trump’s name. Earlier this year, the foundation raised a reported $1.67 million for veterans’ causes. Donald Trump has reportedly used Trump Foundation donations to settle legal issues involving himself, as well as to buy gifts that he may have kept. Both of those would violate rules that ban “self-dealing” by charities. In addition, there are cases where Trump directed income to the foundation, but it’s not clear that he paid income taxes on those monies, as required.
Schneiderman is investigating the Trump Foundation to see whether it broke rules against self-dealing by buying gifts for Trump, settling legal cases with foundation monies, and making a political donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office was at the time deciding whether or not to pursue an investigation into Trump University.
The Trump folks say that Schneiderman is a Hillary Clinton lackey, but he still slapped Trump around here, on solid legal grounds. It was a day to slap Trump around, and then there was this:
According to a report from the Associated Press, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump frequently made inappropriate sexual comments about women on the set of his Apprentice series.
AP spoke to twenty former contestants and crew who witnessed his behavior when the cameras were and weren’t rolling. The crew members in particular recalled frequent comments Trump would make about one of the camerawoman, constantly telling her she had a “nice ass,” and saying she was the second most beautiful woman in the world.
“There is a beautiful woman behind that camera, so I only want to look at that,” Trump told producers once as they were setting up a shot. Trump would loudly tell everyone that her blue eyes and blonde hair reminded him of his daughter Ivanka Trump.
That’s a little creepy, as is this:
Another habit of Trump’s was to suddenly start talking to male contestants about what female contestants he would like to have sex with (even though Trump had only just recently been married). “He was like ‘Isn’t she hot, check her out,’ kind of gawking, something to the effect of ‘I’d like to hit that,'” recalled one contestant.
Sometimes he would ask male contestants the same question when the female contestants were present: “We were in the boardroom one time figuring out who to blame for the task, and he just stopped in the middle and pointed to someone and said, ‘You’d fuck her, wouldn’t you? I’d fuck her. C’mon, wouldn’t you?’ Everyone is trying to make him stop talking, and the woman is shrinking in her seat,” said one former contestant.
Brashness and impulsiveness ended George Patton’s career, but Patton was nothing like this. The Trump campaign says none of this ever happened. The Associated Press stands by its story.
Everyone was slapping Trump around, and then Newsweek piled on:
Plenty of blue-collar workers believe that, as president, Donald Trump would be ready to fight off U.S. trade adversaries and reinvigorate the country’s manufacturing industries through his commitment to the Rust Belt. What they likely don’t know is that Trump has been stiffing American steel workers on his own construction projects for years, choosing to deprive untold millions of dollars from four key electoral swing states and instead directing it to China – the country whose trade practices have helped decimate the once-powerful industrial center of the United States.
A Newsweek investigation has found that in at least two of Trump’s last three construction projects, Trump opted to purchase his steel and aluminum from Chinese manufacturers rather than United States corporations based in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. In other instances, he abandoned steel altogether, instead choosing the far-less-expensive option of buying concrete from various companies, including some linked to the Luchese and Genovese crime families. Trump has never been accused of engaging in any wrongdoing for his business dealings with those companies, but it’s true that the Mafia has long controlled much of the concrete industry in New York.
This too was bad news:
Throughout his campaign, Trump has maintained that some controversial decisions for his companies amounted to nothing more than taking actions that were good for business, and were therefore reflections of his financial acumen. But, with the exception of one business that collapsed into multiple bankruptcies, Trump does not operate a public company; he has no fiduciary obligation to shareholders to obtain the highest returns he can. His decisions to turn away from American producers were not driven by legal obligations to investors, but simply resulted in higher profits for himself and his family.
There’s no getting around that. Suddenly everyone is slapping Donald Trump around, and Ben White, Politico’s chief economic correspondent, sums up the situation:
Trump’s only chance to win is to make the election a referendum on Clinton and the economy. But it’s easy to forget these days that Clinton is even in the race and the economy is basically an afterthought. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly in the past, Trump’s favorite subject is Trump and he will never tolerate the campaign being about anything other than Trump.
There’s only one hope:
Trump supporters apparently believe he is still capable of change, even though he has repeatedly shown no interest in shifting course. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The New York Times that this long-awaited metamorphosis could still arrive.
“He has gotten himself to the edge of the mountain, he can get himself to the top of the mountain, but to do that he has to be willing to make real change,” Gingrich said. “I really want him to understand that he can win this. He is the one person who can beat him – not Hillary.”
Okay, be careful. Forget George Patton. Don’t slap any soldier in any hospital, and there’s this:
Trump has a chance on Sunday night to turn in a more disciplined debate performance and put the focus back on Clinton’s weaknesses including her email scandal, the Benghazi attack, her Wall Street ties and the soft economy.
Okay, do that, or don’t do that:
All the “Trump could turn this around” narratives rely on the idea that he is capable of becoming a totally different candidate. The Sunday debate in St. Louis is also a town hall format in which candidates must take questions from and interact with regular folks. Clinton is very practiced at this kind of thing while Trump is not. He could shock everyone and be a friendly, relatable guy in the debate and launch a brand-new strategy that reverses his sliding poll numbers and once again makes 2016 a referendum on Clinton. And the Easter Bunny could also be real.
There’s a reason White says that Trump is now slipping into a “death spiral” – that seems to be what’s happening. Trump has been getting slapped around daily, or two or three times a day, for a full week now. He may think he’s George Patton, but he’s the helpless shell-shocked solder being slapped now. He may not be able to take much more.