In the summer of 2017, after just six months in the White House, Donald Trump flew to Paris for Bastille Day celebrations hosted by France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron. President Macron put on a spectacular military performance to mark the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. Ancient tanks rolled down the Champs Elysees, fighter jets roared overhead. The event seemed calculated to please Trump, his showmanship and grandeur, and he was clearly delighted. I turned to one of my American colleagues and said, “You’ll do it next year.”
Trump, of course, was determined to return to Washington and have his generals organize the largest and most spectacular Fourth of July military parade in history. The generals reacted with disgust at his confusion. “I would rather swallow acid,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said. In an attempt to dissuade Trump, officials suggested the parade would cost millions of dollars and blow up the streets of the capital.
But the rift between Trump and the generals wasn’t really about money or practicality, just their endless political battles over whether to withdraw from Afghanistan or the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. It was more than a showdown over how to deal with Iran. The schism was as much a question of values as it was of how they felt about the United States itself. It was never clearer than when he spoke about his vision for Independence Day. “Listen, I don’t want to get hurt in a parade,” Trump said. “It doesn’t feel right to me.” He explained that there were several rows of wounded veterans, including soldiers in wheelchairs.
Kelly couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “They are heroes,” she told Trump. “There is only one group of people in our society who are more heroic than they are, and they are buried in Arlington.” He didn’t mention that he had a son of his own, Robert.
“I don’t need them,” Trump repeated. “It doesn’t look right to me.”
The issue came up again during an Oval Office briefing featuring Trump, Kerry and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force General Paul Selva. “As you know, General Selva is in charge of organizing the Independence Day parade,” he told the president. Trump did not understand Kerry’s cynicism. So what do you think of the parade? Trump asked Selva. Rather than tell Trump what he wanted to hear, Selva was blunt.
“I didn’t grow up in the United States, I actually grew up in Portugal,” Selva said. “Portugal was a dictatorship and people were parading with guns. We don’t do that in this country.” And he added: “It’s not who we are.”
Even after that impassioned speech, Trump still didn’t get it. So, you don’t like the idea, do you? he said he couldn’t believe it.
“No,” Jungle said. “That’s what dictators do.”
The four years of Trump’s presidency have been marked by incredible volatility: tantrums, late-night Twitter storms and sudden layoffs. Initially, Trump, who evaded the draft by claiming he had bone spurs, seemed fascinated by being commander-in-chief and the national security officials he appointed or inherited. But Trump’s affair with “my generals” was short-lived, and in a statement in this article, the former president confirmed how much he had tainted them over time. It was the people, and once I realized that I wasn’t trusting them. , trusted real generals and admirals in the system,” he said.
It turns out that generals have rules, standards, and experience, not blind loyalty. The president’s loud complaints to John Kerry one day were typical: “Damn general, why can’t you be like a German general?”
which generals asked Kelly.
“German generals in World War II,” Trump responded.
“Did you know they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost succeeded?” Kelly said.
But of course, Trump didn’t know. “No, no, no, they were completely dedicated to him,” the president replied. In his version of history, the generals of the Third Reich were completely subservient to Hitler. He was the model he wanted for the army. Kelly told Trump that there was no such thing as an American general, but the president was determined to test the offer.