While Donald Trump puts forward a public persona who deeply represents the United States Military and those who serve it, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic wrote on Thursday that those close to him have seen a very different person. Several sources told the writer that Trump holds a deep disdain for troops who were captured and killed during combat.
The president also reportedly avoided trips that would have paid tribute to soldiers who fell in battle, even if they did so decades or centuries ago.
One such incident is said to have happened during a planned trip to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018. At the last minute, Trump canceled his appointment there and claimed it was because of the weather. He said his helicopter couldn’t fly in that weather and the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him.
Goldberg said several people who were close to Trump told him that the real reason the visit was called off is that he was afraid the rain would ruin his hair but also because he felt such a trip was beneath him. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump reportedly said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.”
Unnamed sources also claimed that in a separate conversation during the same time, he talked about the more than 1,800 American troops who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” because they got killed.
Belleau Wood is not only considered an important battle in U.S. history, it’s also thought to be one that began and cemented the persona of the Marine Corps as fierce warriors. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. His aides said on the same trip that he asked “who were the good guys,” and when he was told America fought on the side of the allies, he’s said to have wondered why they got into the war at all.
Goldberg wrote that Trump’s ambivalence toward soldiers wasn’t anything new. During his campaign in 2016, he talked about former United States Sen. John McCain’s service in the military. In those remarks, then-candidate Trump said he preferred people who “weren’t captured.”
The writer added that despite the comments being something that was a first in presidential politics, Trump suffered very little to no backlash. He also pointed to a time when the candidate insulted a pair of “Gold Star” parents. The couple’s son, an Army captain, was killed in Iraq in 2014.