There’s plenty of evidence that Donald Trump wanted to be treated like a dictator, that he frequently butted heads with military leaders, and that his ignorance of history knew no bounds. It shouldn’t be that surprising, then, how the former president reached back to World War II in trying to explain the kind of absolute loyalty he expected from America’s generals.
According to an excerpt from The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 published in The New Yorker on Monday, Trump once griped to then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about what he perceived as disloyal generals. “You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?”
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“Which generals?” Kelly responded.
“The German generals in World War II,” said Trump.
Kelly then reminded the president of the failed assassination attempts against Hitler by his subordinates. “You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?” Kelly said.
But Trump, of course, insisted otherwise. “No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,” he said.
When asked to comment by the New Yorker, Trump reiterated prior complaints. “These were very untalented people and once I realized it, I did not rely on them, I relied on the real generals and admirals within the system,” he said.
Trump has pined for the kind of loyalty shown to other dictators, as well. While praising Kim Jong-un in 2018, Trump said he wanted “my people” to treat him the same way North Koreans treat that nation’s murderous head of state. “He’s the head of a country, and I mean, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anything different,” Trump told Fox News. “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”
The excerpt from The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021 featured several other reminders of Trump’s abhorrence, including that he demanded no injured veterans participate in a memorial parade. “Look, I don’t want any wounded guys in the parade,” Trump told Kelly. “This doesn’t look good for me.”
“Those are the heroes,” Kelly responded. “In our society, there’s only one group of people who are more heroic than they are — and they are buried over in Arlington.”
“I don’t want them,” Trump reiterated. “It doesn’t look good for me.”
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