Trump and The Military; Or, What To Expect When You’re Expecting a 1000-Year Reign of Terror

In comments on Monday, which were little noticed, given the sturm und drang of the coming End Times, Donald Trump gave yet another preview of what his administration would be like. It was a statement so shocking in both its reflexive authoritarianism and wild-eyed improvisational ignorance, as well as misguided deification, that it should have sunk a normal campaign. That it was barely-discussed shows exactly where we are. This is from The Military Times, but hat-tip to Foreign Policy‘s Situation Report for pointing it out.

If he becomes commander in chief, Donald Trump won’t let military generals speak to “the dishonest press,” out of fear they’ll spill national security secrets.

“I don’t want them saying things like ‘our nation has never been so ill-prepared.’ Even though it’s true, I don’t want the enemy knowing that.”“A general should not be on television,” the Republican front-runner told a crowd of supporters during a rally at Carmel, Indiana, on Monday. “I don’t want our generals on television. I will prohibit them.

“I don’t want them going on television,” he said. “You think Gen. George Patton or Gen. Douglas MacArthur, do you think they’d be on television saying about how weak we are?

“Number one, they wouldn’t be on television because they’d be knocking the hell out of the enemy and they wouldn’t have time.”

Pentagon officials have held multiple public press conferences with high-ranking officers in the last few weeks, including a trio of events discussing operations in Iraq and a briefing by Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command.

Military leaders have said the goal of such events is to keep the public updated on military news.They frequently dismiss questions related to specific movements or strategic decisions.

Let’s look at this for exactly what it is.

  1. Part of it is garden-variety “real Americans vs. the press” nonsense, but a little deeper, it is the idea, popular among the right, that the military and (especially) the intelligence services are excused from the normal daily grind of functioning in a democratic and open society.
  2. It’s misleading and dishonest demagoguery, pretending that the devious press is forcing generals to reveal battle plans, which if true (it’s not) speaks ill of the generals, but that part is weirdly elided in order to create an enemy.
  3. It’s not just that Trump wants to keep information from the public. It’s that he doesn’t want anyone talking to the press because then he can’t fully control the message. This is a man who always wants to muzzle anyone working for him. There is only one voice, and that is Trumps. If they aren’t going to praise “Mr. Trump” then they can’t talk. This is the mentality he’ll bring to the Oval Office.
  4. It’s wildly, insanely wrong. Anyone who thinks that Patton, or by god McArthur, avoided press has no concept as history, and sees it as nothing more than an idealized hagiography of Strong White Men. Patton and McArthur here are actually “Patton” and “McArthur”, not real people, but flawless ideals of when men were men, and we didn’t let any treacherous press or pusillanimous politicians or women keep us from knocking heads.

For some reason Trump gets a weird pass because everyone knows he’s just making it up as he goes along, but it comes from a very understandable and predictable mindset, one which we’ve seen throughout history. It’s selling a veneration of a fake past and the idea that there is only one person who can bring back that toughness, that iron and steel. Trump is part of a long line of demagogues, a movement that has been around forever, was amplified by the rise of radio and TV, and can gain further steam thanks to the rise of idiot celebrity culture and social media, of which he is a master. We have to take every statement at face value, and expose it for the terrifying truth of what it actually is.

A Farewell To Cruz, And A Warm Hello To The Reign of Locusts

And the great day of wrath has come
And here’s mud in your big red eye
The poker’s in the fire
And the locusts take the sky

-Tom Waits, Earth Died Screaming

I mean, in a just world, seeing Ted Cruz fail would be cause for celebration, right? This hateful messianic, the culmination of every rotten political trend of the last 40 years, this embodiment of a movement that screechingly defines itself entirely as opposition to progress, this sneering elitist, this violent bigot, the nihilistic self-serving fraud: his sadness and defeat should be a time for joy.

But it isn’t, because 1) for god’s sake, that means Trump, and 2) he’ll be back, claiming in 2020 that he was defeated by a liberal billionaire who hijacked the party. Oddly, I’ll turn this over to Ross Douthat, who has written what I think are the two best paragraphs of his tenure at the Times (if you can ignore how he helped, in his fundamentally sad way, to enable these trends by attempting to put a nice Catholic spin on the snarling hatred underneath).

Cruz will be back, no doubt. He’s young, he’s indefatigable, and he can claim — and will claim, on the 2020 hustings — that True Conservatism has as yet been left untried. But that will be a half-truth; it isn’t being tried this year because the Republican Party’s voters have rejected him and it, as they rejected another tour for Bushism when they declined to back Rubio and Jeb.

What remains, then, is Trumpism. Which is also, in its lurching, sometimes insightful, often wicked way, a theory of what kind of party the Republicans should become, and one that a plurality of Republicans have now actually voted to embrace.

And so the Great Day of Wrath has come. The Party is Trump; Trump is the Party. L’état est orange. And while I agree with the experts that he doesn’t have much of a chance- it’s hard to when without getting votes from blacks, or Latinos, or women*- who the hell can say? We’ve entered the time of the seriously Weird. There is nothing normal about this. This will be the single-most dangerous nomination in American history. Even if he loses, enormously, this will be written in history books as the time America embraced sheer unvarnished hatred as a replacement for anything good, decent, or intelligent. It isn’t like Romney or McCain or (god knows) George Bush or Reagan appealed to the head, but they tempered their pleas to the angry and disaffected jackals with some human decency.

That isn’t Trump’s way. There has been nothing in his campaign that has had any substance, unless you think a raging chemical fire is something that can be held and cherished. We’ve seen a few campaigns like this in our history, like Pat Buchanan, who surprised people by doing fairly well in primaries. But they’ve never won. This is uncharted territory for America. It is not normal. It is not just upsetting. It is genuinely terrifying, and even a nutcrushing loss in November will only partially mitigate the effects. What Trump has unleashed will be barking madly down our streets for decades to come.


*What will be exciting is the first time Trump or a pundit says that Hillary is running a “divisive” campaign and only “appealing to special interest groups” by winning with everyone except older white people. They’re the only baseline, god dammit!