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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.