We’ve long known who Donald Trump is: narcissistic, impressed with authoritarian displays, contemptuous of anyone he sees as low status, a man for whom the highest principle is his own self-interest. It’s still shocking to read new accounts of the moments where he’s most willing to come out and show all that, to not even pretend to be anything but what he is—and holy crap, does The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg have the goods in his new profile of outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley, which focuses on Milley’s efforts to protect the military as a nonpartisan institution under Trump.
Two moments stand out for Trump’s casual cruelty. In one, a severely wounded Army captain had sung “God Bless America” at the welcome ceremony for Milley as the new Joint Chiefs of Staff chair:After Avila’s performance, Trump walked over to congratulate him, but then said to Milley, within earshot of several witnesses, “Why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that, the wounded.” Never let Avila appear in public again, Trump told Milley.
It’s a moment that echoed Trump mocking a disabled reporter, or reportedly refusing to visit a cemetery for World War II dead in France, saying “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers” and calling dead Marines “suckers.” That cruelty was not how Trump’s reaction to Capt. Mark Avila was reported at the time.