A few years ago, I began comparing President Trump to General Patton. Other than learning about the World War II leader as a part of overall history, my first closer look at him came when I started to watch the movie Patton starring George C. Scott. Very shortly into the film, I turned it off, repelled by the offensive language. My initial assumption was that the profanity was added by Hollywood to interest adolescent boys (of all ages). However, a quick search revealed that the movie producers had actually tamped down General Patton’s foul language.
Why did General Patton use vile words when addressing young, untested soldiers? It turns out that this was a purposeful choice. Knowing that many of these young men were religious and upright, he wanted to deliberately shock them. Having been raised to be loving and gentle, they now needed to become killers. The alternative was the enemy killing them. Working against time, General Patton administered a form of shock therapy to jolt these soldiers into their new reality.
This idea meshed with the other things I read about him. Reports spoke of his soldiers’ loyalty to him and of their mothers’ gratitude that their sons were serving under him rather than other generals. A brash leader, often unpopular with his peers and scorned by the Washington elites, the people on the battleground adored him.
General Patton’s brusqueness, his conviction that his tactics were best, and his lack of working through the proper channels did not always serve him well. There were times his actions and words were “beyond the pale.” In 1945 he notoriously sent soldiers on a disastrous mission that is assumed to have been undertaken in an attempt to free his son-in-law who was a German captive.
Yet—he was a great general who commanded loyalty and love from his troops. He was also successful in most of his wartime efforts. The analogy to President Trump is clear.
Donald Trump did not fit the presidential mold. Those who see him as having destroyed the GOP are forgetting that before his candidacy the GOP was on life-support. It was gasping for breath and increasingly ignored by its natural constituents. My husband and I aren’t the only Republicans who voted third-party, kept our checkbooks closed, and groaned as one uninspiring presidential candidate after another was pushed forward. A Jeb Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney presidency most likely would have been a swan song for the GOP in the unlikely event they were ever elected.
President Trump breathed enthusiasm and fervor back into conservative America. He revived a dying political brand and salvaged what looked like a doomed Supreme Court. In doing so, he spoke brashly, alienated many, made missteps, and was bitterly hated. He pulled back the curtain on Leftism and the pretense that this country is still united by agreed-upon American values. He mishandled the COVID crisis (though the world leaders who handled it well are few and far between) and ran a poor second campaign. He also had unprecedented media forces allied against him and the question remains exactly how effective voter fraud was. Like General Patton, the very qualities that led to his success also led to his failure.
Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if President Trump would have stopped tweeting, made more domestic alliances, and been guided by responsible others? Yes—and he wouldn’t have been the president he was with so many outstanding accomplishments. Had he followed more experienced advisors, he probably wouldn’t have been president at all. The good and the bad go together and both Donald Trump’s upsides and downsides co-exist. It matters not at all what I or anyone else wishes President Trump would do—the Frank Sinatra hit, “I Did It My Way,” could be his theme. And as time goes by, his way is looking better and better.
I am not enough of a student of military history to conjecture as to what World War II would have looked like without a General Patton, but it is likely that the Battle of the Bulge would have been an Allied calamity. The fact is that the civilized world survived an ominous threat. America, and other countries around the world are severely threatened again today, though the threat is largely internal for now.
Two Republican debates have now taken place with Donald Trump refusing to attend. This is unprecedented. Much of what elected and unelected powerbrokers in America have done since Donald Trump defeated Hilary Clinton is unprecedented as well. It is very hard to look at history through the eyes of those who lived it; we know the ending. General Patton had much to do with the Allies winning World War II and he never became president of the United States. Predicting what will happen with President Trump next week, let alone next year, has no such certainty.
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