By Maj. Gen. Jerry R. Curry, US Army (Ret.)
As usual, Mr. Trump has opened his mouth wide and jammed in both feet. Of course this is nothing new for Mr. Trump who has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to misspeak. And he has almost been critiqued by friends and advisors who have made all sorts of suggestions and recommendations as he can avoid these mistakes.
But Trump has deliberately chosen to dismiss their critiques, out of hand. He says so far his approach has worked, and he is right. But he forgets that odds are that all his advisors can’t be wrong all the time and no human, not even a Trump, can be right all the time.
During WWII, General George S. Patton Jr. was repeatedly accused of being flawed, arrogant, impulsive, impatient and contradictory. Like Trump, he was also considered the best and most successful general fighting on the Allied side. Even the German military considered him a general without peer. Perhaps the faux pas he is most remembered for is slapping a soldier, suffering from battle fatigue, across the face and sending him back to the front lines to rejoin his combat unit.
All of Patton’s military superiors, including General Eisenhower, were very critical of Patton, especially for his making occasional misstatements. To no avail, they all gave him sage advice on how to avoid putting his foot in his mouth. But he ignored them and refused to follow their advice, much to the joy of the news media, many of whose reporters hated him and did all they could to get him fired, much as the news media today strives to destroy Trump and his presidential campaign.
While Trump cannot be compared to General Patton, the controversy surrounding his actions and speeches are reminiscent of the actions and misstatements of General George Patton. Still, like Patton, Trump, so far, has been very successful in all that he has attempted
Even though, from time to time, Trump verbally abuses the English language and his audiences, which are consistently numbered in the tens of thousands, they remain captivated by his warmth and honesty. Of course this is very upsetting for political elites like Senator McCain and Speaker of the House Ryan who seize upon every opportunity to rail against Donald Trump and his supporters.
Their criticism, which includes that of some former generals and congressmen, is unduly harsh even though, at times it is well deserved. For whatever reason, when speaking, Trump seems to lack discipline and self-control. He also seems impulsive and mistake prone. Still, the public’s general view of him is strongly supportive.
Up until now Trump’s not acting presidential has not hurt him; in fact, it may have helped put him at the top of the pile. But now the game is changing. Trump was running against fellow Republicans, against the junior varsity. Now he is playing for keeps, against Democrats, the varsity. This is where calm, authenticity and message discipline are important. What worked in defeating Republicans will not work in defeating Democrats.
At the same time, Mr. Trump has more than the normal amount of fire in his belly. Like General Patton, he is not happy unless he is fighting and winning. The American people deserve to be led by someone like him. It is time the political elites in Washington realized this and subordinated themselves to the will of the American people.
Jerry Curry is a retired Army Major General, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Carter administration; Acting Press Secretary to the Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration; and Administrator of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration in the Bush Sr. administration.