This post has been updated but was written during the campaign, for the post election post on President Trump’s relationship with Patton CLICK HERE This post is regularly updated to account for new events.
Based on his rhetoric, posturing and overall style you can be sure Donald Trump is fascinated with General George S Patton, or more specifically the portrayal of Patton by George C Scott in the 1970 (mostly) biographical movie “Patton”.
The worst aspects of this problem are that certain coincidences Trump apparently regards as similarities between himself and Patton as portrayed in the movie have re-enforced his delusional belief that he is very much like George Patton – someone who he only knows through a movie.
The biggest thing my hypothesis has going for it is if you momentarily embrace it, it explains pretty much everything and holds up to scrutiny from numerous angles. Of course its not perfect, but indulge me and then draw your own conclusion— BECAUSE COMMENTS ARE ENABLED!! Please weigh in if you feel so inclined!
The movie ‘Patton’ is a masterpiece of film making that starts with a very strong Francis Ford Coppola screenplay advised by none other than Patton contemporary and equal- General Omar Bradley himself. An inspired George C Scott gave a brilliant, authentic and career defining performance then blew off accepting his Best Actor Oscar to go to a hockey game, how cool is that? Throw in one of the best movie scores outside Star Wars to move it along from the great Jerry Goldsmith of Star Trek fame. The director was Franklin J Shaffner , fresh off “Planet of the Apes” success.
The fact is Film Appreciation 101 might save the planet were Trump forced to take the course. If he were he might realize the Ironic Duality of the plot.
Why This Movie Is A Dangerous Influence on Trump
Trump’s fascination with Patton is a problem for a bunch of reasons. For one thing George Patton, despite his success, is a TERRIBLE role model for a politician or president. The real Patton was apparently non political, which makes sense. A wise choice since despite a rough charm he had no diplomatic skill or real personal charisma beyond the shock and awe of non stop profanity. While this is fine for a mid 20th century war time general, it’s just awful for a 21st century president!
The root of Trump’s many misconceptions seems to be that he is viewing the movie in a very simple manner. It seems likely Donald Trump never took a single film class. The fact is Film Appreciation 101 might save the planet were Trump forced to take the course. If he had he would have realized the Ironic Duality of the plot.
Simply put the movie is all about introducing the open question of “Is Patton all that is Great and Gallant in the Military? Or is he all that is Wrong and Perverse about War and War Making?” The movie seems to suggest he is both at the same time.
The movie analogizes very well to the 2016 Campaign, though spies play a more prominent role in the current situation, of course.
The characters line up as roughly this- Trump of course is Patton. Egotistical British General Montgomery , equally delusional and insane to only a slightly lesser degree, is ‘Crooked Hillary’. Patton’s very first aide in the movie who dies is BOTH original campaign managers AND Chris Christie (aside from the actual sorrow Patton felt,Trump we know is a stranger to empathy). Cod, his final aide is Kellyanne Conway and racist Steve Bannon. Omar Bradley and the US military are Paul Ryan and the Republicans. The German Military is the over-prepared Democratic Party, including their OP-O Researcher. Rommel is Bernie Sanders, the likely superior field commander made ineffective by a truly incompetent leader.
The movie opens with a ‘Patton Rally’. It’s a composite of Patton’s actual speeches delivered in front of a gigantic American Flag using George Scott’s incredible speaking voice to draw us in as he gives it to his troops in a loud and dirty fashion.
It’s very much a political looking arena and an Academy Award Moment defying the viewer to look away.
When Patton begins to speak he’s commanding and profane. He tells his men their better than their opponents, who are subhuman creeps. He boasts about their training and weapons and says they’re destined to win. He speaks of violence and glory. Again, perfect for a wartime general, TERRIBLE for a president, but of course its not very different from what Trump says at his rallys.
There are some traits both the Man in the Movie and Trump share.
One similarity between Trump and Movie Patton would be the portrayal of Patton as very much Bipolar. He was probably ‘Manic Depressive’ in terms of that time. Both were spotty students at prestigious schools (though Patton was afflicted with dyslexia, an actual learning disability he overcame, showing some discipline and personal character). Both are only functional when attacking. Both are insulated from their mistakes by great personal wealth.
Both loved media coverage of and yet bristled at the scrutiny that invites. Both earned the distinction of “Suspected Huge Fan of the Nazis” from the media in their time.
UPDATE – When gloating or brooding we saw that Trump read and retweeted peoples complimentary tweets about him. Similarly,in the movie Patton would have aides read him cherry picked fan mail. This is another trait Trump seems to have lifted from this movie. Patton’s love of flattery was shown as a controlled vice his aides used in small doses to level out his Bi-Polar nature whereas Trump overindulged and ended up banned from Twitter.
Neither guy could simply shut up for any length of time. While Trump tweets crazy stuff in the middle of the night; Patton would simply act in an outrageous manner (sound familiar?) til the press couldn’t look away.
Both seem to flirt with the idea of War for War’s sake (the Patton character admits this repeatedly).
Each guy has their own unique religious tastes. Whereas Patton’s shown as being deep and sincere in his faith; Trump’s religous ideas are just parroted stuff and the fact he hired Pence. We all saw Trump was utterly unfamiliar with how one holds a bible in an image that was just really bad for him.
Similarly; Patton’s steadfast belief in re-incarnation and love of all things violent calls into question whether he is actually a christian. In the movie he hits his knees a couple of times but only in the most arrogant way in the most dire moments. This is not unlike Trump being beloved by extremist Christians despite a life of documented debauchery and sexual assaults (and now Stormy Daniels). The climax of this subplot is arguably also the climax of the movie. Patton, frustrated that the reality of the situation didn’t fit with his preconceived plan, basically ORDERS GOD TO CHANGE THE WEATHER AND APPARENTLY PULLS IT OFF. This only
reinforces his extreme vanity and puts a more dangerous edge on his genius.
Of course what we all know today about Patton’s Weather Prayer is that a warm front moved in and the snow simply stopped. That doesn’t blunt the forceful nature of the scene where Patton excoriates a regimental chaplain, telling him to write a prayer “good enough” for God to bother listening.
Its very much like Trump’s contempt for the Pope and religion in general. The “Two Corinthians” Fiasco shows Trump has no religious knowledge or convictions but has no problem with rank hypocrisy and is therefore a bit less moral than Patton.
This sequence of the movie is meant to show Patton’s Hubris and psychopathy in pursuit of battle and it’s a very dangerous thing to take it literally as surely Trump does.
Another thing Trump and ‘Movie Patton’ have in common would be a total lack of understanding of whats called “Psychological Warfare”. In the film Patton is apparently baffled as to the importance of his mission leading up to D-Day- to be a weapon of mass distraction . Patton’s use as a decoy convinced Hitler to disregard an Actual Invasion and hold off forces that may well have turned the tide of the War itself , to await a Fictional Invasion that was never going to happen. It was one i]of the keys to the Allied Invasion of France and a master stroke of deception by Eisenhower (who does not appear in the movie).
Now consider Trump calling some Generals and the former president stupid repeatedly for broadcasting some details of their plan to destroy ISIS. This had been done before twice successfully with Sadaam and in Afghanistan. It’s now solid military doctrine and politically smart.
“Surrender or in a couple of days we’ll make you regret it” has never been taken up on, but it sounds great when justifying things at the UN. It shows Trump simply doesn’t even understand the idea that you can cloud your opponents judgement to the point you can predict or even control his actions – which was what happened when this tactic was used by George H Bush and George W Bush. This mostly works and keeps the heat off. So Of COURSE we did it again.
Psychological Warfare is too subtle for the movie character or Trump to grasp. UPDATE – When Trump tried Psychological Warfare tactics in the first debate he sloppily misapplied them. Trump succeeded in making Biden stutter more, but the reaction to his behavior was mostly disgust. This attempt and huge fail sort of validates this part of this post.
Both Trump and Patton have a deep disdain of giving out any government healthcare. Patton orders his hospital units not to admit Combat Fatigue, which he considers what we now call PTSD to be mere cowardice.
This was so insane even to 1940’s medical personnel they simply ignore him. That of course boomerangs on Patton in his version of a “Hot Mic on the Bus” moment. The General loses control of himself publicly and betrays his bi-polar nature and complete lack of empathy during a brutal screaming meltdown.
Of course I am talking of the scene where Patton slaps a ‘cowardly’ soldier in a Field Hospital, disgusting everyone and showing his troops how little he cares about them despite the bravado. He behaves terribly and the doctors and nurses are disgusted. The press notices and I’m sure most people were pissed he’d ever do it.
Real life Patton slapped more than one soldier more than one time til they actually had to discipline him and remove him from command. It was just like the self inflicted wounds we see Trump give himself all the time.
So with that Patton is benched and used as a decoy until after the D-Day Invasion, the battle he had waited all his life to fight in. In the movie he faces it like a pitcher caught doctoring a baseball and forced to miss a playoff start. In other words, with only a minimal thought of anyone else. Again Patton shows his view of war and command to be from the Dark Ages or perhaps early Renaissance at its most compassionate.
The truth as most historians see it is – while Patton’s plans were still good he was far too aggressive for anyone to let him make major tactical decisions for the whole army – let alone call off a failed invasion if needed. Patton had been a wild card all his career and the top brass knew it and knew how to use him. In other words, Patton is on a short leash for the rest of the war and considered pretty much useless for anything but attack and a real deficit on defense. UPDATE – This much seems to have been true of Trump’s political approach and somewhat validates this part of my theory. The less restrained Trump was the less success he had. Patton would have continued the fighting by attacking the Russians were he in overall command as the movie shows it. Patton’ success had as much to do with the times he was sidelined, relieved of command, shamed and reigned in as anything else.
In his finest moments of triumph after receiving a new army to command, when prosecuting the war Patton is shown as petty and dismissive of his soldiers well-being and simply thinks of his Army as a whole. To Patton, when people get killed it’s like the Army is just trimming it’s fingernails. In other words; it’s a natural ongoing function of war. Trump has shown similar lack of compassion on many occasions. In the movie Patton sort of reconciles with his aggression and at least starts to love his soldiers. Trump has shown no such inclinations.
Just as important as winning were the laurels and press adulation that came with it. When holding the spotlight Patton is grandiose in his actions while his words are always petty. Demonizing and denigrating his personal rivals, boasting of the strength of his army. Its much like Trump with the exception of the part it’s actually appropriate for a general to have that attitude in time of war. Trump appropriating the George C Scott version of Patton in a political mode ISN’T appropriate at all, it worked though. A crass and abusive screed of insults and violent rhetoric are the hallmark of every Trump Rally ever
Patton and Trump have contempt for the abilities (and probably even the racial abstraction) of the Russians, despite Trump’s open admiration for Putin. Patton moves himself firmly onto the hot seat in the early postwar moments by repeatedly insulting people, specifically members of the russian military, the US President and that which would become NATO. Sound familiar?
Near the conclusion of the movie Patton is again being a prima donna for the press, riding a prized horse in a Baroque era stable. He’s absolutely embraced the role of Military Governor from a Medieval Perspective. He refuses to denounce the Nazi’s properly and defends his utilization of Hitler’s former minions in his administration. In the characteristically glib manner of a sociopath Patton simply analogizes the Nazi party to the Republicans and Democrats in America. Such is his arrogance he ignores the way the press are manipulating him and plays bluntly to them making a bellicose implied case for war and just basically checking off boxes on the list of traits of “Unfrozen Caveman Warlord”. The career of Patton is gutted by his insane statements and brutal medieval view of war, deemed just too out of touch with the 20th century to be any longer tolerated.
The movie closes with the disgraced Patton reflecting in how the Romans would celebrate a victory with a triumphant parade through Rome itself and a warning that all Glory is Fleeting.
Disturbing Conclusions and Thoughts-
It’s my theory that Trump see’s the story of Patton as that of an American who couldn’t lose cause he was an American and that he was an exceptional person who prospered BECAUSE he broke all rules and civility rather than IN SPITE OF THIS. I believe he sees his kooky Cabinet of Billionaire Ass kissers as equivalent to Patton’s highly trained and battle proven staff officers. This dangerous delusion casts crazy ex-General Flynn in the role of Omar Bradley, something so far from the truth it would be laughable of it weren’t absolute reality.
Based on his overtly displayed misunderstanding of the movie Trump shows he is dangerously militarily primitive and most comfortable with methods and ideas more commonly associated with the Nazi Germans than 20th century Americans.
Patton is a terrible role model for even most soldiers as he was always succeeding at he expense of higher all around casualties. He declined peaceful solutions whenever possible. He was always one mistake from disaster but circumstance connived him a series of unlikely wins. As a role model for a president Patton is a disaster.
Like Trump, Patton’s glory should never eclipse the incompetence of his enemies. It requires some historical perspective to understand. Patton was set loose in western Europe with a veteran army and ample supplies. Even more decisive the Germans are mandated by Hitler ONLY to plan against Patton in an area where they expect the Invasion that never comes in Calais. Rather than ever accepting that they must fight Patton they become intimidated and willfully ignorant of the reality due to Hitler’s rapid mental decline from seriously insane to non functional maniac between about 1942 and early 1944. Patton directly benefits. As far as the recent campaigns analogize think of this as being roughly the same as Hillary not going to states she considered ‘safe’, like the vaunted Democratic “Blue Wall” of reliably Democratic states , each of which she then lost by less than an under-attended football game worth of people. We know Trump appreciates this misstep because its one of his favorite riffs to go on from the ongoing “Thank You Rallies” that are a veritable torchlight parade for the guy.
Also like Trump, Patton did have a staff of soothsayers, but again, they were highly competent top notch merit promoted staff officers with great expertise as well. Trumps rag tag group of advisers is anything BUT top notch or Highly Competent.
Another unavoidable conclusion from the movie is that current 21st century Americans are actually LESS civilized than Americans of the mid 20th century, 75 years ago, or at the very least the Americans of 1970 when the film is made. Being at war since 9-11 surely is somewhat to blame for this. This suggests that assertions about a cult of ignorance and a desire to literally turn back the clock to early post world war 2, before the integration of the military, by the Trumpists are very much real and accurate.
There is still time to avoid the fate of the Germans and the fate of Patton, which is the final spoke of this wheel. Patton’s death was in a freakish car accident. Its long been imagined and even said that the General was killed by the CIA’s predecessor the OSS. If you watch the movie you’ll end up a little torn by that because clearly he was an enemy of peace in every form. Could Trump’s disdain for the Intelligence community and peoples sensibilities be such that there is action taken against him as well?
Only time will tell.