Based on his rhetoric and posturing 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 I believe Trump regards as similarities between himself and Patton as portrayed in the movie will re-enforce his delusional belief that he is very much like George Patton, if not his outright reincarnation, a major theme of the 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!
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. The real Patton was apparently non political, which makes sense because despite a rough charm he had no diplomatic skill or real personal charisma beyond the shock and awe of non stop profanity.
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, he was that cool . 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 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 United States Military or is he all that is Wrong and Perverse about War and War Making?”
The problems with Trump’s fascination with the movie are indeed numerous. Primary among his misconceptions seems to be that he is viewing 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 United States 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 campaign as we have seen it. 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 seems 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 Rally. A composite of Patton’s actual speeches delivered by Scott in front of a gigantic American Flag using his incredible speaking voice to draw us in. 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. This is misleading right away as the actual George Patton is easily shown to have had the speaking voice of a little girl and that he had to talk dirty and dumb just to get anyone to stop laughing at him. So a key aspect of Trumps hero is pure Hollywood and just to improve story, something Trump surely relates to.
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 great personal character). Both are only functional because they are different and also only at derisive price to others. Both are insulated from their mistakes by great personal wealth.
Anti-Patton Cartoon from “Patton” (1970)
Both loved the coverage of and bristled at the scrutiny from the media they courted. Both earned the distinction of “Suspected Huge Fan of the Nazis” from the media in their time.
While Trump uses tweets 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 had their own unique religious tastes, Patton’s shown as much more extensive than Trumps appear. 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. 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 convictions including having 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.
This is a lot like Trump calling the Generals and the president stupid repeatedly for broadcasting some details of the plan to destroy ISIS. He simply doesn’t understand the idea that you can cloud your opponents judgement to the point you can predict or even control his actions. It’s too subtle for the movie character or Trump to grasp. (I’m pretty sure the Historical George Patton DID understand but probably had contempt for psychological warfare).
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
Patton “shaming a coward”/ abusing a soldier
cowardice. This was so insane to 1940’s medical personnel they simply ignore him, a move that boomerangs on Patton in his “Hot Mic on the Bus” moment where the General loses control of himself publicly. Of course I am talking of the scene where movie Patton slaps a ‘cowardly’ soldier in a Field Hospital, disgusting everyone and betraying to his troops how little he cares about them despite the bravado. Real life Patton slapped more than one soldier more than one time til they actually had to discipline him and remove him from command. 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. 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.
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. People get killed the same way a person trims their fingernails, it’s a natural ongoing function of war. More important than 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 rival “Crooked Monty” aka British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. The press shines its light on one only at the cost of the other in much the same way as the US media did with the candidates in the recent election.
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.