A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force/AP

The case of the president and the invisible airplane

Updated

Donald Trump devoted some time on Thanksgiving talking to members of the U.S. military – first in a teleconference to troops stationed abroad, and then in person, addressing Coast Guard members near one of the president’s golf resorts. The core message seemed to be how pleased Trump is with himself.

“I have to say, just directly to the folks in Afghanistan, everybody is talking about the progress you’ve made in the last few months since I opened it open,” he boasted clumsily. “We opened it up. We said go ahead, we’re going to fight to win. We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around.” This was soon followed by several not-so-subtle criticisms of the Obama administration, which seemed wildly inappropriate for a Thanksgiving message to active-duty military personnel.

In his remarks to Coast Guard members, the president also said that when we sell military equipment to other countries, it’s not quite as good as the resources we keep in the U.S. “You know, when we sell to other countries, even if they’re allies – you never know about an ally,” Trump said. “An ally can turn. You understand. You’re going to find that out.”

How and when they’re “going to find that out” was unclear.

This, however, was the message that stood out for me.

“With the Air Force, we’re ordering a lot of planes, in particular the F-35 fighter jet, which is, you know, almost like an invisible fighter. I was asking the Air Force guys, I said, ‘How good is this plane?’ They said, ‘Well, sir, you can’t see it.’ I said, yeah, but in a fight – you know, a fight – like I watch in the movies – they fight, they’re fighting. How good is this? They say, ‘Well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it. Even if it’s right next to it, it can’t see it.’ I said, ‘That helps. That’s a good thing.’”

Trump has previously explained that the F-35 is undetectable by radar, but as best I can tell, this was the first time the president has publicly made the case that an enemy can’t see the fighter jet, even if they’re “right next to it.”

I’m starting to wonder if he thinks the plane is literally invisible – as if “Wonder Woman” were some kind of documentary.

For those keeping score, this is the latest addition in the Trump-says-odd-things-about-planes franchise, which also includes the president lying about Japan buying U.S. fighter jets and lying about Finland doing the same thing.

Trump has also been caught falsely bragging about lowering the price of a new Air Force One, which was followed by a series of claims about saving taxpayers millions on F-35 fighter jets, which were also demonstrably wrong.

Earlier this month, Trump even made up a bizarre story about Barack Obama, while aboard Air Force One, trying and failing to land in the Philippines last year.

Maybe Trump should just avoid discussing planes altogether for a while.

Update: I almost forgot about the story from September in which Trump interrupted a meeting with members of Congress to complain that the emir of Kuwait’s plane was bigger than his. (For the record, I have no idea whether the Kuwaiti emir’s plane is bigger than the American president’s plane. I also don’t care. Trump, however, apparently focuses his attention on such things.)

Donald Trump

The case of the president and the invisible airplane

Updated