Escalating conflict, Trump reportedly slammed generals in private

If tensions between Trump and his own country's military leaders weren't high enough before, Bob Woodward's book will likely make matters worse.
Image: Pentagon
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington on Dec. 26, 2011.Dan De LUCE / AFP - Getty Images file
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By Steve Benen

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump disparaged his own country's military leaders in ways Americans don't generally hear. "I know more about ISIS than the generals do," the Republican insisted during the campaign. "Believe me." Several months later, Trump added that U.S. military leaders "don't know much because they're not winning." In many instances, he targeted specific generals by name.

Exactly four years ago yesterday, the then-candidate went so far as to say American generals "have been reduced to rubble," adding, "They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing to our country."

But as president, Trump's respect for those with stars on their shoulders apparently deteriorated further. The Washington Post reported on some of the many revelations in Bob Woodward's new book:

"Not to mention my f***ing generals are a bunch of p*****s. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals," Trump told White House trade adviser Peter Navarro at one point, according to Woodward.

For what it's worth, given the nature of their responsibilities, we should expect military leaders to care amore about international alliances than trade deals -- making this an odd thing for the president to whine about privately.

And while this quote came as a result of Woodward's reporting, and not from Trump directly, the president did tell the journalist he considers military "suckers" for paying extensive costs to protect our South Korean allies.

There's no modern precedent for an American president blasting his own country's military like this, but let's not lose sight of the context: Late last week, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg published a staggering report on Trump, his denigration of those who serve in the military, and his condemnation of American heroes as, among other things, "suckers."

A few days later, the president characterized Pentagon leaders as corrupt war mongers, principally concerned with defense contractors' financial interests.

If tensions between Trump and the brass weren't high enough before, Woodward's book will likely make matters just a little worse.