On “losers” — and whether John McCain was one

Of course John McCain was a loser.

He ran for president and he lost. Ergo, he was a loser.

But that’s not what Trump means when he talks about McCain being a loser. He’s talking about military service in which you were captured or otherwise failed. And that’s another story.

Trump is lying about calling John McCain a loser

Here’s the context for today’s discussion. Jeffrey Goldberg’s article published yesterday in the The Atlantic is titled “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers.’ ” The article cites many anonymous sources who said that Trump refers to veterans who died or were captured in war as losers. Here’s an excerpt:

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

If that doesn’t disgust you, this might:

On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”

Trump has responded to the article by claiming that the quotes and events are fabricated. Here’s the pair of tweets regarding John McCain, for example:

This is obviously and demonstrably false. Here is Trump tweeting about an article that quotes him calling McCain a loser in 2015:

And here is the video of him saying it in front of a large audience:

Can we just ban “loser”

First of all, regarding veterans, every soldier goes into the service knowing that they might be killed or captured. The fact that they do what they need to do anyway is a quality to be admired: bravery and integrity. If it makes you a “loser” to volunteer for service, that’s a terrible statement about our all-volunteer armed forces. Those who died or were captured and mistreated deserve our admiration, not name-calling. Ask anyone who served next to them if they were losers.

I am not brave enough to be a soldier. This does not make me superior at all. It is a character weakness. I’m glad there are people who do this work so I can do other things. I owe them a lot.

But let’s put aside the military and talk about life in general.

People like Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet are, in our economic system, winners. So are athletes like David Ortiz and LeBron James. They won.

Except that they generally lost a lot before they won. Every venture includes risk. Two-thirds of new businesses fail within the first ten years.

Sports is full of futility. Most basketball shots don’t go in. One third of all passes thrown in the NFL are incomplete. A batter who only fails seven times out of ten is pretty damn good. Half of all teams in any sport have a losing record.

We are a nation of losers.

But what makes America so full of success stories is that we pick ourselves up and try again.

No one is a “loser.” They are just someone who tried and failed. Maybe next time they will succeed at what they just failed at. Maybe they need to try something different. Maybe they’re a failed public speaker but a great javelin thrower, or a failed corporate manager but a great father and husband.

Are people who were divorced failures? If so, I am a failure, since it took me two tries to get marriage right. (I’m on 30 years so far in this marriage; I certainly don’t feel like a loser.)

Donald Trump is a twice-divorced businessman who had six bankruptcies. I don’t think he’s qualified to call anyone else a loser.

Purge this word from your vocabulary. And stay away from people who think this way. They’re not the kind of winners you want to associate with.

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  1. After four years of this, can anyone, even his supporters, seriously doubt that the quotes are accurate, in character, and they have been presented in context?

      1. Several current and former Trump administration officials have denied the reporting in The Atlantic, including John Bolton, who said he was on that trip and did not hear the remarks reported on in The Atlantic.

        Seems to be typical politics.

  2. How ANY veteran can support the son of a bitch is beyond my comprehension… I’m sorry for putting it that way but it is exactly how I feel… Enjoy your weekend everyone…The national nightmare will hopefully be over in 2 months!

    1. I work with veterans–almost everyone at our installation is a vet—and I would bet that all are pro-Trump based upon the water cooler talk and conservative radio being played. Uncle Joe does not play well with the vets I know.

  3. John McCain was a war hero, a terrible senator and presidential candidate, and by some accounts not a great man.

    As far as this Trump story goes, if you want to believe anonymous sources about an event that occurred three years ago, go ahead. I’m a Trump supporter and I seriously doubt the validity of the story.