Why Trump's 'losers' and 'suckers' slurs cut especially deep for Marines

U.S. Marine at Belleau Wood
(Image credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg dropped a bombshell on Washington, D.C., late Thursday, publishing a compilation of anecdotes about President Trump disparaging U.S. service members, frequently referring to those killed or captured in the line of duty as "losers" and "suckers." Trump and his aides pushed back hard against the reports, but then James LaPorta, a Marine Corps veteran and investigative reporter at The Associated Press, got confirmation from two sources. The Washington Post and The New York Times followed up with their own sources confirming Trump's dismissive comments about POWs and slain soldiers.

Goldberg begins his article with Trump declining to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018:

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. Belleau Wood is a consequential battle in American history, and the ground on which it was fought is venerated by the Marine Corps. America and its allies stopped the German advance toward Paris there in the spring of 1918. But Trump, on that same trip, asked aides, "Who were the good guys in this war?" [The Atlantic]

Goldberg's report is "quite shocking," LaPorta told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday night. "I actually didn't believe it — which is why I started reaching out to sources. ... Belleau Wood is one of those things that is sort of hammered into young Marines as they're going through boot camp. I mean, Marine Corps folklore comes out of Belleau Wood, the idea the German army called Marines 'Teufel Hunden,' which translates into 'Devil Dog.' That's where we get that name from."

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Maddow also played a previously unseen part of her interview with Mary Trump in which the president's niece recounts a family story about Trump threatening to disinherit Donald Trump Jr. if he joined the military.

Goldberg told MSNBC's Morning Joe on Friday he thinks Pentagon officials are mostly baffled at Trump's attitude toward military heroes. "I think he's genuinely confused by service," Goldberg said. "I think the volunteer force in particular kind of confuses him, because why would you ever possibly put your life at risk for a salary of $64,000 a year? It doesn't make any sense, is my point, in his worldview." Watch below. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.