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Trump Is 'Like a Squirrel Caught in Traffic': Mattis Speechwriter’s Book Takes Some Choice Jabs

More colorful evidence of Trump's tiny attention span — from his first Pentagon briefing

by Morgan Baskin
Oct 21 2019, 2:47pm

The Trump-mocking just keeps coming from former defense secretary Jim Mattis and his staff.

Last week Gen. Mattis got in some choice jabs at the president at a black-tie dinner, and now we have an excerpt from a forthcoming book about the Trump administration’s Pentagon.

Guy Snodgrass, Mattis’s former chief speechwriter, paints a decidedly unflattering portrait of the commander-in-chief, describing him as having the attention span of a squirrel — which was particularly evident in a July 2017 meeting between Trump and a handful of Cabinet members.

It was the president’s first Pentagon briefing about where around the world U.S. forces and embassies are located. And Mattis, alongside then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, was hoping to convince Trump not to withdraw troops from key strategic regions, and to explain the importance of the U.S.’s commitments to certain allies.

But Trump wasn’t having any of it. Instead of discussing the issues at hand, Snodgrass wrote, Trump was fixated on French President Emmanuel Macron, whom Trump had recently met on a trip abroad.

“I just returned from France,” Trump reportedly said. “Did you see President Macron’s handshake? He wouldn’t let go. He just kept holding on. I spent two hours at Bastille Day. Very impressive.”

Trump then launched into his big ask: a large-scale military parade in the U.S. (His protracted mission to make the parade happen infuriated even members of his own party and leaders in the Pentagon, who wanted the military to remain an apolitical group.)

“I want a ‘Victory Day.’ Just like Veterans Day. The Fourth of July is too hot. I want vehicles and tanks on Main Street. On Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House. We need spirit! We should blow everybody away with this parade,” Trump said. “The French had an amazing parade on Bastille Day with tanks and everything. Why can’t we do that?”

Snodgrass added that Trump looked visibly bored when Mattis spent a long time on one particular subject, or used technical jargon.

“For the remainder of the meeting, Trump veered from topic to topic — Syria, Mexico, a recent Washington Post story he didn’t like — like a squirrel caught in traffic, dashing one way and then another,” Snodgrass wrote about the president.

He continued: “I learned an important lesson that would pay off when Trump returned for a briefing the following January. Only use slides with pictures … no words.”

Other reporting about the Trump administration has corroborated the idea that Trump doesn’t much like reading.

“It’s worse than you can imagine … Trump won’t read anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored,” economic adviser Gary Cohn has reportedly said about Trump.

The president also reportedly refuses to read daily intelligence briefs that outline the most critical information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The excerpt comes just a few days after Gen. Mattis mocked Trump in public, at a black-tie dinner in New York, skewering Trump's "bone-spur" avoidance of military service and his penchant for round after round of golf. Mattis resigned from his post last December.

Cover: President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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Emmanuel Macron
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