Donald Trump's public behavior is so outrageous, and his public statements are so odd that it sometimes seems like he can't be any worse behind closed doors. But it's becoming increasingly clear that what happens in the White House is even odder than anyone can imagine—at least, that's the takeaway from a Friday Daily Beast story reporting that a 2017 meeting between Trump and veterans groups devolved into an argument about Apocalypse Now.
According to the Beast's two anonymous sources who were present at the meeting, when the conversation turned to Agent Orange, the herbicide that caused cancer in many Vietnam veterans who used it to wipe out forests and crops, Trump sidetracked the discussion by insisting that “that stuff from that movie" had been "taken care of." Once it became clear he was talking about Apocalypse Now, some of the veterans present tried to correct him—the chemical featured in the Francis Ford Coppola classic is napalm, you know, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning"—but Trump dug in his heels and even "went around the room polling attendees about if it was, in fact, napalm or Agent Orange in the famous scene from 'that movie,'" the Beast reports.
The Agent Orange issue is a serious matter, as the Beast noted, with many veterans and their families saying the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not acknowledging all the health problems caused by the toxic chemical. Instead of spending time on that, Trump reportedly farted around with a pointless debate because he refused to admit he was wrong about a trivial bit of movie history.
"It was really fucking weird," one attendee told the Beast.
These days, presidents are burdened with a thousand too many responsibilities, making their time extraordinarily valuable. But Trump evidently isn't managing that time particularly well, spending hours chatting to his rich buddies or watching TV and tweeting, a.k.a. "executive time." A meeting getting sidetracked is a small thing in isolation, but every meeting spent debating war movies is a missed chance for Trump to actually make decisions or learn something from the people he supposedly wants to help.
Trump made veterans' issues a cornerstone of his campaign—seizing on the very real and serious scandal of mismanagement at the VA—but in practice his administration has focused on privatizing the VA's function, a proposal that is controversial among veterans. And according to a ProPublica investigation, the VA is being overseen by a troika of "shadow rulers" who aren't officially in government but instead are some of Trump's Mar-a-Lago buddies. (A liberal veterans group is now suing to end the reign of the "Mar-a-Lago crowd.") So maybe Trump should just look up movie facts on Wikipedia and spend his meetings dealing with all of that.
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