Andy Thomas' painting The Republican Club achieved some notoriety recently when it was discovered hanging in a prominent location in the Trump White House.
You've probably seen his kitschy rendering of nine Republican presidents--Reagan, the two Bushes, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Ford, Teddy Roosevelt, Nixon and Trump--huddling together for a drink and a few laughs.
Lesser-known Republicans of the past, such as Taft and Coolidge, appear less distinctly in the painting, but the focus is on the more recognizable presidents around the table.
At the center of the group is President Donald Trump, portrayed as handsome, relaxed, convivial and extremely fit. Which probably explains why the painting is hanging in the White House.
Ordinary personalities might see a certain droll humor in such a painting, the kind found in the bullfight posters that you can buy in Mexico with your own name printed on the same cartel with two famous matadors. But this kind of self-deprecatory, ironic jest is lost on Trump, who has never been shy about comparing himself with the greatest presidents, including Washington and Lincoln.
But it took a few moments of staring at this portrayal of Trump among the presidents to realize that he is different from the rest in a significant way: All eight of the other presidents gathered around the table with Trump served their country in uniform.
Trump missed his generation's war--Vietnam--because of bone spurs and four college deferments. But my own four years as a humble enlisted man in the U.S. Navy suggest that the military might not have been a good fit for Trump. Military service, even in peacetime, requires a bit of selflessness and a dash of humility.
Trump once claimed that he knows "more than the generals." But few are more conservative about the use of force than generals and other soldiers who have actually been in combat. They understand that military power is a blunt instrument and that the consequences of its use are unpredictable, except for its one extremely predictable consequence: human suffering. They have seen the costs up close.
Editorial on 11/06/2018
Print Headline: Lessons from that painting