Donald Trump only understands the world through the lens of popular culture. And a new story from The Daily Beast illustrates that perfectly.
President Trump was reportedly talking with some veterans organizations back in March of 2017 when the subject of Agent Orange came up. Trump asked if Agent Orange was “that stuff from the movie,” and after a while it became clear that Trump was talking about the 1979 fictionalized representation of the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now. But that movie depicted the use of napalm, not the spraying of Agent Orange, an herbicide that has been linked to cancer in Vietnam veterans.
From The Daily Beast:
Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken and proceeded to say things like, “no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.”
One clue belying the president’s insistence is that the famous Robert Duvall line from the scene in Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” is not “I love the smell of Agent Orange in the morning.”
He then went around the room polling attendees about if it was, in fact, napalm or Agent Orange in the famous scene from “that movie,” as the gathering—organized to focus on important, sometimes life-or-death issues for veterans—descended into a pointless debate over Apocalypse Now that the president simply would not concede, despite all the available evidence.
After one of the veterans told Trump that he was not only wrong but that the movie didn’t advocate for veterans in a particularly great way, the president reportedly said, “Well, I think you just didn’t like the movie.”
President Trump isn’t the first American president to let pop culture slip into the real world. There are countless examples of presidents using movies and TV to their advantage, most famously the first actor-president, Ronald Reagan. But this is perhaps the first example of a president getting a movie so spectacularly wrong and doubling down on his assessment of that movie to insult veterans. To top it all off, Trump seems to think Apocalypse Now was a documentary.
Our president is an idiot.
Update, 11:45am: I’m actually pretty obsessed with the history of movie screenings at the White House and how movies have influenced presidential policy. As it happens, I gave an interview to public radio’s Studio 360 about that exact topic recently and it aired just yesterday. You can hear the interview over at PRI if that’s your kind of thing.