The Atlantic’s Ridiculous Stab at Relevance

By Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Where Next? Western Civilization at the Crossroads.”
September 6, 2020Updated: September 7, 2020


I hope that you are as disgusted as I am about the report that Donald Trump, completely unprovoked, assaulted a baby, punching him in the face.

Yes, that’s right. “Secret witnesses who have not been named are confirming that Trump wound up and punched the baby square in the face, even though the baby had done nothing aggressive or right-wing that would rightly provoke such an attack.”

According to several unidentified anonymous sources, Trump claimed that the baby looked at him “funny.” “I know a funny look when I see one,” Trump said. “What a dope! That baby looks like a complete and total loser.”

Ok, that’s from the Babylon Bee, a satire site. But how can you tell? Is it really any more outlandish than the story published in The Atlantic a few days ago by Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s editor-in-chief and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting?

The Atlantic is not a satire site, not officially, but a venerable organ of American letters. Founded in 1857, it has published Mark Twain, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. These days, it publishes race-baiting pieces by one of America’s most overrated writers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and a steady stream of anti-Trump boilerplate.

Goldberg’s piece, “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers,’” marked the magazine’s passage from partisan posturing to surreal hysteria.

Really, which is more ridiculous, the Babylon Bee’s obvious satire or The Atlantic’s stealth satire?

“When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018,” Goldberg writes, “he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that ‘the helicopter couldn’t fly’ and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.”

According to whom? Why, “anonymous,” of course. “Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain,” Goldberg claimed, “and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. 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.”

Sure he did. It was John Kelly, then Trump’s Chief of Staff, who made the decision not to go to the cemetery. The weather made travel by helicopter inadvisable and the long drive—some four hours round trip—was too risky.

John Bolton, an outspoken opponent of Trump’s who once-upon-a-time was his National Security Advisor, was with the President on the trip in question and he stoutly denied Goldberg’s ludicrous story.

Honoring the Troops

Why is it ludicrous? Because Donald Trump has consistently and avidly supported the military, worked hard for veterans, and gone out of his way to honor the men and women who have fallen in the line of duty.

Joe Kent, an army Green Beret whose wife Shannon was killed in the line of duty by an ISIS suicide bomber in Syria, recalled how the president spent twenty minutes comforting him as he waited for an army airplane to bring the bodies of Shannon and three others back to Dover Air Force Base.

“When I read the anonymous allegations this week that President Trump spoke disparagingly of our troops,” Kent wrote, “I knew they simply weren’t true—or were taken completely out of context in order to hurt him before the election.”

Bingo. Like everything the left-wing media does these days, it is all about trying to defeat Trump in November.

The Atlantic is owned by the widow of Steve Jobs. She is a immensely rich woman who is also a huge donor to Biden and other Democrats. No lie is too scurrilous to print if it is thought that it might hurt the President or further the cause of wokeness.

In fact, as Joe Kent went on to observe, “President Trump’s actions have shown our troops more respect than any president in my lifetime. His use of decisive military force only when absolutely necessary, combined with his reluctance to use the military as the sole tool of foreign policy, is not only good and smart, but the sign of utmost respect for the lives of our troops.”

That is the truth. But the truth doesn’t matter to the anti-Trump machine. A talking point is a talking point, however groundless, however absurd. So it was hardly surprising that Joe Biden, even while acknowledging that he did not know whether the allegations were true, lost no time in castigating Trump and demanding that he “humbly apologize” to every Gold Star family.

Naturally, Goldberg’s fantastical story was seized upon by Trump’s enemies. But I am happy to see that it has already boomeranged, further tarnishing The Atlantic and its Trump-bashing editor.

The President’s scathing response on Twitter gets to the heart of the matter. “The Atlantic Magazine is dying,” he wrote, “so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance. Story already refuted, but this is what we are up against. Just like the Fake Dossier. You fight and fight, and then people realize it was a total fraud!”

Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.