Donald Trump has an awe-inspiring gift for being weird in utterly original ways. Former presidents were afraid of flying, hospitals, and the number 13. Trump has a fruit phobia. His White House predecessors didn’t care for broccoli or smoking. Trump has a vendetta against certain bathroomfixtures. You leave Trump alone in a room with reams of printer paper and he may stack them artistically, try to flush them, or even rip them up and eat them (allegedly).
Now, one of the many dishy memoirs from former Trump-administration members has shed new light on another of his bizarre quirks: He was obsessed with the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford not having “the look.”
In his new book, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times, Mark Esper writes that when Trump wasn’t plotting to secretly bomb Mexico, he was complaining about the $13 billion warship, denouncing it as “overpriced,” insisting that its elevators would be disabled by “one glass of seawater,” and arguing that its new digital catapult system should be powered by “goddamned steam” instead. The carrier, which will finally be deployed this year, did suffer years-long delays caused by problems with various new technologies. But according to Esper, Trump was the only person focused on its physical problem areas. Insider reports:
The former president also said that the command center, commonly known as the island, was positioned too far back and not close enough to the middle of the carrier.
The island “looks really bad — it’s stupid,” Trump said, according to Esper, who added that the former president proposed moving the structure closer to the middle of the ship, which would have been a costly and largely pointless endeavor.
Esper says he tried to explain the functional reasons for the island’s positioning, but Trump wouldn’t have it, stressing that “it just doesn’t look right” and noting that he has “an eye for aesthetics.” Other contestants in Trump’s U.S. Battleship Beauty Pageant didn’t measure up either, per Insider:
The former defense chief wrote that he recalls the president calling U.S. ships “ugly” on multiple occasions, sometimes comparing them to Russian and Italian models he claimed “look nicer, sleeker, like a real ship” as he flipped through pictures of foreign ships.
Esper responded to Trump’s gripes by saying, “Our ships are built to fight and win, not win beauty contests; we prize function over form.” He wrote that Trump did not seem happy with this answer.
Trump’s fixation on appearance is well known. When auditioning Cabinet members, he had potential hires pose with him before the press. He seemed impressed that James Mattis, his first pick for Defense secretary, looked like World War II general George Patton and praised him during his inaugural festivities for being right out of “central casting.” Multiple sources said they felt Trump’s distaste for John Bolton’s bushy mustache kept Bolton out of the running for secretary of State. And, of course, Trump has made innumerable sexist comments about the looks of women, from his political opponents and their wives to his own daughters.
We all judge other people’s appearances to an extent. But what kind of person has strong opinions about the hotness of an aircraft carrier? Who has the audacity to repeatedly tell the secretary of Defense that a ship needs costly cosmetic surgery? And just how ugly could this thing really be? Let’s take a look at the USS Gerald Ford:
Wow. You know what? Trump is right. What a cow.
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