Why the Words ‘Suckers’ and ‘Losers’ Bother Trump So Much

Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Donald Trump has always been comfortable hurling insults. Yet for all his bluster, the more the 2024 U.S. presidential election heats up, the more one thing becomes clear: The former president can dish it, but when it comes to a specific type of insult, he can’t take it.

He hates being called a “loser.” Or, for that matter, a “sucker.”

Those words came to the fore again on Sunday, when Trump demanded Joe Biden’s campaign take down an attack ad quoting back at Trump some of his most infamous insults: those directed towards U.S. soldiers, including those killed in combat.

As first reported by The Atlantic in 2020 and later confirmed by John Kelly, the retired U.S. Marine Corps general who became Trump’s second White House chief of staff, in conversations around a canceled visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France in 2018, Trump called fallen U.S. soldiers both “losers” and “suckers.”

Trump has always denied the remarks. But after the Biden campaign included them in its ad released last week, while President Joe Biden visited Normandy for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s anger showed his opponent had gotten under his skin.

First, at a rally in Las Vegas on Sunday, Trump told supporters Biden “said I stood over graves of soldiers and I said: ‘These people are suckers and losers, the dead soldiers from World War I.’’’ Labeling the whole episode “made up,” Trump said the Biden campaign were “sick people” for making the ad.

Later, Trump posted similar comments to his Truth Social platform, adding: “The Military hates Crooked Joe, and all of the failure he represents. Take down the Fake Ad, Joe.”

Contacted for comment on Monday, Chris LaCivita, Trump’s co-campaign manager and a combat veteran wounded in the Gulf War, unleashed a furious near-200-word statement.

“The Biden campaign is peddling a fake and thoroughly debunked story about President Trump’s visit to France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I,” LaCivita said.

“Numerous first-hand accounts—even from people like John Bolton and Alyssa Farrah—vehemently denied the bogus claims from unnamed sources looking to use American heroes for their sick and twisted political attacks.”

Bolton and Farrah were Trump aides before turning against him.

LaCivita continued: “The fact remains that severe weather conditions on that day prevented the safe transportation of the President and guests to the cemetery, and he participated in a ceremony at the Suresnes American Cemetery the next day. The Biden team is desperate because they know Biden has repeatedly disrespected the men and women who serve this country with honor and valor every single day.

“Joe Biden has disrespected U.S. service members by calling them ‘silly bastards,’ showed his lack of empathy by repeatedly checking his watch during a solemn ceremony for soldiers killed during the catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal, and has been criticized by Gold Star families for his lack of respect. The fact is that under Biden, America is weaker on the world stage and has made America more vulnerable.”

In 2016, as vice president, Biden called an audience of service members “stupid bastards”—a comment intended as a joke. Controversy continues over his behavior when attending the return of the remains of soldiers killed in the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, a ceremony that generated complaints from bereaved family members.

Even before the new Biden campaign ad drew a fierce response from Trumpworld, however, former and current Trump officials who spoke with The Daily Beast agreed that among all Trump’s controversies, the one over the “suckers” and “losers” comments is one that really bothers its subject.

“He just has no concept of service, that’s the main thing here,” said one former senior Trump White House official, granted anonymity to speak candidly about a president who as a young man avoided wartime service in Vietnam. “So it’s really difficult for him to imagine why people would even [serve in combat]. It’s just a whole foreign thing to him.”

A high-ranking Trumpworld strategist, meanwhile, said Trump’s fury over the Biden campaign’s use of the “suckers” and “losers” comments pointed to perhaps Trump’s biggest fear: being called a “loser” himself.

“The biggest insult to him to get under his skin is that he lost in 2020, he lost his court case, and he’s convicted now” on 34 criminal charges, the strategist said.

In comparison, the strategist said, “You can call him fat, call him an insurrectionist, call him a racist, [but] that’s just not gonna stick.”

Going to the molten core of Trump’s ego—that’s how Democrats can provoke the strongest response, the GOP strategist said.

“I think his deepest fear, or the deepest psychology with Donald Trump is that he [didn’t win] the 2020 election [when] he’s won everything in life,” the Republican said. “That’s the pressure. He’s married hot women, he built famous buildings, he had a highly rated, successful TV show. And he became president, right?”

But according to the Republicans who spoke to The Daily Beast, Trump’s blow-up over the Biden ad revealed that despite the perceived professionalism of his current campaign team, the candidate’s insecurities have only gotten worse with time.

While none of the Trumpworld figures were certified psychologists, what they were describing effectively amounted to projection. Trump’s favorite insult is also the one he fears most when applied to him: being called a “loser.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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