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Dubious tale of a past U.S. general mars anti-ISIS message

Injured pedestrians are comforted in Barcelona on Aug.

Injured pedestrians are comforted in Barcelona on Aug. 17 after a van crashed into the crowd in the famous Placa Catalunya Square at Las Ramblas. Photo Credit: EPA / David Armengou

Ready, willing and fable

Even for those willing to hear him out, President Donald Trump may have shot himself in the rhetorical foot when, after an encouraging first message after a deadly terror attack in Spain, he repeated a debunked tale of America’s past.

The first tweet on Thursday after the ISIS-linked van-ramming massacre was just what to expect from a president, offering support and concluding: “Be tough & strong, we love you!”

The second tweet was another story: “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”

Campaign redux

Trump thus stirred recollections of an unfounded internet tale he used on the campaign trail last year: that Gen. John Pershing, governor of the Moro province of the Philippines between 1909 and 1913, executed Muslim insurgents with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood.

As told in 2016, the quiet epilogue lasted only 25 years, not 35. Now Trump can say truthfully that he only told others on Twitter to “study” what Pershing did — the general did face insurgencies. But Trump never retracted or revised the pig’s-blood myth.

Waiting for facts

The Pershing canard chafes against the president’s credibility in two ways. One is his claim on Tuesday that he delayed a targeted denunciation of violent white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, for two days because, unlike other pols, he wanted the facts first. His grasp of facts is again at issue.

The other problem is Trump’s emphasis on actual history in opposing the removal of Confederate statues. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it,” he tweeted, echoing a familiar point in a very long-running debate over the icons.

“Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish.” He decried “the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart.”

Bannon fodder

Trump aide Steve Bannon owns the profile of a curious, well-read intellectual versatile enough to have made millions at Goldman Sachs and then craft a populist campaign for his boss.

So it’s no shock that he contacted Robert Kuttner at the left-wing American Prospect to talk about their common views on one topic — trade rivalry with China. Way more surprising was what he reportedly told Kuttner: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it... There’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Rep. King: Fire away!

The words might well serve Trump-loyal Bannon detractors. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) tweeted Thursday: “How long can Trump Administration survive Bannon using race as political issue and undermining @POTUS and Cabinet on N Korea?” Bannon also trash-talked White House rivals as “wetting themselves” and called white supremacists “clowns” and losers.”

Upping veterans’ entitlements

Trump at his Bedminister, New Jersey golf club privately signed into law a bill that gives military veterans unlimited access to college. The Forever GI Act removed a 15-year limit on using the benefits, effective immediately, as the Associated Press reports. Aid will be boosted by $3 billion over 10 years, officials said.

What else is happening:

  • Four were arrested in the toppling of a Confederate soldier statue in Durham, North Carolina.
  • University of Arkansas professor Kyle Quinn was interviewed by NPR about hiding at a friend’s house after internet vigilantes falsely branded him a neo-Nazi demonstrator.
  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was considered for a Cabinet post, said Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence he needs to.”
  • Two other Senate critics, both Republicans, drew nasty morning tweets from the commander-in-chief.
  • Trump canceled plans for an infrastructure advisory panel that he announced only last month, following disbanding of others in the post-Charlottesville uproar.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled Thursday amid Trumpian turmoil.

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