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Earning a Purple Heart, Trump-style.

All you really need to know about Donald Trump in one soundbite

By Gwynn Guilford

“I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier,” said Donald Trump on Tuesday, after an Iraq war veteran gave him his Purple Heart medal at a rally in Virginia. “But I tell you it was such an honor.”

Trump is right. The traditional way of earning a Purple Heart is by being wounded or killed while serving in the US armed forces. It is indeed “much easier” to come by one via the Trump school of achievement. This technique involves deferring the Vietnam draft five times (paywall), impugning both a war prisoner’s bravery and the dignity of a fallen soldier’s parents, and still earning a Purple Heart just by talking a big game about building a strong military.

The Trump school basically follows this formula: boast about the successes you’ve earned by taking shortcuts.

Trump likes to crow about being a self-made man who, against all odds, built a Manhattan real estate empire. He declines to mention that he started out his career with at least several tens of millions, likely of his father’s money, and almost certainly inherited tens or maybe hundreds of millions more. And that’s not counting the millions that Wall Street banks lent him like crazy. Once his luck ran out, however, Trump and his businesses owed $9 billion. What saved Trump from financial ruin was that he’d borrowed so much money banks had to keep lending to him rather than have to write down his debts.

Then there’s his book, The Art of the Deal, which he brags constantly about having written—even though his ghostwriter says he penned the whole thing.

And then there’s simply the huge, meta-, mother of all Trump shortcuts: The fact that, despite lacking any genuine qualifications or plausible policies, America’s Republicans have given him the nomination—and along with the Purple Heart-earning veteran, millions of voters are hoping to give him the presidency.