For the last 20 years, presidents have given servicemen “challenge coins” in recognition of major achievements. But when our men and women in uniform get a challenge coin from Donald Trump, they’ll get a coin that is a personal monument to the commander-in-chief.
Past challenge coins have been made of silver or copper, and featured the presidential seal with the national motto, “E pluribus unum.” Not so with Trump’s coin. The seal has been replaced with an eagle looking to the right, perched behind a red, white, and blue shield. Rather than “E pluribus unum,” the coin features Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” And Trump’s name appears three times on the coin, in addition to his signature.
Instead of silver or copper, the coin is laden with gold. It also features a banner at the bottom intended to serve as a base. Apparently it was included out of necessity, as this coin is nearly twice as thick as coins issued by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
A White House aide told The Washington Post that Trump took a personal hand in designing the coin–and the result was “beautifully made.” That may explain the gold; Trump’s real estate properties are known for copious displays of opulence. While Trump designed it, the Republican National Committee is footing the bill.
With few exceptions, this coin has been panned on social media, with most observers seeing it as a massive display of Trump’s ego.
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) December 22, 2017
This is just ridiculous. Trump slapped his name on the "very gold coin" in pace of E Pluribus Unum. He thinks he's Kim Jong Un… https://t.co/AmmuAlLOq5
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) December 23, 2017
It is beyond fitting that Trump deleted “e Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one—from the Presidential coin. Our national motto sums up our nation’s deepest aspirations. Trump has never shown even the slightest respect for the motto and what it stands for. https://t.co/tSz9rg3jQj
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) December 22, 2017
Oh. My. F*cking. God. Trump replaces "E pluribus unum" on presidential coin with "Make America Great Again" and his name in huge letters. https://t.co/DVfPBBUwyP
— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) December 22, 2017
I didn’t even know those were a thing until today. Dude replaces “E pluribus unom” with his campaign slogan, tosses his name on it 3 times. Mega tacky.
Trump coin vs Obama coin: pic.twitter.com/zNFQ291lPtLoading...
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) December 22, 2017
Trump defaces the Challenge coin by adding on his own MAGA hate speech wink. This man has no moral compass. He's the chicken w/ it's head cut off running about the White House, allowed on Capitol Hill.#TrumpIsNOTAboveTheLaw https://t.co/3J3xVYQnwN
— Nick Walden Poublon (@NWPinPDX) December 23, 2017
Trump's presidential coin (which is often given to military and police) has replaced "E Pluribus Unum" with his campaign slogan. This happens in Russia or China, not in the U.S. https://t.co/rruDrnIXLP
— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) December 23, 2017
— VoteVets #VetsVsTheNRA (@votevets) December 23, 2017
Notice that Mike Pence’s challenge coin isn’t nearly as gaudy as that of his boss.
Much of the criticism focused on Trump including his campaign slogan on the coin. A White House aide shrugged it off, saying that the coin was “central to the message”–this is a president who intends to keep his word. That same aide suggested that Trump could churn out a coin that says “Made America Great Again.”
There may be more problems with that plan than just tackiness. Trevor Potter, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and current president of the Campaign Legal Center, warned that putting a campaign slogan on a coin given to servicemen turns it into “a political token” that risks eroding “the important principle of separating the military from politics.”
Trump would have done well to heed the advice of his own Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis. While many members of Trump’s cabinet have created challenge coins–a tradition that spans both Democratic and Republican administrations–Mattis hasn’t joined in. A Pentagon spokeswoman said that Mattis feels that a challenge coin is supposed to be about “the person whose hand he is shaking.” Perhaps if Trump understood that, he wouldn’t have made his coin a monument to himself.
(featured image courtesy Bill O’Leary, The Washington Post)