The United States leads the world in coronavirus cases (more than five million) and coronavirus deaths (more than 160,000). If Trump’s failure to address and attack the virus hasn’t convinced you to remove him from office in November, his failure as Commander in Chief of the armed forces should.
The entire U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russia attacked the 2016 election (something the Mueller Report confirmed, adding that the interference was to promote Trump’s candidacy). Intelligence has confirmed that Russia is doing the same thing in 2020.
Russia is not our ally. She is our adversary. Russia’s attack on our democracy should have been met with strong condemnation and a response worthy of the leader of the free world. When President Trump sided with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, accepting the Russian dictator’s denial over our intelligence, he breached his duties as Commander in Chief.
That betrayal elicited strong responses from such Republicans as Senator John McCain, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. They all agreed Russia is not our friend and accepted “the assessment of the intelligence community.”
When intelligence reports recently surfaced saying that Russia had put bounties on our soldiers in Afghanistan, Trump did not confront Putin (protect our troops). Rather, he waffled between saying the reports were “a hoax” and that the intelligence never reached his desk. This was despite the fact the entire world was made aware of the intelligence.
In contrast to Trump’s Helsinki failure to confront Putin, this drew a response from active military. General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that the Pentagon is investigating the reports, and if true, there would be a response. This is a new kind of voice calling the president’s failure to exercise his Commander in Chief responsibilities into question.
What is unprecedented, however, and should be taken very seriously by the electorate, are the explicit condemnations from retired distinguished military leadership of Trump’s actions regarding Lafayette Square.
Those Black Lives Matter protesters were peacefully exercising their constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment rights. Using the military to forcefully remove them so Trump could walk to St. John’s Church for a photo-op was unacceptable. It was also seen as a breach of his Commander in Chief role by retired military leaders.
According to former U.S. Marine general James Mattis, past head of the U.S. Central Command and Trump’s first Secretary of Defense (whom the President called “one of the most effective generals that we’ve had…”), “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people. Instead, he tries to divide us.” In making this condemnation, he reminded us that: “The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’”
John Kelly, also a retired U.S. Marine general, who served as Trump’s chief of staff after being his first Homeland Security secretary, backed Mattis, saying leaders should represent all of their constituents, not just their political base.
Mike Mullen, a retired admiral who served as chair of the Joint Chiefs, said he was “sickened” to see National Guard troops joining law enforcement to forcibly clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House. He said Trump’s leadership is leaving America at an inflection point that made it “impossible to remain silent.”
The list condemning Trump goes on to include retired U.S. Marine general John Allen, who headed forces in Afghanistan; Martin Dempsey, the former Joint Chiefs chair; William McRaven, the former head of the U.S. Special Operations Command; and retired general Colin Powell, who said the president “drifted away” from the Constitution in weighing a plan to have active-duty military members patrol the nation’s streets.
What is perhaps more telling is that rank-and-file military and military families also condemned Trump’s actions. During the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, a line of retired veterans joined the front lines of the protest. This act of solidarity and resistance to the Commander in Chief’s actions was repeated throughout the country. In joining the protests, they said things like: “We don’t serve this country to fight our own.”
In 2016, Donald Trump had 60 percent support from the military. There has definitely been a crack in this wall of military support. According to a Military Times survey, 50 percent of active service military hold an unfavorable view of Trump, compared to only 37 percent when he was elected. As we decide who to vote for on November 3, the rest of us have to factor in that this president has ignored and abused his role as Commander in Chief.