Those individuals responsible for ensuring the safety of this great nation are among the most respected Americans. While public confidence in some of our institutions has flagged in recent years, confidence and respect for the U.S. military has remained remarkably high. A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found 83% confidence in the military “to act in the best interests of the public.” Only scientists polled as well.
Military leaders who make it to the top ranks have been fully vetted for competence, temperament, and patriotism. Despite having their own political preferences, they have a culture of acting in a non-partisan manner and a great number maintain that posture into retirement. Only when the nation is confronted with great danger do they step forward to raise the alarm.
Retired four-star Air Force General Chuck Boyd, a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran who was held for seven years as a POW, felt compelled to join almost 500 other senior military and civilian officials in signing a September letter supporting Joe Biden. The letter said Donald Trump “has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office...Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us.”
General Boyd, a Republican like many of the other letter signers, said he did not believe military leaders should involve themselves in presidential politics, “but this year is different. Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law that makes a democracy possible has been so egregious I’ve decided to speak out.” He continued, “I believe that our democracy will be in shatters by the time he has served two terms.”
Retired four-star General John Kelly, who served as Trump’s chief of staff for 19 months, recently said of Trump: “The depths of his dishonesty is just astounding to me….He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life.” Although I believe Kelly hung with Trump too long and failed to stand up to his most shocking policies, like separation of families at the southern border, he certainly had the opportunity to get a sense of Trump at close hand.
Retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, a soldier with a legendary reputation for speaking truth to power, who served Trump as National Security Adviser for 13 months, said Trump has been “aiding and abetting” Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine public confidence in our electoral system.
Retired four-star General Jim Mattis, who served Trump as Secretary of Defense for two years, said, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people--does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”
Mattis, Kelly and McMaster had the opportunity to work closely with Trump and to learn how he operates. A soldier doesn’t attain the ranks they have achieved without coming to understand and accurately assess the soul and character of those with whom they work. Trump comes up woefully deficient in their studied eyes.
So, what do we do? I would suggest following the sound advice of Sully Sullenberger, a former Air Force fighter pilot and the airline captain whose nerves of steel saved the lives of 155 people in what has become known as “the Miracle on the Hudson.” In a remarkable video Sully unabashedly says, “Vote… Him...Out.”