Trump's foundation starts to crack

Article Image

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark responds to former Secretary of Defense James Mattis' released statement in which he said Americans must come together without President Trump.

Posted: Jun 4, 2020 8:20 PM
Updated: Jun 4, 2020 8:20 PM

General James Mattis dropped a bombshell.

"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," Trump's former Secretary of Defense said in a statement obtained by CNN. Mattis described the president as a threat to the Constitution. "We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children."

Mattis has largely kept his criticisms of the president silent after resigning over policy differences last year. But as President Trump grows desperate to distract with lies and bluster against a backdrop of a fumbled pandemic response, cross country protests against police violence and his own sagging poll numbers, silence among the center-right is increasingly untenable. Even Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke ranks to say that she agreed with Mattis and said she was struggling on whether to support Trump in November.

The tipping point was Trump's autocratic stunt of violently dispersing a peaceful protest outside the White House for a photo op with a Bible minutes after suggesting he would invoke the Insurrection Act to use the US military against American citizens. This sparked an unusual firestorm of dissent from respected military and national security figures, who have been trained to remain silent on matters of partisan politics.

A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, felt compelled to write on Twitter, "America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy." The Bush and Obama-era chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, wrote an op-ed for The Atlantic, saying "Whatever Trump's goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces." Retired Marine Gen. John Allen said that Trump's threats of military force may be "the beginning of the end of the American experiment." Former CIA analyst Gail Helt told the Washington Post, "This is what autocrats do. This is what happens in countries before a collapse. It really does unnerve me."

This is not partisan bluster. This is the sound of lifelong patriots warning that this president's autocratic impulses are a threat to the republic.

The military is typically sympathetic to Republican presidents, with military veterans voting for Trump by an almost 2 to 1 margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to CNN exit polls. Despite dodging the Vietnam-era draft with claims of "bone spurs," Trump has repeatedly tried to claim that he is the "most militaristic" candidate and president (watch this Seth Myers' monologue mash-up for some choice cuts)

There is no obvious precedent for their actions. Even the most senior enlisted man in the Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth O. Wright felt compelled to speak out in solidarity with protesters.

Wright tweeted, "I am a Black man who happens to be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. I am George Floyd...I am Philando Castile, I am Michael Brown, I am Alton Sterling, I am Tamir Rice."

Wright's tweet stood in sharp contrast to President Trump's calls for shooting looters and warnings of "vicious dogs," though he has claimed to want justice for Floyd.

These profiles in courage represent cracks in Trump's core foundation of support in a time of national crisis. A recent Monmouth University poll shows that President Trump is down double digits to former Vice President Joe Biden (other polls have shown Trump in the lead despite his fact-free insistence to the contrary)

But nearly all Republicans in the allegedly co-equal branch of government known as the US Senate have essentially continued their see-no-evil routine, pretending to ignore that their emperor has no clothes. When asked by reporters for their reaction to Trump's thuggish response to peaceful protesters outside of the White House, they offered a series of almost comical dodges, with Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin saying "I didn't really see it," while Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said "I'm late for lunch." Cue the sad trombone soundtrack.

There were a handful of dissents, including Sen. Murkowski, who said "I did not think that what we saw last night was the America I know," while Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said, "I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of God as a political prop."

Republicans are caught in a hyper-partisan trap of their own making. They are afraid of provoking the president's wrath as well as the anger of the base despite the fact that what Trump is doing is against everything they once said they believed.

Republicans once railed against unchecked executive power, baselessly calling former President Obama a would-be "king" and denouncing his reliance on executive orders. They are silent on Trump's far more extreme assertions of executive power and use of executive orders.

Remember Republican concerns about the generational theft of deficit and debt and the tea party rallying cries against bailouts at the outset of the great recession? They apparently don't -- or they're hoping that no one will notice the bigger deficits and debt and bailouts under Trump. Never fear, they'll resuscitate the issue under a Democratic president. During the Obama years, one fringe conspiracy theory, known as "Jade Helm," baselessly accused former President Obama of conspiring to use the military against US citizens, attracting the interest of Senator Ted Cruz.

Now that President Trump has called for something that looks a lot like that in reality, the Republican response is crickets.

The unfortunate but obvious answer is these alleged Republican principles were just about the partisan pursuit of power. Too many of them were willing to sell them out in a second, amid a flurry of whataboutism and fact-free denial for short-term political gain. But that deal looks like it might end in electoral disaster.

There is a reflexive impulse on the right to demonize Donald Trump's detractors. But this runs into a buzz-saw when it comes to high-ranking members of the military calling out the president's self-serving violations of democratic norms. Crowing about "owning the libs" loses a bit of its luster when its directed at former Trump cabinet members and Pentagon chiefs who know the president far better than the fan fiction his hardcore supporters have embraced. The partisan economy creates its own cudgel among operatives who agree to overlook their onetime libertarian principles as long as the paychecks keep rolling in.

As we head closer to November, more center-right politicians may start to show spine out of a desire to not get taken down with the rapidly derailing Trump train. Others will come down with cases of convenient amnesia, but the military voices already speaking out remind us that protecting our country is a much bigger deal than phony-tough fealty to hyper-partisan politics.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 315026

Reported Deaths: 7257
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21684260
Hinds20385416
Harrison17973309
Rankin13650278
Jackson13456246
Madison10130217
Lee9988174
Jones8388163
Forrest7701152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6411148
Lamar624686
Lafayette6210119
Washington5342134
Bolivar4804132
Oktibbeha463298
Panola4601107
Pearl River4524146
Marshall4454103
Warren4397121
Pontotoc421172
Monroe4120133
Union411276
Neshoba4033176
Lincoln3972110
Hancock380287
Leflore3500125
Sunflower336490
Tate335484
Pike3330105
Scott316773
Alcorn313670
Yazoo311870
Itawamba300877
Copiah297865
Coahoma295979
Simpson295388
Tippah289068
Adams288682
Prentiss280360
Marion269680
Leake268673
Wayne262941
Grenada261987
Covington260381
George249448
Newton246963
Winston227881
Tishomingo227567
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208457
Holmes189174
Clay185654
Stone183033
Tallahatchie179041
Clarke178180
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164838
Smith162734
Walthall134345
Greene130633
Lawrence129324
Montgomery127242
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121929
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107233
Tunica105726
Claiborne102530
Benton100125
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67631
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 69°
Columbus
Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 67°
Oxford
Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: °
Your Tuesday comes with more clouds and rain chances, though a few areas of sunshine and warmth are possible at times in the afternoon. Though all areas could see some rain today, the majority of this rainfall will be found in our western counties.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather