Many watching the first Trump-Biden debate on September 29th were haunted by the words of outgoing president Barack Obama in 2016, who described Donald Trump as, “uniquely unqualified to be President” and “unfit”. Unfortunately, more than mere partisan hyperbole, Trump has vindicated Obama’s remarks daily over the past four years – tweet by presidential tweet.
With Trump at the podium, few were expecting an intellectual debate, however the adolescent argument that took place stripped away any remain pretense of civilization from the political arena. As the world looked on, in frankly less astonishment than should be expected, the Leader of the Free World reduced a presidential debate to the level of a school-yard fracas – even stooping to ad hominem attacks upon Biden and his son. It was little more than a shouting match, that left many viewers pondering again the state of government, and even more nervous about the man with the nuclear football.
The debate came in the wake of Bob Woodward’s second book on Trump, entitled “Rage”, which revealed that the President had known about the seriousness of COVID-19 back in January, but failed to implement measures to protect the public. The over 208,000 COVID-19 deaths to date in the US could soon approach total US combat fatalities during WWII.
Woodward’s book also contained many damming assessments from insiders, including former Secretary of Defense James Mattis who describes Trump as “dangerous” and “unfit” with “no moral compass”. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NAIAD, is quoted telling others that Trump’s leadership was “rudderless”, his “attention span is like a minus number”, and “His sole purpose is to get re-elected.” Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats related serious security concerns regarding Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While it is clear to many that Obama’s 2016 remarks were prescient, and notwithstanding current poll numbers which show Biden with a double-digit lead, the outcome of the pending election is far from certain.
A concerned bipartisan group of 489 retired Generals, Admirals, Senior Non-commissioned Officers, Ambassadors and Senior Civilian National Security Officials calling themselves “National Security Leaders for Biden (NSL4B)” have decided to take action. The group is headed by Rear Admiral Michael E. Smith, USN (Ret).
While the thought of military leaders banding together to oppose the nation’s elected government may be uncomfortable for some – Castro, Pinochet and al-Gaddafi automatically spring to mind – unusual problems demand unusual solutions. NSL4B are well-intentioned, and are not the first such group to organize.
An August 20th article in Forbes entitled “Over 70 Republican National Security Officials Endorse Biden, Deem Trump ‘Dangerously Unfit’ For President” announced that a group of 73 former U.S. National Security officials who served under GOP administrations, including former CIA and FBI chiefs, were endorsing Biden. Calling themselves “Republicans and Independents for Biden”, members included officials who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. The joint statement accused the president of lacking “character and competence” and engaging in “corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as president.” It went on to say, “We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump…”
Fox News countered on September 14th with a story about another group of 235 retired military leaders who had entered the political fray, this time in support of President Trump and warning that, “With the Democratic Party welcoming to socialists and Marxists, our historic way of life is at stake”.
Strange days indeed. Retired military and intelligence leaders duking it out in the national media over favoured presidential candidates…what is going on?
NSL4B announced their support Joe Biden for President in an open letter to the American people. It begins, “To Our Fellow Citizens – We are former public servants who have devoted our careers, and in many cases risked our lives, for the United States. We are generals, admirals, senior non-commissioned officers, ambassadors, and senior civilian national security leaders. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. We love our country. Unfortunately, we also fear for it. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven America needs principled, wise, and responsible leadership… We the undersigned endorse Joe Biden to be the next President of the United States. He is the leader our nation needs.”
It goes on to address failings of the incumbent President, and specific challenges which must be met by the next; “The next president will inherit a nation – and a world – in turmoil. The current President has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office; he cannot rise to meet challenges large or small. Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us. Climate change continues unabated, as does North Korea’s nuclear program. The president has ceded influence to a Russian adversary who puts bounties on the heads of American military personnel, and his trade war against China has only harmed America’s farmers and manufacturers. The next president will have to address those challenges while struggling with an economy in a deep recession and a pandemic that has already claimed more than 200,000 of our fellow citizens. America, with 4% of the world’s population suffers with 25% of the world’s COVID-19 cases. Only FDR and Abraham Lincoln came into office facing more monumental crises than the next president.”
America may be in a precarious situation with an unfit President, however more than democracy hangs in the balance. The next election will be a referendum on reality.