Silly me, here I’d been fantasizing about a soft military coup preventing the Braggart-in-Chief from starting World War III. Surely the Pentagon has procedures for removing emotionally-incapacitated commanders, and Trump’s generals, as he calls them, must have made contingency plans.
Or maybe not.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that arguing with a four-star Marine general like White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is almost sacrilegious. Americans haven’t always thought so. I had two uncles who’d served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur—one in the Philippines, the other in Korea. They considered him a vainglorious blowhard who was reckless with his men’s lives.
They’d have agreed with President Harry S. Truman’s explanation for why he’d cashiered MacArthur in 1951: “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President,” Truman told Time. “I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
Service as grunts in the Pacific had also persuaded my uncles that going into Vietnam was folly. They were keen to convince me that it wasn’t necessary to go to war to be a man—advice that, like Donald J. Trump, I was eager to hear. No bone-spurs here, merely educational deferments.
I do not apologize.
History teaches that while military virtues are real—duty, honor, sacrifice and courage—so are military vices: chief among them authoritarianism and an inability to admit error. Generals spend the first half of their careers polishing apples, and their command years getting their apples shined. That can lead to an inability to see other people’s point of view—particularly those of lower rank.
Hence Gen. Kelly’s unfortunate role in Trump’s latest degrading Twitter feud—exchanging insults with a congresswoman in a silly hat over the president’s ill-fated attempt to console a 23 year-old war widow.
Ill-fated because this president utterly lacks compassion, and pretty clearly bungled his effort to deliver the script Kelly offered him. The general’s dignified, moving description of a friend’s advice about how to talk to bereaved families evidently came out very differently in Trump’s mouth.
Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Myeshia recalled the president saying that her husband “knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways. And it made me cry. I was very angry at the tone of his voice, and how he said it.”
One can certainly question Rep. Frederica S. Wilson’s motives for making a political issue of so intimate a moment, but everybody who overheard the exchange on speaker-phone as Sgt. Johnson’s people drove to the airport to collect his remains heard it the same way.
Trump struck them as cold and unfeeling.
At that point, a normal man—even a normal politician—would apologize for expressing himself clumsily, praise Sgt. Johnson’s heroism, offer further condolences to the families of all the Green Berets killed in Niger, petition God to bless the United States of America, and put it behind him.
But that’s now how Donald J. Trump rolls. So he began attacking the “WACKY” congresswoman, and sent his pet general out to double down on her. Or maybe Gen. Kelly volunteered.
Either way, he gave a lacerating account of a speech delivered by Rep. Wilson at the dedication of a new FBI building in her district in 2013.
“A congresswoman stood up,” Kelly told reporters,“and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down. And we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”
Trouble was, apart from the fact that Rep. Frederica Wilson did, indeed, speak at the FBI building dedication, everything Kelly said about her speech was completely false—and was proven so when the Florida Sun-Sentinel published a video recording.
Wearing her trademark cowgirl hat, Wilson said nothing about securing funding for the building, because she hadn’t. She never mentioned President Obama at all. She did praise GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who helped her to get the building named for two fallen FBI agents whose heroism she extolled at length.
I doubt Kelly lied, but something about Rep. Wilson clearly set off the retired general. Democrat? Woman? Black woman? Or maybe it was just the damn hat. Whatever, he owes her an apology, but I doubt she’ll get it.
See, when generals go off half-cocked, everybody has to salute.
But John Kelly’s not in uniform anymore.
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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet
Herschel Walker, Donald Trump's choice to unseat Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, was accused of "repeatedly" threatening his ex-wife's life, the Associated Press reports, citing its "review of hundreds of pages of public records tied to Walker's business ventures and his divorce."
"The documents detail accusations that Walker repeatedly threatened his ex-wife's life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior."
Walker, 59, is Black, a conservative, and a former NFL player who is now a business owner who "has at times been open about his long struggle with mental illness, writing at length in a 2008 book about being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, once known as multiple personality disorder."
The AP says "it's unclear how he would discuss these events as a candidate."
Given the Senate's 50-50 split and Democrats have a slim majority only when the Vice President is allowed to cast a deciding tie-breaking vote, Republicans see Senator Warnock's seat as "a top target…as they try to take control of the U.S. Senate in next year's midterm elections."
"Walker's potential bid is a wildcard," the AP notes. "He might easily win the GOP primary with Trump's help, setting up a general election fight against Democrat Raphael Warnock, who became Georgia's first Black senator after a special election in January."
Walker, who has yet to announce he is a candidate, does not live in Georgia. Trump late last month announced he "told me he's going to, and I think he will" run. In August Walker insisted Trump is not a racist.
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In the professional stratum of politics, few verities are treated with more reverence than the outcome of next year's midterm, when the Republican Party is deemed certain to recapture majorities in the House and Senate. With weary wisdom, any pol or pundit will cite the long string of elections that buttress this prediction.
Political history also tells us that many factors can influence an electoral result, including a national crisis or a change in economic conditions — in other words, things can change and even midterm elections are not entirely foretold. There have been a few exceptions to this rule, too.
Such an exception ought to be possible in a country where, increasingly, the Democratic Party represents majority opinion on most salient issues, while the Republican Party wields power mainly because of rules, traditions, population imbalances and constitutional anomalies that thwart the majority. In no other democratic nation is the will of most citizens so systematically frustrated.
So the Democrats must fight their way uphill, and they would be wise to start now. The way to begin is to define the terms of battle with a message that reflects the lived experience as well as the hopes and expectations of voters in America after former President Donald Trump's 2020 election loss — and draws a powerful contrast with the opposition.
That message begins with the behavior of the Republicans, who no longer even pretend to have policy solutions to the crises that America confronts. Instead, they function solely as sycophantic servants of Trump, whose synthetic grievances over his impeachments and defeat continue to be their shared obsession. The Grand Old Party is no longer grand and scarcely a party, but it is terribly "old" in the most insulting sense: an entity decrepit and stuck in the past.
In recent days, the Republican leadership and a few of its media minions have seemed to sense how badly and bloodily they botched the pandemic. Suddenly, after more than a year of pretending it would go away and months of undermining the vaccination campaign, some of them are urging Americans to get inoculated. But with so many loonies and cultists infesting their active base, the party can't dispel the aura of needless, stupid death that surrounds it. Geniuses that they are, the Republicans apparently noticed President Joe Biden's strong approval, which rests on his competent, compassionate, scientific response to the pandemic.
Meanwhile that awful negative aura extends over the Republican obstruction of Biden's investments in economic recovery and national infrastructure, which are favored by a big majority of voters — and even a plurality of their own party rank and file. As the benefits of the Democratic program reach more households, the inadequacy of the Republicans will only be underlined.
The last time Democrats defied the midterm curse was in 1998, when Newt Gingrich overplayed his hand by impeaching Bill Clinton — another Republican outrage against the popular will. Their paranoid and conspiratorial tendencies have only grown worse over the past two decades.
Today's Republicans can be relied upon to exhibit the same character deficit as the 2022 cycle unfolds. That process began earlier this month, when a mob of fascist thugs disrupted a town hall hosted by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter in her Southern California district. While Porter spoke about solutions to climate change and the pandemic, they interrupted her with shouted slogans and tried to drown her out. The disturbance was planned, organized, and led by her Republican opponent, a white nationalist and anti-vaccination activist who disgracefully joined in physical attacks on her supporters.
The attack on Porter, so reminiscent of the worst Tea Party scenes in 2009, is a harbinger of things to come. It is a clear reminder to every voter of what the GOP now represents as an engine of authoritarian violence, big lies and bigotry — the continuation of January 6. They are nothing more than Trump, a hollow figure who returns endlessly to a past that reeks of depression, disease and deception. And they are willing to violate every democratic principle to drag the country backward with him.
But most Americans don't want to go backward with Trump and his goons. Now they must mobilize to defend democracy and keep moving forward.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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