Gabriel Schoenfeld, Opinion columnist
Published 3: 15 a.m. ET Oct. 10, 2019
National Security: With the future of our constitutional order in the balance, don’t they have an obligation to speak the truth and inform the public about Trump?
The president of the United States is abusing his power to subvert a presidential election. He is leaving the Kurds, our loyal allies in Syria, to their fate, without any consideration of their great sacrifice or of U.S. strategy. Facing an impeachment inquiry, the president, hailing his own “great and unmatched wisdom,” is unraveling before our eyes.
America’s top generals, most seasoned diplomats and a leading businessman have served under President Donald Trump and had the opportunity to observe him closely. They include retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, his former chief of staff; former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, his former secretary of State; retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, his former secretary of Defense; and retired Army Lieutenant Gen. H.R. McMaster and former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, both former national security advisers to Trump. Each of these distinguished public servants evidently believes it is a matter of honor to keep their peace about a president who put them in a position of high responsibility.
National Security: Constitution at risk, so speak up
But each of them has also sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Here is a case where honor and duty collide. Like the public at large, every one of these former high-ranking officials has witnessed unseemly behavior that renders Trump unfit to occupy the White House and serve as commander in chief. But what, bearing on Trump’s character, have they witnessed behind closed doors, in the situation room and in the Oval Office? With the future of our constitutional order hanging in the balance, don’t they have an obligation to speak the truth and inform the public?
Impeachment isn’t just about Trump: It’s about stopping the Republicans who enabled him
Their voices are especially critical now because among Republicans, there has been an enduring code of silence. Trump has sparked strong reactions this week from some Republicans for abandoning the Kurds in Syria. But his requests of Ukraine and China to find dirt on potential 2020 rival Joe Biden were met with just a few mild critiques, with one exception. Only Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has summoned the courage to be tough.
“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” is what Romney said in one tweet. “By all appearances,” Romney said in another, “the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
National Security: Tell us about Trump’s fitness for office
U.S. senators, of course, cannot be impeached. But is Romney nonetheless to be left standing alone, a voice in the wilderness? Even when he was still in office, Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron” in private. The occasion for that appellation was Trump’s insistence at a 2017 meeting that the U.S. nuclear arsenal be expanded tenfold and returned to the force level of the Cold War, NBC News, citing three people who were in the room, reported a few months later.
Mattis resigned in protest when Trump abruptly announced America’s withdrawal from Syria the first time (which the president then walked back). Bolton quit over fundamental differences with Trump over Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea. What can these men tell us about Trump’s decision-making abilities and fitness for office?
The time for waiting is over: House must move on Trump impeachment articles
In one of innumerable bizarre moments of his presidency, Trump told the entire world that he “fell in love” with North Korea’s absolute tyrant, Kim Jong Un. Step by downward step, we have become inured to the strangeness, and yes, the dangerous insanity of it all.
With the leader of the free world deteriorating before our eyes, we are just an accident, a tripwire away from tragedy. It is past time for the most authoritative voices to tell the truth about what is transpiring inside the most powerful office in the world. The hour has arrived for the hitherto silent to speak out.
Gabriel Schoenfeld, an adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @GabeSchoenfeld
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