Two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan made a commendable effort to end Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) one-man show of blocking hundreds of military promotions. He appropriately called the suggestion that it wasn’t impacting military readiness “ridiculous.” Chinese President “Xi Jinping is watching right now,” Sullivan said. “He is loving this, so is Putin. They are loving it. How dumb can we be, man?”
Dumb enough to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room named Donald Trump. Because Russia and China have interest in seeing America’s democracy and standing in the world weakened, his utterly divisive rhetoric and relentless attacks on our nation’s election integrity, judiciary, and free press are music to their ears.
While debating Tuberville, Sullivan argued President Joe Biden’s proposals to shrink the Army, Navy and Marines Corps for three straight years “is the wrong message to send to Xi Jinping and Putin.”
Forget the fact that the past two years Biden proposed defense budget increases between three and four percent. And that he has emphatically asked Congress to authorize aid for Ukraine. The consistent message from Trump to both dictators is one of praise.
Trump described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an act of “genius.” And ignorantly imagined Putin’s plan was to “go in and be a peacekeeper.”
On Veterans Day, while Sullivan was properly paying respect to those who served our country, Trump fit in compliments for Xi during a speech he gave in New Hampshire. And in words that reflect how both dictators behave, he pledged to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections.”
Just as Sullivan couldn’t ignore what he called “reprehensible revelations about Donald Trump” exposed by the Hollywood Access video in 2016, he can’t miss the distinct echoes to 1930s fascism uttered by the man who will likely be his party’s nominee for president. Even if Trump claimed his choice of words was merely defiance to political correctness, there no escaping how much that statement aligns with his praise for Xi.
“Think of President Xi. Central casting, brilliant guy” he said during an interview in July. “[H]e runs 1.4 billion people with an iron fist. Smart, brilliant, everything perfect.”
Coupled with his repeated false claims that the election was stolen, it seems the “vermin” Trump would use his iron first on includes every Democrat; every nonpartisan election official and elected Republican who certified he lost; and every member of his administration who told him the truth.
Make no mistake, Trump’s enemy list includes anyone who opposes him. Among them are “military heroes” like those Sullivan seeks to promote over Tuberville’s objections. By his count, 289 of them were “captains and lieutenants” who fought “in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.”
John Kelly, James Mattis and Mark Milley are all retired generals who served in Iraq. When Trump selected them for positions in his administration, he extolled their exceptional military careers. Now, because they’ve harshly criticized his leadership, he’s got less than a very low opinion of their abilities and character.
After serving as Secretary of Homeland Security for several months, Trump chose Kelly — “a true star of my administration” — to be his chief of staff. Last month he called him “the dumbest of my military people,” and “a lowlife with a very small brain and a very big mouth.”
Mattis went from being “one of our great, great generals” and “the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have” to “the world’s most overrated general.”
Trump had “absolute confidence” that Milley would “fulfill his duty with the same brilliance and fortitude he has shown throughout his long and very distinguished career.” In September, he called him “a woke train wreck” and said his communications with China during the last few months of his presidency were acts “so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH!”
All three men deserve the same respect and appreciation that Sullivan graciously expressed for the officers held in limbo by Tuberville’s ignorant stunt. More importantly, they understand Trump is manifestly unfit to be commander-in-chief again. And Sullivan’s refusal to recognize that is serving as a note in the tune Trump is playing for Putin and Xi.