“Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.”
Those alarming words come from former secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump in a tweet.
In an exclusive interview with the Military Times, the former West Point graduate and Lieutenant Colonel from the Gulf War described some of his experience as a Cabinet member.
“I guess my top line is, as I look back, I see it ― you know, despite a series of crises and conflicts ― and yes, occasional tension with the White House ― I think we’ve been really successful in transforming the department, implementing my top priority as the NDS [National Defense Secretary], if you will, and then protecting the institution, which is really important to me,” he said. “And then … fourth, I should say, preserving my integrity in the process.
“My frustration is I sit here and say, ‘Hmm, 18 Cabinet members. Who’s pushed back more than anybody?’ Name another Cabinet secretary that’s pushed back,” he said. “Have you seen me on a stage saying, ‘Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?’ ”
For some time, it was thought Esper would resign in the chaos of the Trump administration, but for the Defense Secretary, who replaced Marine General James Mattis, that was never an option.
“Yeah, look, I mean ― my soldiers don’t get to quit,” Esper said. “So if I’m going to quit, it better be over something really, really big, otherwise, look, I’m going to do what I’ve always done, which is try and shape it the best I can.”
While Trump initially praised Esper, the Defense secretary’s Rubicon came when Trump ordered active-duty troops to assemble outside Washington to quell any violent protests that might arise.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” Esper said. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
While he initially supports appointees, Trump is quick to fire anyone he deems as unsupportive of his whim-du-jour. Other Pentagon officials were also removed.
Currently, Trump remains in his bunker, brooding and avoiding most presidential duties other than spending 6 minutes at Arlington National Cemetery for Veterans Day.
“It seems clear Trump has checked out,” said Norman Ornstein, a political scientist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who has criticized Trump. “It’s not like this guy has shown a great interest in governing for four years, so to expect he will now accelerate the pace is a little fanciful. It’s pretty clear he feels wounded. Under those circumstances, the idea he’s going to pay more attention to the details of governance is ridiculous.”
However, what troubles me most is the battlefield mentality Republicans have adopted from the president as they continue to enable his every impulse.
In the midst of all the Trump-induced chaos, a category 4 hurricane threatens the south coast of Florida, and coronavirus cases continue to set daily record-breaking increases claiming more lives with no clear plan in place from the White House or economic relief from Senate Republicans.
Their absence of integrity is only second to their shameless pandering to an autocrat.
This is less about the courage to stand up to a lying demagogue, and more about duty: doing the right thing for the country. If Republicans continue to put loyalty ahead of duty…
…God help us all.