Everybody knows, or thinks they know, that James Mattis and John Kelly were sources for Jeff Goldberg’s huge story about the commander in chief calling troops who died in war “losers” and “suckers.” Or even if they weren’t sources, the retired generals surely agree with the gist of the article, hold Donald Trump in utter contempt, and see how dangerous he is to this country as long as he’s the president.
We all know it. So why won’t they say it?
We have less than two months until Election Day. It’s crunch time. If Trump gets another four years, this country is doomed. All the prominent men and women in this country who call themselves patriots? It’s time to speak up. Now.
All of these people—from Mattis and Kelly to so many military brass to retired politicians and even people in the corporate world—who have dealt with Trump know what a danger Trump is. They’ve seen Trump publicly encourage his voters to break the law by voting twice. They’ve watched him publicly defend an armed white vigilante in Kenosha. They know what a lawless monster the man is, and what they’ve witnessed him say and do behind closed doors.
Why won’t they say it out loud?
I truly don’t understand. What can Trump do to them? I see here that Mattis is worth at least $7 million. He’s old, retired, and rich. How can Trump possibly hurt him?
But even if Trump could hurt him, that’s still no excuse. The future of this country is on the line. Are Mattis and Kelly really prepared to stay silent here? If Trump again ekes out an Electoral College victory by something like 2016’s 78,000 votes, and they said nothing, are they going to be proud of themselves?
They don’t have to endorse Joe Biden, by the way. Just confirm Goldberg’s reporting and say they consider Trump unfit for the presidency.
Mattis did issue a statement back in June, after Trump’s Bible fiasco, that was harshly critical. But now it’s after Labor Day. It’s almost election time. Now is the time to speak. We do still have undecided voters; 6 or 7 percent, maybe. That’s millions of people, and they’re precisely the people who might very well make the difference in this election.
It’s not just Mattis and Kelly. Other retired generals and admirals cited in a June Beast article include H.R. McMaster, John Allen, Bill McRaven, and others. That article reported on whether these men might endorse Biden, and sources indicated that ex-military men are loath to get into electoral politics.
Fair enough. Again, they don’t have to endorse Biden. They just have to give their honest assessments of Trump. This isn’t about party. It’s about country. And they all know it.
And what about George W. Bush? He knows very well what damage Trump is doing to the presidency. He’s retired, he’s rich as Croesus, and he’s a Bush. Trump can’t touch him.
Many Republicans will be mad at him. So what? And as for his legacy, well, history will record—in his case, and in all these cases—whether they spoke up or remained silent as Trump set fire to the Constitution.
And what about people in the corporate world? Many are pro-Trump, I know. But many others, a lot of them Republican, must be horrified. Last year, during the impeachment, a survey of 78 leading CEOs found that 56 percent of them thought Trump was guilty and should be removed from office. They sure can’t be thinking any better of Trump today, after nearly 200,000 deaths and everything else that’s happened. And yet, silence.
And how about people in the government, career people in the executive branch, who know things Trump has done that the rest of us don’t know? These people would be taking more of a risk if they don’t have any money to fall back on. Yet these people can also act anonymously, as the “perfect phone call” whistleblower did. If they have information the voters need to know, now is the time.
I suppose every age is an age in which cowardice and silence are the norms. But it somehow seems worse now than 50 or 60 years ago, when we still had something resembling a civic culture in this country. That old civic culture has largely been swallowed by a commercial culture that devalues modesty and integrity and rewards avarice and self-promotion. This is how we got Trump in the first place.
But this also happens because good people let it happen by saying nothing. They need to speak.
And no, it doesn’t take courage. What courage would it take for George W. Bush to say Trump is unfit to be president? His life won’t change. As I said, his legacy will be much improved. People talk about courage as if we lived in Nazi Germany or something. Trump can’t have these people arrested (yet). Nothing will happen to them.
The people I’ve named in this column are all patriots. I would ask them, and everyone, to consider this: It’s mid-2022. Trump won reelection. He will have lost the popular vote even worse than before, and the belief will be widespread that he cheated his way back into office. So that damage will have been done.
Then what will he do in a second term? Maybe he’ll declare his intention to run again. Yes, it’s unconstitutional, but so what? It’s just a piece of paper. Maybe he’ll attempt to shut down CNN or The Washington Post. Maybe he’ll decide to be his own defense secretary, or put Don Jr. and Eric in the Cabinet (while they’re still running the business). Maybe he’ll use the FBI or CIA to spy on his domestic “enemies.”
That last one actually seems mild by Trump standards. So let’s ratchet that one up a bit. Let’s say there is continuing racial unrest, as there almost surely will be. What kinds of pretexts might Trump and his attorney general, who believes secular people don’t deserve democratic government, cook up to arrest and indict protesters and others who disagree with them?
Trump said back in March, just as the virus was spreading: “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” He was apparently referring to a set of orders and proclamations that Americans don’t know about that give a president broad emergency authority. They’ve never been invoked. Do we think that will hold through a second Trump term?
And do Mattis and Kelly and so many others want to take that chance? How will they feel if Trump does these things and they said nothing until it was too late? If they love this country, now’s the time to prove it.