Under some cynical theories, I should be happy to see the Republican Party collapsing under the leadership of Donald Trump. After all, I am a Democrat running for office in my hometown in western New York state. But I’ve spent over 22 years in the Navy serving this country and its security, and as a patriot, Trump’s candidacy has me deeply concerned. Trump is not just an embarrassment to the Republican Party. He is a danger and a disgrace to the United States of America.
Any endorsement of Trump lends legitimacy to his dangerous vision for America, further placing our military service members in danger and further weakening our national security. As of this writing only seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives have endorsed Donald Trump and his reality TV campaign: Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania; Chris Collins of New York; Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee; Renee Ellmers of North Carolina; Duncan D. Hunter of California; Tom Marino of Pennsylvania; and my opponent, Tom Reed of New York. These “leaders” either don’t recognize, or don’t care, about the danger that Trump poses to our fighting men and women. In either case, their endorsements prove that they, like Trump himself, are also unfit for office.
Here’s the blunt truth: Trump has no concept of what U.S. national security requires. Even now, in his role as a leading contender for the Republican nomination, Trump is weakening our standing internationally and is putting our military men and women at risk around the globe. He is feeding false stereotypes of the United States to the world and is a walking recruitment video for radical Islamic terrorists. He is encouraging Putin’s reckless military behavior in Europe and the Middle East. His derogatory statements about NATO play directly into Russia’s hands by eroding our allies’ confidence in a continued U.S. commitment to Europe. His assertion that the United States should scale back its presence in the Pacific no doubt has Chinese Communist Party leaders giddy. Despite his claims to have studied the Iran nuclear deal — “greater by far than anybody else” — Trump appears to have a near-zero understanding of nuclear weapons. All this and more shows that Trump has no understanding of what constitutes U.S. national security interests. And he definitely does not comprehend the costs our service members and their families bear when our military is deployed recklessly.
Worst of all, he would force our military men and women to choose between either following his unlawful orders or defending the Constitution, which means he is wholly unfit to serve as commander-in-chief. That is why the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, when asked about Trump’s proposals to both expand the use of torture and target civilians, stated that any illegal orders issued to the military would damage morale and be “inconsistent with the values of our nation.” It is why former CIA Director Michael Hayden has stated that the U.S. military would refuse to act if a President Trump issued the unlawful orders he campaigns on. And it is why 121 Republican national security experts have signed on to an unprecedented letter rejecting Trump as a presidential candidate, stating: “His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle” and that a President Trump would “make America less safe … diminish our standing in the world … [and pose] a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States.”
There is understandable anger coursing through the country right now, especially when many hard-working Americans in rural communities like my district continue to be left behind by our politicians and our economy. Trump has successfully tapped into that frustration, and provides Republican voters with an alternative to the typical establishment candidates. But Trump in charge of our national security would be a disaster.
John Plumb is a fourth generation Western New Yorker, Navy Reserve Commander, and Democratic candidate for Congress in NY-23 (www.johnplumbforcongress.com). He has served as a submarine officer in the Navy, an official at the Pentagon, and most recently at the National Security Council. He has not previously held public office. Use of his military rank and job titles does not imply endorsement by the United States Navy or the Department of Defense.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore