In a scathing open letter addressed to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, 50 high-level GOP national security experts unleash perhaps the most uncompromising critique of the real estate mogul this campaign season. Trump “would be the most reckless president in American history,” write the signatories, employing absolutist language that even the Clinton campaign hasn’t dared using.
“None of us will vote for Donald Trump,” suggest the signatories.
The letter’s signatories include top-level officials from previous Republican administrations. Most of them were active during the George W. Bush years. They include former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, among other big names in the defense community. Two US trade representatives and a former ambassador to NATO also signed their names to the letter. For a full list of signatories see here.
While the letter is a full-scale rebuke of Trump, it stops short of endorsing his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Americans “have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us,” the signatories state, although the letter does echo some of Clinton’s more popular critiques of Trump, including those related to his “temperament.”
“From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being,” argue the experts, adding:
Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President. He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world. He appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, and U.S. institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.
Responding to Trump’s recent pro-Putin rhetoric and anti-NATO canards, the GOP national security experts state bluntly that Republican nominee has “demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding” of America’s “vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values.”
The signatories even evaluate the candidate’s overall character:
He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior.
“All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander-in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal,” they conclude.
Late Monday, just a couple hours after The New York Times first published the letter, Trump responded with fury.
In a statement, Trump said that the signatories were “the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place.”
Throwing the kitchen sink at men who signed the letter, Trump lumped all of them into what President Obama’s own national security, Ben Rhodes, would likely refer to as “the Blob,” this ever-present foreign policy establishment, and blamed them for every foreign-affairs related issue from the Bush years through the Obama years.
The Times reports:
Mr. Trump correctly identified many of the signatories as the architects of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But he also blamed them for allowing Americans “to die in Benghazi” and for permitting “the rise of ISIS” — referring to the 2012 attacks on the American mission in Libya and the spread of the Islamic State, both of which occurred during the Obama administration. At the time, most of Mr. Trump’s Republican foreign policy critics were in think tanks, private consultancies or law firms, or signed on as advisers to the Republican hopefuls Mr. Trump beat in the primaries.
“From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”
Letter from 50 high-level GOP national security experts
Pulling the Iraq card straight out of Obama’s 2008 campaign deck, Trump attempted to reduce the war in Iraq to a singular failure and blame the war’s architects for everything that has happened in Iraq since 2003. Make no mistake, the war in Iraq remains incredibly unpopular with a war-weary American public. Trump’s calculation here is to play to the passions of the people, rather than addressing the substance of the signatories’ critiques. Eight years ago, then-candidate Obama used the same tactic to slam McCain, and it worked. He did the same thing against Romney four years later. Obama’s fellow compatriots on the Left, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have actually resorted to deploying this strategy against “neoliberal war hawk” Hillary Clinton, rightly claiming that she voted for the war in Iraq. She has since publicly regretted her vote, suggesting that the Bush administration misled Congress.
Without question, Trump will go after Clinton on the Iraq issue during the upcoming debates. In turn, Clinton will throw the letter signed by senior GOP national security officials in his face.