May 19, 2024

Pentagon Purge

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11 November 2020WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932The Pentagon PurgeBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift          WASHINGTON – A favorite parlor game in recent months has been to guess what President Donald Trump might do if he lost reelection. Now we know what we know but we know not all. First to take the hit was Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who enraged Trump when he refused to invoke the 200-year-old Insurrection Act that would have allowed Trump to send the military out to confront this summer’s protests.          Trump fired Esper in a tweet, and in an interview with the Military Times before he knew his fate, Esper said that with Trump, “You’ve got to pick your fights.” If he left or was fired over some disagreement, “Who’s going to come in behind me. It’s going to be a real yes man. And then God help us.”          Four top officials at the Defense Department resigned under pressure or in solidarity with Esper, setting off alarm bells in Washington about a Pentagon purge. Moving into their slots are Trump loyalists, including the discredited Retired Army Gen. Anthony Tata, a conspiracy theorist and frequent Fox News guest.          We have a president who is known for acting irrationally without regard for the norms and traditions that have governed this country for over two hundred years. His refusal to concede an election he has obviously lost has people rightfully concerned about what he might do next.          “If I were a CIA analyst seeing these moves in a third world country, I would conclude that the strong man is moving to take over the country,” Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey said on MSNBC.          Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden is acting like a gracious winner, giving the loser time to accept defeat. The next 30 days are critical before the Electoral College meets on December 14, and then it’s game over for Trump – unless there is mischief with the electors.          In fact, it’s already game over. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found only 3 percent of respondents believe Trump won the election. Yet he is proceeding on all fronts – political, legal, and military – to de-legitimize Biden’s win and stoke divisions in the country that can lead to civil unrest.          Only a handful of Republicans have congratulated Biden on his win: Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is not among them, choosing instead to indulge Trump in his fantasy that widespread fraud cost him the election.          For McConnell, this is just another exercise in raw political power, no matter what the cost to our democracy. He wants white voters in Georgia to remain aggrieved about Trump’s loss so they will be motivated to vote in the state’s two runoff elections in January, an event that could give Democrats control of the Senate if GOP voters are demoralized and don’t show up.          Going the legal route has been a bust for Trump. There is no evidence of widespread fraud, and recounts in Georgia and Arizona would not change the outcome of the election.          The most frightening scenario centers on the military. The shakeup at the Pentagon has people on edge, and rightfully so. There is always the fear that a president under personal and political stress will seek to dramatically change the narrative with some kind of military venture. McCaffrey in his interview said he is concerned that the president is kicking around ideas that might be irrational.          Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a smart guy with presidential ambitions of his own, when asked about Trump refusing to concede, said he is anticipating a peaceful transfer of power to a second Trump term.          Maybe he’s just humoring Trump, and like Esper, trying to prevent things from spinning out of control. So, enablers beware. You may get what you want.          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.          END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND  


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