UPDATED: Adds Trump Riposte
WASHINGTON: When a group of Republican national security experts signed a letter denouncing Donald Trump during the primaries, we didn’t report it because it was still intramural politics. Today, some of the most respected Republican experts in national security released a letter saying Trump “would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” We’re in the end stages of the presidential campaign and this must be reported.
Among the signatories who say they “are convinced that in the Oval Office, he would be the most reckless President in American history” are: Tom Ridge, the first head of Homeland Security; Kori Schake, former head of strategy at the National Security Council; John Negroponte, the first Director of National Intelligence; William H. Taft IV, great-grandson of Republican President Taft and former Deputy Defense Secretary; Dov Zakheim, former Undersecretary of Defense for policy; his son, Roger Zakheim, former deputy assistant Defense Secretary; and Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA as well as the National Security Agency.
The authors say they “have doubts” about Hillary Clinton and will not vote for Trump. Among the reasons:
“Most fundamentally, Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be President,” the authors say.
“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.
“In addition, Mr. Trump 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 on which U.S. foreign policy must be based. At the same time, he persistently compliments our adversaries and threatens our allies and friends. Unlike previous Presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”
Chris Collins, the first congressional GOP Trump supporter, told CNN today he didn’t care what the signatories said about Trump because they would not serve in a Trump administration and were the old GOP anyway. This is most revealing about the split in the GOP and shows just what a narrow ledge Trump stands on within the party. Other Trump supporters did the expected and pointed to Clinton’s actions regarding Benghazi, Libya and her irresponsible treatment of her emails while Secretary of State.
As someone who stays in touch with a wide array of current and former GOP congressional aides, I can tell you that many of them oppose Trump. Perhaps the most public of this group has become John Noonan, former deputy spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee. Noonan came out against Trump early on, expressing grave misgivings about his personality and comments. His views were heavily colored by his service as a former Air Force missileer, one of the guys who turns the firing keys of the nation’s ICBMs. Then last week Noonan just couldn’t stand it anymore and issued a detailed 20-tweet condemnation of Trump’s views, fueled by reports from MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP member of Congress, that Trump had asked a briefer why we didn’t use nuclear weapons when we have them. We won’t detail Trump’s comments on NATO, Vlad Putin, Russia, Crimea and Ukraine as they are well known.
Given that there is no role more important for a president than that of Commander in Chief, these public misgivings from experts within his own party must be aired.
UPDATE: Here’s Trump’s response:
“The names on this letter are 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. They are nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power, and it’s time they are held accountable for their actions.
“These insiders — along with Hillary Clinton — are the owners of the disastrous decisions to invade Iraq, allow Americans to die at Benghazi, and they are the ones who allowed the rise of ISIS. Yet despite these failures, they think they are entitled to use their favor trading to land taxpayer-funded government contracts and speaking fees.”