Post Mattis: ‘Has Trump Lost the Military Vote?’

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President Trump greets members of the U.S. military during a stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

One of the big questions heading into the 2020 presidential election is whether President Donald Trump lost the military vote going into a possible re-election campaign. The end of 2018 saw a brutally honest yet professional resignation letter from Secretary of Defense General James Mattis over the U.S. Syria withdrawal. This resulted in another round of attacks from President Trump on an exiting member of the Trump inner circle — this time on a respected military general who has the adoring support of civilians, active military service men and women, and veterans. 

In early January of 2019, Trump continued the attack on respected military generals by attacking Army General Stanley McChrystal — saying Barack Obama fired General McChrystal “like a dog” and adding for that that McChrystal has a “big, dumb mouth.” The attack was a response to a comment by McChrystal, who shared that we would never join the Trump administration because he believes the president is “immoral.” 

It begs the question, if President Trump decides to run for another term in 2020, has President Trump lost the military vote? 

Further, has Trump lost the military vote despite his efforts to politicize the military, something which General Mattis worked to prevent? 

Private conversation with active military service members and veterans yielded a candid conversation of concerns and fears, some of which are shared anonymously here to protect the privacy of these individuals. 

“Huge mistake for Trump is to listen to kitchen cabinet isolationists bozos about foreign policy instead of Mattis and Dunford…You’d be frightened if you knew who was talking to the president these days about war and peace issues.”

“[Trump’s] strategy needs to be to sever cabinet hemorrhaging. Jim Mattis’ retirement was announced by Trump by tweet. This is REALLY bad. It’s starting to look like a meltdown in the admin.”

“RUMINT [rumor intelligence] is that Trump was asking for a Syria withdrawal and Mattis had yet to sign the necessary orders absent a plan that had been fully staffed through DoD [Department of Department of Defense], DoS [Department of State], and CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and Trump dissolved into full tantrum mode and asked for his resignation.”

Holy Father Pope General James Mattis
Left: A photo of General James Mattis at the desk of a young veteran, whom he referred to as his “holy father.”

“Best possible steps going forward, Congress approves a new AUMF [authorization for the use of military force] and begins to exercise its article one oversight powers over the Executive Branch.”

“How do you quantify a negative? When people talk about what we get from our investment of blood and treasure [from foreign wars] I answer with a question, “How many terrorist attacks were there in the west this week? “This week the answer is zero. That will soon change…Mattis is a beacon of integrity and competence to anyone that has served in the U.S. armed forces over the last 20 years.”

“There is a deep and competent bench in the DoD from infantry squads up to the civilian service secretaries. But if Trump gets a sycophant through that will rubber stamp his withdrawal initiatives then we are headed for more and deeper conflicts.  If you create territorial vacuums in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, then Salafists will fill that vacuum. There are still 20,000-30,000 ISIS fighters in the Syrian southern Euphrates valley.”

Two things rise to the surface when listening to and speaking with military veterans and active service members: 

  1. The administration is overconfident about military loyalty toward President Trump.
  2. The past two years of a Trump presidency has been a relatively smooth ‘pre-season’ compared to what may happen between now and November 2020


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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.