by Josh Manning
Josh Manning is a combat veteran and serves on the leadership team of Common Defense, a group of progressive veterans who want to affect political change. You can follow him on Twitter @joshuamanning23
So Montana has a Republican candidate to face off in the May special election. It comes as no surprise that the Grand Ol’ Party party chose Greg Gianforte, who we all have come to know for doing amazing things in his gubernatorial run. Like losing by four points when the state trended red. Also, like getting busted for blocking public access to his property or mentioning that people should retire at age 300 or the more general beliefs regarding the age of the Earth or how we got the animals that inhabit it. Mainstream, normal beliefs. No big deal, right?
Others will cover this in greater detail in the weeks to come and we will have plenty of moments to mock the GOP candidate in the next 80 days. What did not get a lot of coverage in the Republican Party’s $1,740 entrance fee selection show was the discussion about how its candidate would work with the Republicans currently running the federal government. Gianforte all but jumped onto Donald Trump’s back to describe his enthusiasm for an American president who is growing more authoritarian every passing day.
As a veteran I have serious concerns about how our new Commander-in-Chief plans to drive the world’s most powerful military. I have even grander concerns about how Congress will reign him in when he veers off course. If anyone thinks that Gianforte will be the check on this, well, you can imagine that the billionaire will support the other billionaire in whatever helps their mutual interests.
Last Thursday, the Montana Republican Party’s preferred choice for president went onto the USS Gerald Ford to play sailor for an hour. The Navy gave Trump the aviator jacket and crew hat, which he proudly wore for his first presidential address to the military. These trips are bittersweet for anyone who endured boot camp and the daily drudgery of being in the military. We went through a great deal to earn the right to wear the uniform that a president gets to put on and pretend for the moment that they have earned it too. Yes, getting to be president is a major hurdle and honor, but so is what many endured to wear this nation’s military uniform.
This is especially galling when the person who costumes himself in the uniform is a self-avowed draft dodger who used “bone spurs” in his heels to avoid service in Vietnam. GOP readers will quickly note that Bill Clinton also avoided the draft but was more than happy to parade around in military regalia. Point. George Bush did so too after avoiding Vietnam service in a sneakier way. But at least Clinton was more up front about his willingness to avoid the draft for a war he did not support or believe in. Trump has pretended like the Rich Kid Military Academy was just like real service and he really could not go because of his medical issues. Bone spurs in his little pedicured feet… please.
Trump used the speech on the warship as a chance to talk about the massive amounts of money he is going to throw at the military. More weapons, more contracts for the campaign funders, and a hyper-muscular approach to the use of our troops. You “don” your jacket and hat, look the part, then sell increasing militarism like the sleazy salesman you are.
Even more insulting is that not but two days beforehand Trump said, real quote, that our military does not “fight to win.” This was around the same time he blamed military commanders for carrying out a mission he ignored in real time in Yemen on the first day of his presidency. Beyond the appearance on the ship, these were the moments that really struck at the veteran and military community. Trump’s ignorance is not a strength.
What we need in Congress right now is a check on this unbalanced and unhinged executive. This should be everyone’s guiding light in every election for the next four years, or however long Trump can manage to stay in office under the weight of epic scandals.
Gianforte is not the check on Trump’s insane views about the military nor about his use of Moscow’s playbook to get elected. Gianforte will doff his Western wear to act the part of a “True Montanan” just like Trump put on some Navy gear to appear to be a real leader. It is all as fake as Trump in a Navy aviator jacket or Gianforte wearing big gloves to shovel manure or trying to barbeque with a pitchfork.
When you go to vote in a little over two months, the most important thing to remember is that these are two out-of-touch, entitled men with similar views who want to sham their way into power. Trump succeeded, Gianforte cannot. Resist them at every turn.