Almost two years ago I wrote two pieces about how military leaders were concerned that then-President Trump would instigate a military coup to remain in power. An article published last week by James Fallows zeroes in on General Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as "The Patriot" who "protected the Constitution from Donald Trump."
Twenty men have served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs since the position was created after World War II. Until Milley, none had been forced to confront the possibility that a president would try to foment or provoke a coup in order to illegally remain in office. A plain reading of the record shows that in the chaotic period before and after the 2020 election, Milley did as much as, or more than, any other American to defend the constitutional order, to prevent the military from being deployed against the American people, and to forestall the eruption of wars with America’s nuclear-armed adversaries. Along the way, Milley deflected Trump’s exhortations to have the U.S. military ignore, and even on occasion commit, war crimes...
Joseph Dunford, the Marine general who preceded Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, had also faced onerous and unusual challenges. But during the first two years of the Trump presidency, Dunford had been supported by officials such as Kelly, Mattis, Tillerson, and McMaster. These men attempted, with intermittent success, to keep the president’s most dangerous impulses in check. (According to the Associated Press, Kelly and Mattis made a pact with each other that one of them would remain in the country at all times, so the president would never be left unmonitored.) By the time Milley assumed the chairman’s role, all of those officials were gone—driven out or fired.
In other words, the former president's Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary felt he needed to be monitored at all times - due to his dangerous impulses. Fallows captured the line being walked by these military leaders and Trump.
[I]t is fair to say that Milley came close to red lines that are meant to keep uniformed officers from participating in politics. It is also fair to say that no president has ever challenged the idea of competent civilian control in the manner of Donald Trump, and that no president has ever threatened the constitutional underpinnings of the American project in the manner Trump has. The apportionment of responsibility in the American system—presidents give orders; the military carries them out—works best when the president is sane.
It's clear that Trump read the Fallows piece about Milley - or perhaps it's more likely that someone summarized it for him. That's because the day after it was published, Trump floated the idea that Milley should be executed. Let's now add that one to the list.
If we lived in a normal world, someone who:— Republicans against Trump (@RpsAgainstTrump) September 25, 2023
-Threatened to execute the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
-Led a coup against our democracy
-Called to “Terminate” the constitution
-Repeatedly praised dictators and the brutal way they rule their population
-Threaten to shut down news… pic.twitter.com/9btB09UWSJ
How has mainstream media reacted to this latest threat? A Washington Post headline referred the guy who protected the Constitution from Trump as "a polarizing figure." But for the most part, they've ignored the whole thing. This meme pretty much captures what happened.
Trump’s lead in this survey is significantly at odds with other public polls that show the general election contest a virtual dead heat. The difference between this poll and others, as well as the unusual makeup of Trump’s and Biden’s coalitions in this survey, suggest it is probably an outlier.Daniel Miller captured the situation perfectly.
“If Trump wins, he’ll purge the civil service, prosecute his political opponents, normalize political violence like we haven’t seen since the Civil War, and sic agents of the state against his enemies. But we can’t cover this now cus it will seem like we’re biased”—the media https://t.co/9GChXwtTld— Daniel Miller (@DanielMillerEsq) September 24, 2023
These days we're being inundated with polls that have never been accurate this far away from actual voting. There's also the constant pearl clutching about Biden's age and the supposed unpopularity of VP Harris. But the fact that the other party's likely presidential nominee is busy inciting violence as a natural extension of our political disagreements - which should be setting off alarms bells all over the country - gets pretty much ignored.
If you're feeling gaslighted by coverage of this presidential race, I can assure you that you're not crazy. Perhaps reporters and pundits should spend more time listening to historians.
Or perhaps they should pay more attention to polls like this:
2024 Presidential election could well be a choice between democracy and dictatorship. We have never seen that before among major party candidates in American history.— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) September 25, 2023
Latest poll: Trump leads Biden by 91 felonies— Lalo Alcaraz (@laloalcaraz) September 24, 2023