By BILL ENYART
I recently reposted a meme on Facebook setting out five of Donald Trump’s flaws. Most comments were favorable, as many of my friends and acquaintances share my opinion of him. A few, however, were quite critical.
Two are easily dismissed as lacking substance. A third, however, has stuck with me. The third one said, “Sir (the writer is a military member and formerly served under my command) you are better than this.” He’s right.
The meme, while accurate, failed to, in any way, convey the depth and reasons for my concerns about the current President of the United States.
TO VALUE MY JUDGEMENT
Since in all likelihood you don’t know me or anything about me, let me give you a few paragraphs of my background so you have a bit of information as to whether to value my concerns.
My family is from the farmlands of central Illinois and the hillsides of southern Illinois. Relatives fought on both sides of the Civil War. My father, a Navy veteran, worked at various times in a factory, as a carpenter and as a janitor. My mother clerked in what would today be called a ‘dollar store.” I still have my UAW dues card. So, I am of working-class origins.
My brother and I each enlisted in the military during the Vietnam war. He in the Army. I in the Air Force. After the Air Force, I used the GI Bill and Illinois state veteran’s benefits to get an education and become a lawyer. I rejoined the military as a part-time Illinois Army National Guardsman and 25 years later became the full-time commander of the Illinois Army and Air National Guard, as its Adjutant General commanding 13,000 service members.
During that 35-year military career, this nation blessed me with some of the greatest training and experience that can be had in national and international security issues, as well as domestic response to crises. The training included a master’s degree in security studies from the U.S. Army War College and brief stints at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Graduate School of Government and the George Marshall Center for Security Studies.
SHAPES MY WORLD VIEW
As the state’s adjutant general, I was responsible for training our National Guardsman for their active duty roles as combat warriors and as emergency responders to blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes and pandemics. I signed the orders sending thousands of men and women into combat. Some to their deaths. That experience still weighs on me. It shapes my view of the world and of political leaders.
After retiring from the National Guard, I was elected to Congress, serving one term representing southern Illinois’ 12th Congressional District. I served on the House Armed Services Committee and Agriculture Committee.
Serving in Congress was a mixed blessing. While I loved working on helping set national policy, I hated the blind adherence to partisan politics that afflicts so much of what Washington D.C. does. I much preferred the life of a military member, with its clear-cut mission, to the ambiguities of national level politics.
JUDGING DONALD TRUMP AS A LEADER
I state these facts not to impress you, the reader, but to inform you as to my background and experience, which I use to cast judgment upon Donald J. Trump’s capacity to lead our great nation:
1. Donald Trump, at the time of his election and continuing to today, lacks the experience, training and background to lead the nation.
He is the first president to ever serve who has zero experience in government or in the military. While this lack of experience might be overcome were he able to listen to sound advice and learn from his failures, he appears to be constitutionally unable to so do. As proof of this I offer his own statement: “I know more than all the generals.” Expert advice can certainly be wrong and can be disregarded, but it should always be considered and only disregarded after carefully weighing alternatives and possible courses of actions.
2. When the nation is in the midst of a crisis it needs a leader who is a unifier…
…a leader who can speak to us all, to bring the nation together to work as a team to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems. Mr. Trump fails this test. He attacks anyone who disagrees with him. He refuses to accept that there are many points of view among the citizens of this great democracy. He does not work to bridge divides, rather he exacerbates them.
3. A great, or even merely good, leader understands that failure happens…
…that plans need to be adjusted to fit changing circumstances. That denying failure and proclaiming all is well does not change facts. This nation is in full retreat from the pandemic. The economy is in free fall with more people filing for unemployment than at any time in our history. Yet Mr. Trump continues to claim the virus will disappear. Hope is not a plan Mr. Trump.
4. Mr. Trump has weakened our position militarily and internationally.
He claims that he has strengthened our military by increasing its budget. We are strong as nation for far more reasons than simply throwing money at our military. We won WW I, WW II and the Cold War because we had strong alliances. We stood by our allies and they stood by us because we were reliable. He has attacked and damaged those alliances. He has by word and action shown the United States to be an unreliable partner. The world is a safer place because of NATO. (Russia’s) Putin would love nothing more than to see NATO further weakened.
5. A leader grows with the role.
A good leader grows into a role. Mr. Trump fails on these accounts. He has not learned from his failures, instead he denies them.
6. In our ideals we are a nation of laws, not of men.
Mr. Trump has no understanding of that concept. He believes that laws are like zoning board regulations, meant to be bent, broken, or subverted. He acts as though judges, government officials and scientists are zoning board members, to be bullied, browbeaten or ignored.
7. Leaders, whatever their shortcomings, must have strong moral fiber.
Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower, these were leaders with strong moral fiber. Mr. Trump’s actions and words, whether attacking John McCain, a Gold Star family, or praising dictators, all the while using the office of the president to feather his nest by filling his hotels while paying off porn stars are not the actions of a person with strong moral fiber.
8. Were Mr. Trump a private in the U.S. Army he would be ineligible for a security clearance.
Based on Mr. Trump’s record of bankruptcies, refusals to pay lawful debts, multiple actual or very probable adulterous relationships, a tangle of Russian business activities and associates, which lacks transparency, any one of which is grounds for denying a security clearance, Private Trump would most certainly be denied a security clearance.
These are but a few of the reasons that I believe Donald Trump is unqualified to serve as the commander-in-chief of my soldiers and airmen. (I may be retired, but they’re still my soldiers and airmen.)
JOE BIDEN IS MY CHOICE. WHY?
The young officer who posted on Facebook also asked why I believe Joe Biden would be a better President.
1. I have known Joe and Jill Biden for a dozen years.
They are good, kind, decent human beings. Joe understands that there are almost always, at least, two sides to any issue. He will work to resolve an issue in the best interests of our nation. You may disagree with his decision, but he will thoughtfully consider all sides to the question.
2. Joe Biden understands what it is like to have a child in a combat zone.
His son, Beau served a tour in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard. Beau didn’t have to go. As the son of the then vice-president of the United States and the sitting Attorney General of Delaware he could have stayed home. Having a child serve in a combat zone gives one the perspective of what it means to send other people’s children to war. Mr. Trump lacks that perspective.
3. Joe Biden understands the importance of international alliances to our national security.
He has worked with international leaders, diplomats and senior military officials. He served for eight years as the vice-president of the United States. Any craftsman will tell you that an apprenticeship is a requirement to become master of a trade.
Whether a mason, a surgeon or a political leader, experience is not just a good thing, but a requirement to become a master at the craft.
4. Joe rose from working class roots.
He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father didn’t give him a real estate empire. He understands what it means to need a paycheck…or an unemployment check. Donald Trump understands none of those things. He has never experienced them just as he has never experienced sending a child to a combat zone.
WHAT’S NEEDED IN A LEADER
I want a president who understands me.
A leader who understands what it’s like to have an unemployed dad.
A leader who understands the consequences of making war.
A leader who understands that we must bridge divides not exacerbate them.
And finally, any man who is good enough for Jill Biden is good enough to be president. That’s why I support Joe Biden for President of the United States
(William Enyart is a former U.S. congressman for Illinois’ 12th District and retired two-star general with 35 years in the military serving in the U.S. Air Force, ultimately serving as Adjutant General of Illinois commanding both the Illinois Army and Air National Guard. He is a graduate of SIU [Edwardsville], the SIU School of Law and the U.S. Army War College. He started his working life as a member of UAW Local 145, Montgomery, Ill, where he and his father both worked for Caterpillar Tractor Co. The Enyart’s live in Belleville, Ill. You can hear his blog posts at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1089968).