Former CIA director and defense secretary Robert Gates isn’t thrilled with either major party’s presumptive nominee. He has pointed out that there has been too little serious discussion of foreign policy on the Democratic side. From Donald Trump, we get “bluster and threats,” Gates said Thursday.
When Trump shot off his mouth after news of the downed Egyptian airliner was first reported, Gates scolded, “One of the things that you learn fairly early when you have responsibility is how often the initial reports or information you get on a situation prove to be inaccurate. With the demands of news media and so on, there’s always pressure to immediately react before you know really what’s going on, and that’s a discipline that frankly a lot of politicians don’t have until they have responsibility.” Gates makes clear, “Temperament is the most important thing.” For a president, that means “knowing what you don’t know.” That sounds like a thumbs-down on Trump.
Indeed, in one of the most candid and brutal observations of Trump from a respected national security figure, Gates told Katie Couric in an interview, “I hope it doesn’t indicate how he’ll act as president. … You have to learn to wait.” And when asked whether he would comfortable with Trump’s finger on the nuclear button, he responded:
Right now? No. But the question is does he moderate his views on national security issues going forward? Does he begin to have some more informed views about the complexities of some of these issues, some of the challenges that we face? And who does he choose as his advisers? If all of those things turned out in a positive way, then my concerns would be significantly reduced.
Here I’d have to disagree with the former secretary to some extent. At 69 years old (Trump’s current age), one does not suddenly develop a sound temperament and the capacity for good judgment. Judging from the hodgepodge of characters Trump has surrounded himself with (Paul Manafort, Corey Lewandowski and a squad of under-qualified and odd foreign-policy figures), Trump has not chosen his close advisers wisely.
There is a decision dedicated public servants must make: Do they try to “help” a deeply defective candidate (and thereby risk enabling him), or do they warn the American people, flat-out, that he is a menace to our national security? Unfortunately, the first option usually wins out, in no small part because personal ambition comes into play. The dream of becoming the candidate’s Svengali and snagging a top post in a new administration is too tempting for many to ignore.
However, to their credit, dozens and dozens of national security figures have called out Trump and pronounced him unfit for office. It’s approaching the time, however, when former Cabinet officials, national security advisers and chiefs of staff need to speak out. It is unfortunate that they did not before Trump eliminated his Republican competitors, but it is not too late to warn the general electorate and thereby stave off disaster. We are talking about someone unfit to have his finger on the button, for goodness’ sake. What are they waiting for?