South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham defended President Donald Trump’s threat to use the active-duty military if necessary to quell ongoing riots in several cities, pushing back against criticism from former Defense Secretary James Mattis that doing so would be unnecessary and divisive.
In a column for the Left-leaning magazine The Atlantic, Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general criticized what he called the “militarization” of Washington, D.C., and the president’s alleged “abuse of executive authority” in dealing with the rioting that began following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis, who was asked to leave his post in late 2018 after disagreeing with Trump over withdrawing forces from the Middle East, wrote.
“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society,” Mattis said in language that some could take as inciting rebellion.
“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,’” Mattis noted further, rejecting terms used by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the president, respectively.
“At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict — a false conflict— between the military and civilian society,” he continued.
In an interview with Fox News’ morning program “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, Graham noted that while Mattis’ more than four decades in uniform is to be commended, historically presidents have been forced to rely on active-duty military units to quell mass civil disturbances and rioting.
“I admire his service to the nation,” said Graham, who also served decades in a reserve capacity in the Air Force as a lawyer. “The one thing I would tell General Mattis is you don’t quite understand that from the time President Trump wakes up ’til he goes to bed, there’s an effort to destroy his presidency.”
He noted further that then-President George H. W. Bush “used the military to support the police in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The Insurrection Act has been used, but has been sparingly used,” Graham continued, referencing the U.S. statute that gives presidents the authority to deploy American forces domestically when certain civil conditions exist.
“Nobody wants to send active-duty troops into American cities unless they’re invited and unless they are absolutely necessary,” the South Carolina Republican continued.
He then hit New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not calling out his National Guard earlier to quell rioting and looting in New York City, which had already been under coronavirus lockdown for months, leaving remaining businesses teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
“I would ask Gen. Mattis to look at the behavior of the politicians in these cities and see if you can find fault with them,” Graham continued. “It is so fashionable to blame President Trump for every wrong in America. And he can be a handful and can he do better? Yes. But the problems we have in America today weren’t caused by Donald Trump, and hopefully, he can help the nation heal some of these problems.”
Later, Graham suggested that Mattis was getting caught up in the ‘mainstream’ media’s daily pile-on of the president.
“To Gen. Mattis, I think you’re missing something here, my friend. You’re missing the fact that the liberal media has taken every event in the last three-and-a-half years and laid it at the president’s feet,” Graham noted. “I’m not saying he’s blameless, but I am saying that you’re buying into a narrative that I think is, quite frankly, unfair.”
Author: Jon Dougherty