“Any commander-in-chief with a spine would be stomping the living (expletive) out of some Russians right now, diplomatically, economically or if necessary with the sort of asymmetric warfare they’re using to send our kids home in body bags. Mr. Trump, you’re either a coward who can’t stand up to an ex-KGB goon or you’re complicit. Which is it?”
In a powerful Lincoln Project digital ad, those words are spoken to the camera by Dr. Dan Barkhuff, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a former Navy SEAL, a combat veteran, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, and, today, an emergency medicine physician and professor at the University of Vermont. Barkhuff also said he’s pro-life and a gun owner, so he likely leans conservative.
Speaking of conservative, the Lincoln Project is a political action committee formed by Republican communications and campaign strategists, including George Conway, husband of Kellyanne, a senior Trump adviser. The Lincoln Project wants to help make sure Joe Biden is the next president by drawing public attention to Trump’s leadership failures.
Like many of us, Barkhuff saw multiple credible reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin paid cash bounties to the Taliban for killing American servicemen and women, the money reportedly doled out by a shady Afghan middleman. Trump was briefed on Putin’s blood money payoffs in February and former national security adviser John Bolton said he told Trump about the murderous scheme last year.
The president did nothing, as Barkhuff charges, while again demonstrating all roads lead from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the Kremlin. Trump called the reports a “hoax” but Politico reported this week the White House is searching for the source who leaked this “highly classified” hoax to the media.
When Trump is finally out of office, we will know the full extent of his reasons for being so servile to Putin. It’s only a matter of time, but it’s time those troops killed as a result of the bounties no longer have to live their lives.
Erik Hendriks told NBC News his son, Marine Cpl. Robert Hendriks, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan last year. He said he’d be heartbroken to learn his son was killed for Putin’s bounty.
“Why hasn’t anybody called me or my ex-wife to settle us?” he asked. “Isn’t it enough the hell we’re going through that no one has come forward with anything at all?”
Asked what he thought of the bounties on Fox News, Trump apologist Sen. Lindsay Graham responded with a “whataboutism,” dredging up the 2012 Benghazi tragedy in which four Americans were killed by a mob at a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya. Everything they could do to get aid to the Americans was done, military leaders conclusively told Congress; it just didn’t get there in time.
Graham had no good answer about Putin paying the Taliban to kill Americans so he resorted to the Republicans’ debunked Benghazi card to distract and deflect, typical of how Trump and his craven enablers respond to news they don’t like.
Dr. Barkhuff leads Veterans for Responsible Leadership and has been critical of Trump, saying on a podcast in 2018, the president is “someone you can’t trust. … There is a saying in the military: You can delegate authority, you can’t delegate responsibility. That is true and the current commander in chief … is quick to point fingers at other people when something doesn’t go his way and regularly engages in demonstrably untrue falsehoods.”
Nowhere has this been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic when Trump should have acted early and decisively — but did neither. While tens of thousands of Americans succumbed to the disease, Trump said he took “no responsibility at all.”
As the New York Times’ Paul Krugman put it this week, the COVID-19 outbreak was the president’s first real leadership test, “and he flunked it with flying colors.”
The president also has the ultimate responsibility for the safety and well-being of our troops in harm’s way. It comes as no surprise Trump shirks that too.
Putin, now guaranteed at least 16 more years in office after a national referendum last week, is out to destroy the power and influence of Western democracies and most especially the United States. As with China’s leaders, the worst thing that could happen to Putin is a massive pro-democracy movement in Russia inspired by the examples of the United States and our European allies.
Trump is clearly facilitating Putin’s agenda by attacking NATO, coddling dictators, and abdicating America’s global leadership. His silence on Putin placing bounties on the heads of our troops is deafening, as Barkhuff suggests.
A reckoning is coming, Nov. 3 to be exact, and a wide variety of polls including those in a half dozen key battleground states show Trump losing bigly, indicating the self-serving novelty act that got Trump elected has grown tiresome for voters, including many Republicans and independents.
Dr. Barkhuff is spot on. We need a president with a spine.