The latest revelations about President Donald Trump calling military service men and women “losers” and “suckers” is appalling and disgraceful, but not surprising. When running for office, he besmirched Senator John McCain. I knew Senator McCain and he was a patriot through and through.
And let me be direct: I do not believe that President Donald Trump understands the meaning of patriotism or love of country, the concept that you would lay your life on the line in service to it.
Donald Trump received five deferments to get out of his service to his country during the Vietnam War, and then made a sickening comparison when equating dating to Vietnam decades later on a radio show.
Heck, the man would not even show up for jury duty, unless of course the press is watching. To be sure, serving in the Military is not for everyone. We have an all-volunteer military force, comprised of only one half of one percent of the population and less than 7% of us are veterans.
Yet, the current occupant of the White House demeans our military leaders. It was reported in the book "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America," that Mr. Trump said, "I wouldn't go to war with you people," Trump told the assembled brass. He barked, "You're a bunch of dopes and babies." He was speaking to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and leaders of the military branches, among others.
These dedicated men and women continued their briefing to the Commander-in-Chief because it was their duty. And yes, when the commander-in-chief gives a lawful order, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the orders will be followed. However, what the President doesn’t seem to understand is that, he is not a king.
The first oath, under the constitution, for commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers and privates was approved by Congress on Sept. 29, 1789. From that time, to the current reading of the oath of enlistment and oath for commissioned officers, not once does it read, "I will do whatever the President says."
I know firsthand about that oath. In 1966, I joined the U.S. Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) program and was sworn into the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as an enlisted U.S. Marine. I served two tours of duty in Vietnam, participating in the effort to stop the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive in 1972. In 1973, after receiving a permanent shoulder injury, I retired with the rank of Captain.
I have taken several more oaths in continued service to my country. I had the privilege to serve as a Mayor, member of the California State Assembly and as a member of the House of Representatives, where I served on the House Armed Services, Science, and the Transportation & Infrastructure Committees.
These oaths are sacred, based on integrity, conviction and sense of duty to country. These words mean nothing to President Trump, and while he may try to wrap himself in our flag, as if it were a royal robe, he is not fooling anyone.
A recent Military Times poll found that 41% of active-duty troops now support Joe Biden for President compared to the 37% that support re-electing President Trump. Furthermore, 74% of those surveyed stood in opposition of the President’s potential use of active-duty military personnel to police civil unrest and protesters in American cities.
I have never doubted the commitment of our men and women in uniform, nor that of our veterans. I do question the President’s comprehension and loyalty to our constitution, which is why, despite being a lifelong Republican, I will be casting my vote for Joe Biden.
Former Congressman Steve Kuykendall resides in Long Beach, and is also a member of the Republicans and Independents for Biden coalition, an affiliate of the Lincoln Project.