No one has clarified that choice better than Milley himself, in his parting address last week. Add to that the angry words of Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s longest-serving chief of staff, in a statement he made to CNN last week.
Let me start with the once taciturn Kelly, who confirmed on the record many damning statements he made earlier without attribution. (One can only wish he had spoken out much earlier.) He described Trump as “A person who has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about.”
That anger was raised to a peak by the ex-president’s threat to Milley. Kelly derided Trump as “a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators. A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law.
“There is nothing more that can be said. God help us.”
Milley and Kelly had to cope with Trump’s admiration for dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, who know that Trump clings to his repeatedly disproved belief that he alone can deal with them personally, without any background knowledge of the issues.
And as Milley laid out, the biggest domestic threat they faced was Trump’s belief that the military is his personal tool. In his parting speech, Milley laid out the reality that Trump still refuses to admit.
“We are unique among the world’s militaries,” he said. “We don’t take an oath to a country. We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, or a tyrant or a dictator.”
“And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” he spat. “We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it.”
The ouster of McCarthy engineered by a small MAGA cabal, the damning words from Trump’s mouth — along with the chilling critiques from Milley and Kelly — confront GOP legislators with the choice they fear to make. Will they keep appeasing a “wannabe dictator” and his acolytes or fight for responsible leadership?
The MAGA-led chaos in Congress should (but probably won’t) jolt them into making up their minds.