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Maddow Blog | Trump slams U.S. military, says armed forces ‘can’t fight or win’

MSNBC 1/30/2023 Steve Benen

Just a few days before the 2022 midterm elections, Sen. Josh Hawley tried to rally GOP voters in Arizona with a curious message. “We’ve got a military that is more interested in pronouns than winning wars,” the Missouri Republican complained.

It echoed related rhetoric from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who last year encouraged Americans not to enlist in the U.S. military, saying it’s like “throwing your life away.” The Georgia Republican added that she believes military training is too “woke.”

Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, a Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, tried to be more specific, claiming he received complains about a course at West Point titled, “Understanding your whiteness and white rage.” The congressman further alleged that the class was “taught by a woman who described the Republican Party platform as a platform of white supremacy.”

We later learned that there was no such course and the classroom instruction Waltz referenced did not exist.

Nevertheless, after the midterms, future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stuck to the party line, complaining, “I’ve watched what the Democrats have done in many of these, especially in the [National Defense Authorization Act] and the ‘woke-ism’ that they want to bring in there.”

On Saturday, Donald Trump headlined an event in New Hampshire, where he took this rhetorical line a little further. Forbes magazine reported:

Historians can speak to this with more authority than I can, but I’m not aware of any modern examples of a former American president — by some measures, the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination — publicly declaring that the United States’ armed forces are incapable of fighting or winning.

Alas, it fits into a larger pattern in which Trump has publicly disparaged military service, mocked prisoners of war, and even downplayed the importance of injured troops.

But stepping back and taking stock of the larger context, why in the world are so many Republicans preoccupied with criticizing their own country’s military? The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman recently explained the problem well:

In other words, the increasingly common whining among Republicans about the military is less about the armed forces themselves, and more about society becoming more inclusive and progressive in ways that makes the right feel uncomfortable.

The GOP believes the military can and should be shielded from the larger societal trends, and when it’s not — when the troops celebrate Pride Month; when the Pentagon lifts a ban on transgender Americans serving; when abortion services are made available to those in uniform; when the Defense Department considers environmental impacts; etc. — Republicans stomp their feet as they feel another culture war slipping away.

“We need to refocus our military on what it’s supposed to do, which is blow things up and kill people,” Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas recently declared.

Except, that’s wrong. It’s not what Americans should expect from the planet’s strongest fighting force, and it doesn’t serve our interests to limit the military’s role to death and destruction.

This won’t stop Trump from slamming his own country’s military, and it won’t stop GOP lawmakers from complaining about “wokeism,” but it should.

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