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More presidential clashes, disagreements

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Jun 17, 2020 - 12:33:32 PM

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WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump may be so desperate about his reelection chances that he’s attempting to espouse two diametrically opposed viewpoints at the same time.

In a rare move, he changed the date of his first political rally in three months, out of respect for Juneteenth, the anniversary of the last day of slavery in the U.S.; and at the same time, he commissioned an upcoming speech on race relations, to his most militantly White nationalistic adviser, Stephen Miller. Mr. Trump is also reportedly set to sign an executive order on policing though no details about what it contains has been released by the White House.

He also saw a breach in the normal military blind loyalty when several of his top military advisers openly disagreed with the Commander in Chief.

“So for example, the laudatory words that he stated about George Floyd’s death and how he thought that was a tragedy are completely countered by him retweeting a tweet from a right wing conservative Candice Owens, where she basically says George Floyd was not a hero,” Dr. Clarence Lusane, professor of political science at Howard University said in an interview.

“And so, you have Trump trying to do two things, two contradictory things at the same time, and it’s all public,” Dr. Lusane continued. Mr. Trump wanted “to try to present himself as a friend of the Black community—not because he wants to get Black votes, but to try to keep some of the White votes—and at the same time, continue to signal to his White nationalist base that he sees himself as governing a country in which White rule remains of the norm.”

Sen. Tim Scott, (R-S.C.), said he was “thankful” that Mr. Trump rescheduled the rally. “The president moving the date by a day once he was informed on what Juneteenth was, that was a good decision on his part,” Mr. Scott, the only Black Republican senator said, according to published reports.

And then there was grumbling about Mr. Trump’s decision to speak in person at the U.S. Military Academy commencement at West Point on June 13, and before that, an enlarging chasm between the president and several top military leaders. Two days before the West Point address, the Pentagon’s top general publicly apologized for appearing alongside the president in a church photo opportunity minutes after federal authorities forcibly removed peaceful protesters from the area adjacent to the White House.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, capped nearly two weeks of public disputes that featured open condemnations of Mr. Trump’s leadership amid nationwide protests of racial injustice from some of the nation’s most highly respected military figures.

The disagreements continued when Mr. Trump tried to shut down a push by some military leaders to address the legacy of racism by removing the names of Confederate leaders from some bases, even threatening to veto a military appropriations bill passed by both the House and the Senate because the legislation included Confederate name changes. After protesters were cleared from areas opposite the White House on June 1, General Milley believed he was accompanying Mr. Trump and his entourage to review National Guard troops and other law enforcement personnel outside Lafayette Square, Defense Department officials said, according to The New York Times.

“I should not have been there,” Gen. Milley said on June 11 in a prerecorded video commencement address to National Defense University. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.” After expressing his disgust over the video of the killing of George Floyd, Gen. Milley spoke about the issue of race, both in the military and in civilian society.

“The protests that have ensued not only speak to his killing, but also to the centuries of injustice toward African Americans,” the general said. “What we are seeing is the long shadow of our original sin in Jamestown 401 years ago, liberated by the Civil War, but not equal in the eyes of the law until 100 years later in 1965.”

He called on the military to address issues of systemic racism in the armed forces, where 43 percent of the enlisted troops are non-White, but only a tiny handful are in the ranks of senior leadership. “The Navy and Marine Corps have no African Americans serving above the two-star level, and the Army has just one African American four-star,” he said, referring to officers who are generals and admirals. “We all need to do better.”

Another distinguished military officer, retired Army general and former CIA director David Petraeus called for the Army to rename 10 of its bases named after Confederate military leaders. “It is time to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our country’s most important military installations,” Petraeus said in the subheading of an opinion article published in The Atlantic.

“As I have watched Confederate monuments being removed by state and local governments, and sometimes by the forceful will of the American people, the fact that 10 U.S. Army installations are named for Confederate officers has weighed on me,” Gen. Petraeus wrote.

“That number includes the Army’s largest base, one very special to many in uniform: Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. The highway sign for Bragg proclaims it home of the airborne and special operations forces,” he wrote. “I had three assignments there during my career. Soldiers stationed at Bragg are rightly proud to serve in its elite units. Some call it ‘the Center of the Military Universe,’ ‘the Mother Ship,’ or even ‘Hallowed Ground.’ But Braxton Bragg—the general for whom the base was named—served in the Confederate States Army,” Gen. Petraeus continued.

“Once the names of these bases are stripped of the obscuring power of tradition and folklore, renaming the installations becomes an easy, even obvious, decision,” he said.

Before that former Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired general, and former Trump Chief of Staff, John Kelly, another retired general, both scolded Mr. Trump’s forced removal of the lawful, peaceful demonstrators for the president’s photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

But despite those rare military chastisements, the greatest force binding Mr. Trump, may be Trump, according to Dr. Lusane. “We’re at an infection point where the resistance to Trump-ism has swelled to a point where the president, I think is increasingly diving into a nether world where he has seemed to have broken from reality,” he said.

“So, attacks on 75-year-old peace activists and sending troops in on peaceful demonstrators is not in his own right-wing interest. And so, I think what we’re going to see is more desperation and perhaps an increasing inability of anybody around him to stop his authoritarianism, which is as core to his character as racism, I think is trending upward.

“And I don’t see any way in which he tries to curtail what he sees as this existential threat to his political life. And so, I think we need to be prepared for an even more hyper reactionary Trump in the months leading up to the election after the election,” said Dr. Lusane.