Country First? Politicians? REPUBLICAN Politicians? Give Me A Break!

Updated: Jul 27

Do any politicians put country first? First? Over their children? Over their personal finances? I don’t think so. But Trump… He’s in a category of his own. To him political office— he only ever ran for one— was always just something to acquire, like a piece of real estate to sell later for a profit. This morning, when Trump’s Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN that Trump shouldn’t be president again because he doesn’t put country first, I had to wonder if Esper, a West Point graduate and a lobbyist for Raytheon, ever thought Trump did. Did he think Trump put country first when he— having just been named one of the nation’s top corporate lobbyists for the second year in a row— took the job of Secretary of the Army from Trump (along with a deferred compensation package from Raytheon based on how their stock would do while he worked for Trump)? Trump’s first 2 crooked nominees for the job were rejected by Congress. (Esper passed overwhelmingly, just 6 progressives opposing him led by Bernie, Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren, because, after all, a top defense industry lobbyist and top Pentagon supplier… may a gigantic conflict of interest for someone with a deferred compensation package, no?) Anyway, country first, right? Having already worked with Trump for over a year, did Esper think he out the country first when he took the job as Secretary of Defense in 2019?

Immediately after Trump was defeated in 2020, while he was putting together his plans for a coup, he fired Esper (on Twitter!) and replaced him with a MAGA guy, Chris Miller, who Trump felt would help him overthrow the government. It was his first— but not his last— attempt to involve the Pentagon in the coup by putting MAGAs into high positions. Pelosi wasn’t happy about Miller taking over: “The abrupt firing of Secretary Esper is disturbing evidence that President Trump is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American Democracy and around the world. Continuity and stability are always important during a presidential transition; they are absolutely imperative at this moment, as this historically erratic Administration prepares for its departure. It is disturbing and dangerous that, at this precarious moment, our military will now be led by an official who has not been confirmed for this position by the Senate.”

Since leaving the administration, it’s been no secret that Esper was horrified by Trump and his MAGA-aides, especially Stephen Miller. Last May Maggie Haberman reported that in his not then published memoir Esper had written that Trump asked him “about the possibility of launching missiles into Mexico to ‘destroy the drug labs’ and wipe out the cartels, maintaining that the United States’ involvement in a strike against its southern neighbor could be kept secret… [Esper] also had concerns about speculation that the president might misuse the military around Election Day by, for instance, having soldiers seize ballot boxes. He warned subordinates to be on alert for unusual calls from the White House in the lead-up to the election.”

Esper told Haberman that Trump “is an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service.” Haberman wrote that “Esper describes an administration completely overtaken by concerns about Trump’s re-election campaign, with every decision tethered to that objective. He writes that he could have resigned, and weighed the idea several times, but that he believed the president was surrounded by so many yes-men and people whispering dangerous ideas to him that a loyalist would have been put in Esper’s place. The real act of service, he decided, was staying in his post to ensure that such things did not come to pass.” Many in the Trump administration are singing that tune today. Espewr admits in the interview he didn’t favor taking Trump out of office with the 25th Amendment but at the same time “paints a portrait of someone not in control of his emotions or his thought process throughout 2020… Trump seemed more emboldened, and more erratic, after he was acquitted in his first impeachment trial. Esper writes that personnel choices reflected that reality, as Trump tried to tighten his grip on the executive branch with demands of personal loyalty.”

On CNN this morning, anchor Brianna Keilar asked Esper what he though while he was watching the J-6 select committee hearings on the coup attempt. “I’ve been saying, shocking but not surprising. It's an important service they were providing to recount what happened on January 6th and the days and weeks leading up to it. It's important for us to understand our history, and that there be accountability.”

When asked if he would support Trump’s reelection bid he said “no, I won't support him. I’ve argued to my Republican colleagues that you can find the same type of conservative, traditional Republican policies but without— without all of the baggage, the coarseness and everything else because we need a Republican leader that cannot just unite the party but unite the country. My concern about Donald Trump trying to run for office again is he doesn't put country first and that's a problem for me, a major problem. I think he has to put country first, leaders need to lead and bring people together and he just doesn't have that capability.”