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Mattis denounces Trump, applauds protests, defends America

Mattis denounces Trump, applauds protests, defends America

In one of the most astonishing and important moments in modern American history, retired Marine Corps general and former Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Biden under pressure to remove Trump transgender military ban quickly Progressive House Democrats urge Biden against Defense chief with contractor ties MORE rose on Wednesday to offer a strong denunciation of President Donald Trump and strong support for protesters who peacefully march for American justice and American values.

The Mattis profile in courage occurs at a time when Trump appears to be acting out of political desperation, as a growing number of polls show former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump Cruz urges Supreme Court to take up Pennsylvania election challenge MORE increasing his lead in November, and as an increasing number of prominent conservatives and very senior retired military leaders are publicly expressing their alarm and opposition.

This defense of Americanism occurs while Trump is pursuing policies that are so extreme that many Americans — Mattis and myself included — believe they literally constitute an attack against the core values of the country, and the core institutions of American democracy, that have made this nation great.

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In America we must denounce the prospect that the president could trigger the Insurrection Act or any form of martial law to use military or police force against unarmed, peaceful, nonviolent protesters. Our military and police should be protecting these protesters, which most of them are, not treating them as enemy combatants, which is what Trump seeks to impose.

There are some who have sought to exploit the protests, engaging in rioting and looting, in numbers infinitely smaller than the number of protesters who are nonviolent, peaceful and lawful, who are marching for the good and noble cause of justice.

Let’s be crystal clear. The protesters have not been “hijacked” by those who engage in wrongful activity, they have been demonized — in ways most Americans strongly disagree with — by those who seek to weaponize the American military against American citizens.

It is critically important that Mattis has spoken out against this. It is critically important that retired admiral and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen has spoken out against this. It is critically important that retired general and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff Martin Dempsey has spoken out against this. It is critically important that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has spoken out against any effort to apply the Insurrection Act against American citizens acting lawfully and peacefully.

And as polling increasingly suggests that Trump is in grave political peril, and is taking more extreme actions out of apparent political desperation, it is critically important that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama chief economist responds to McConnell quoting him on Senate floor: He missed 'a critical part' Amazon reports .8B in weekend sales from independent businesses on its platform Ossoff features Obama in TV ad ahead of in Georgia run-off MORE and former President George W. Bush have both publicly spoken out to defend the protesters and deplore attacks against them.

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At a defining moment in the history of a democracy that is now under attack, it is critically important that nationally respected conservative opinion-makers are expressing their alarm and opposition to Trump in the most dramatic terms.

Washington Post columnist George Will recently wrote that not only should President Trump be removed from office on Election Day but that Senate Republicans who have acted like Trump sycophants should be “routed” politically.

At this moment, while Trump’s support is falling to even lower levels in a long list of polls, the chances have risen that Democrats regain control of the United States Senate and increase their majority in the House of Representatives.

The Mattis profile in courage, publicly excoriating Trump with profoundly true and important words, is a major inflection point in political, constitutional and military history. 

The Mattis defense of democracy will have enormous moral and political impact, because though he has tried to avoid criticizing a sitting president as a matter of principle, he views the dangers to democracy from Trump as so extreme that he feels morally and patriotically compelled to speak out with his enormous reputation for honor and widespread bipartisan respect.

Trump is wrong. 

Mattis is right. 

God bless America.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.