Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics'

Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics'
© Anna Moneymaker

The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee warned Wednesday against opining on “every tweet,” without mentioning President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE or any Trump critic by name.

“In today’s media environment when every thought can be published, it is obviously tempting to voice an opinion on every tweet or interview,” Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics' Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses Woodward's book as 'fiction' | House moves to begin defense bill talks with Senate | Trump warns Syria after attack on rebel areas | Trump, South Korean leader to meet at UN MORE (R-Texas) said during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There will be one faction or the other that will cheer. But when every utterance is a criticism, it dilutes the effectiveness of all criticism.”

“And maybe, just maybe, without so much attention, some of the nonsense just will fade away,” he added later.

Thornberry spoke at an event titled “National Security and Politics in Turbulent Times” while accepting the think tank’s second Sam Nunn National Security Leadership Prize, named after former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and meant to honor “leaders who demonstrate vision and wisdom in addressing global challenges and who put our nation's interest ahead of political considerations.”

In his speech, Thornberry said he tends to believe national security issues can be an area in which there is bipartisan agreement, highlighting the overwhelming passage of this year’s annual defense policy bill.

He also cited the progress Congress has made this year on passing defense spending before the start of the fiscal year.

“There is a very good chance the military will be fully funded on time for the first time in a long time,” he said.

But Thornberry also lamented the current political climate as detrimental to national security, warning against “fringe” elements.

“I am distressed at what’s happening in both parties. We have always had fringe elements in our politics, but, other than the Civil War, those things that bound us together have been stronger than the forces pulling us apart," he said. "The centrifugal forces now are quite strong, here and elsewhere.”

Those divisions, he added, are giving fuel to adversaries looking to exploit them.

“And make no mistake, there are those outside our borders who are ready, willing, and more able than they have ever been before to fuel and exploit those forces to our detriment,” he said.

As a remedy, Thornberry said, people need to educate others on the past, maintain perspective on what’s important and lead by example. He concluded by honoring Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.), who died late last month of brain cancer.

“All of us, in whatever role or whatever station, can adopt the attitude [McCain] expressed in his last book when he wrote, ‘What a privilege it is to serve this big, boisterous, brawling intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, magnificent country. With all our flaws, all our mistakes, with all the frailties of human nature as much on display as our virtues, with all the rancor and anger of our politics, we are blessed,’” Thornberry said. “Indeed we are.”