Instead, he tries to divide us,” Trump’s former Secretary of Defense said in a statement obtained by CNN. Mattis described the president as a threat to the Constitution. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”
But as President Trump grows desperate to distract with lies and bluster against a backdrop of a fumbled pandemic response, cross country protests against police violence and his own sagging poll numbers, silence among the center-right is increasingly untenable. Even Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke ranks to say that she agreed with Mattis
and said she was struggling on whether to support Trump in November.
The tipping point was Trump’s autocratic stunt of violently dispersing a peaceful protest outside the White House for a photo op with a Bible minutes after suggesting he would invoke the Insurrection Act to use the US military against American citizens. This sparked an unusual firestorm of dissent from respected military and national security figures, who have been trained to remain silent on matters of partisan politics.
The Bush and Obama-era chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen, wrote an op-ed for The Atlantic
, saying “Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.” Retired Marine Gen. John Allen said that Trump’s threats of military force may be “the beginning of the end of the American experiment.”
Former CIA analyst Gail Helt told the Washington Post, “This is what autocrats do. This is what happens in countries before a collapse. It really does unnerve me.”