by John Bellinger III
Four years ago, a group of 50 former national security officials who had served in Republican administrations issued a public letter stating that, if elected, Donald Trump “would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”
Sadly, the reality of Donald Trump’s presidency over the last four years has been even worse than we feared. For that reason, more than 70 former officials have published a further statement in a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal describing in detail how Trump has failed as president and why all of us will vote for Joe Biden.
The officials who signed the statement have served in senior positions in the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, Energy, Treasury, and Commerce, in the White House and in our intelligence agencies, as well as in Congress. They include a former secretary of defense, a director of national intelligence, two former CIA directors, a former FBI director, a former U.S. trade representative, a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a former administrator of NASA. Together, the group has devoted nearly 1,000 years of service defending the American people from national security threats.
Although many of us had opposed Trump’s election, we had hoped that, after he took the oath of office, the new president would govern wisely, placing the well-being of the American people over his personal interests. He has instead demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the character and competence to lead the nation and that he is more focused on his own interests than those of the country. He is dangerously unfit to serve a second term.
As former national security officials, we are especially concerned that Trump has withdrawn from global leadership and gravely damaged America’s role in the world. Trump is viewed by many world leaders, friends and foes, as a buffoon, unworthy of respect. America’s reputation globally is in shreds. A 33-country Pew survey in January found that more people “have confidence” that Vladimir Putin “will do the right thing in world affairs” than Donald Trump.
In our statement, we list 10 areas where Trump has failed, and we give specifics. In addition to withdrawing from global leadership, he has shirked his responsibilities during a national crisis, solicited foreign influence in our elections, disparaged our national security professionals, aligned himself with dictators, undermined the rule of law, dishonored the office of the presidency, divided our nation, vilified immigrants, and mismanaged his national security team
Most recently, Trump has failed to lead during the Coronavirus pandemic. More than 140 countries have a lower COVID-19 death rate than the United States under Donald Trump. Rather than rallying the country and the world, Trump has undermined his own public health experts, withdrawn from the World Health Organization, and even refused to attend an international vaccine conference.
Trump has also been unwilling to protect the United States from Russian aggression. He has refused to take action to defend the United States from Russian interference in our elections and failed to condemn unlawful Russian actions in other parts of the world. Unlike previous presidents, Trump has made little effort to defend and advance human rights and American values. He has instead regularly praised Putin and other authoritarian leaders who abuse their own people.
Trump and other administration officials have badly damaged our national security agencies and their ability to carry out their missions. Trump has fired or forced out many of his most senior national security officials, often because they refused to cover for his misdeeds. He has falsely accused our diplomats of being part of a “Deep State” and denigrated our intelligence agencies, making them reluctant to tell him what he does not want to hear.
And Trump has degraded the office of the president, insulting and demeaning anyone who crosses him, especially women. Unlike George Washington, who supposedly could not tell a lie, Trump seems unable to tell the truth. His conduct is unbecoming of a president and embarrasses America in the world. There is no reason to believe he will improve in a second term.
Although the signatories to our statement all served in Republican administrations, we have concluded that, in this election, Joe Biden is the better candidate for president. He will restore the dignity of the presidency, bring Americans together, reassert our role as a global leader, and inspire our nation to live up to its ideals.
Increasing numbers of Republicans are also stating publicly that they will vote for Biden. We are putting aside partisan politics to support a more unifying national leader. As a result, we hope this election will be both a turning point in our national journey and a ray of light in an otherwise gloomy and difficult year for our nation and the world.
John Bellinger III was legal adviser for the Department of State and the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration.