By Joseph J. Collins
Charlotte’s decision to hold a scaled-back Republican National Convention is different than my own story. I walked out of the Republican Party in April after 22 years that included service in the George W. Bush Administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations. I didn’t abandon the GOP; the Republican Party left me.
The core problem here was and is Donald Trump. As a former New Yorker, I knew all about his racism, his bankruptcies, his mistreatment of workers and contractors, and his legendary personal improprieties. Like many, I underestimated him. I first thought that Republicans would reject him, and if not, that the Democrats would decisively defeat him at the polls.
Instead, Trump fooled enough Americans into thinking that he would be both a forceful, business-type leader and a populist. He stooped to attracting bigots and malcontents into the party. He played to fear and resentment, blamed the press, and seized control of the party of Lincoln. His popularity with the “base” kept party leaders in line. And he tried to browbeat your city’s government into holding a dangerous convention that easily could have become a super-spreader event for COVID-19. Unfortunately, Charlotte bowed to the dictates of politics and in doing so, threatened the health of the citizens of visitors and residents alike.
Cities like Charlotte are not the only casualties of this administration. Our foreign policy has been damaged by erratic moves to reduce troop strength in Syria and Afghanistan without adequate consultation with allies or advisors. One by one, experienced cabinet officers like Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, H. R. McMaster, John Kelly, John Bolton and others fell by the wayside. He alienated our allies and cozied up to dictators. His relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin has put his entire administration under a cloud. His antics with Kim Jong Un of North Korea have the world laughing at his incompetence in the art of the deal.
His attempted extortion of the Ukrainian president yielded an impeachment, but one that failed to become a bipartisan effort. Trump was acquitted, but that does not change the fact that he demanded that Ukraine, in return for our security assistance, interfere in our elections by conducting a phony investigation into Trump’s most feared opponent, Joe Biden.
Today, we simultaneously face three crises: the Covid-19 pandemic, a deep economic recession, and the racial unrest that exploded after the police killing of George Floyd. Trump has failed on each of these three interrelated crises. His policy responses have been ineffective and misguided. His incompetence and lack of empathy have been continually on display.
An ideal president must be a person of great character, caring, empathy, and compassion. A good president needs the experience and the skills to create policy solutions to complex problems, not to threaten citizens’ health by insisting on holding an in-person convention for personal, egotistical gratification.
I realize the leaders of Charlotte could not entirely quit the Republicans and their convention as I did, but I hope they will be able to provide for the well-being of Charlotte’s citizens facing an influx of outside visitors in these perilous times. I invite the citizens of Charlotte to join me in supporting Joe Biden against someone who has threatened Americans’ security both at home in places like Charlotte as well as abroad.
Joseph J. Collins is a retired Army colonel and Department of Defense civilian. For two decades, he also taught strategy at West Point, the National War College, and the Georgetown Security Studies Program.