Donald Trump claims he is qualified to be president because he is a billionaire and successful businessman. If he can manage large organizations successfully, the argument goes, he can also manage the U.S. bureaucracy. He is wrong: being president is not analogous to being chief executive officer of a for-profit corporation.
The president is also commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces. Almost no one in history has been truly qualified, before taking office, of assuming that role. Perhaps only Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower had the experience, knowledge, and reputation to automatically command the respect of the military.
But there is a lower bar that candidates should clear to prove their basic trustworthiness with military command. They should live up to the same code that, legally, U.S. military officers are required to live by: the U.S. Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Military officers are required to uphold a certain standard of decorum and dignity. Failure isn’t merely a social offense; it is a crime for which an officer can be court martialed, dishonorably discharged, and even imprisoned.
Article 117 of the UCMJ prohibits soldiers from using “provoking or reproachful words or gestures.” Donald Trump famously accused Mexican immigrants of being criminals and rapists, which is “provoking and reproachful” under any definition of the term. Trump refused to apologize for the comment, insisting it was “totally accurate.”
Article 132 of UCMJ bars “frauds against the U.S.” Trump openly boasted in the Republican presidential debate in early August that “I have taken advantage of the laws of this country,” to further his business interests, which is a good description of fraud. Trump is also battling lawsuits from students at Trump University who have accused him of fraud.
In the same debate he openly spoke of purchasing influence with U.S. government officials with campaign contributions. He said, “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that’s a broken system.” Trump acknowledged it is a broken, corrupt system that he happily participated in.
Article 93 of the UCMJ bans “cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders.” Trump successfully turned cruelty and verbal abuse towards employees into a reality TV show, popularizing employer arrogance and coarsening the workplace.
Article 88 of the UCMJ prohibits “contemptuous words” of U.S. officials. Pretty much all American politicians speak ill of each other; that’s simply part of democracy. Trump has gone beyond the normal rough-and-tumble of democracy. He repeatedly called all politicians “stupid,” and president Obama “incompetent.”
Worse, he famously dismissed John McCain’s military service and mocked his five years’ of captivity in North Vietnam, saying it took no heroism to be captured. (McCain refused offers of release because he did not want to be used as communist propaganda, which demonstrates staggering courage and loyalty).
Finally, Article 133 of the UCMJ bars “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” Trump is the walking embodiment of conduct unbecoming a gentleman. He violates this article every time he opens his mouth, especially when he speaks of women. That Trump retains the support of any American after his comments about Fox News Anchor Megan Kelly is a disgrace and an embarrassment.
If Donald Trump tried to join the military, they wouldn’t let him in. If he were in the military, he would be disciplined, repeatedly. If he were in ROTC, he wouldn’t graduate. No soldier would follow Trump into battle, and no officer would give him loyalty.
Trump is a vulgar, crass, ungentlemanly frat boy who gleefully participates in, and perpetuates, the corruption and degeneracy of American politics. If politics is a pigsty, he celebrates the mud. He coarsens public life, and he is unqualified to command the finest military in the world.