Fired Navy secretary Richard Spencer manages to remind us why Trump needed to get rid of him
Fired Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer is not going away.
In a swiftly executed Washington Post op-ed less than a week after President Trump's defense secretary had him fired, he's now telling everyone how much smarter he is than President Trump and making it clear he never liked the guy anyway.
The case of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was charged with multiple war crimes before being convicted of a single lesser charge earlier this year, was troubling enough before things became even more troubling over the past few weeks. The trail of events that led to me being fired as secretary of the Navy is marked with lessons for me and for the nation.
Lessons for the nation? You mean the one about not defying the commander in chief, Richie? He's all in for ranting about President Trump who technically didn't even fire the man, the defense secretary is the one who did, and on the grounds that Spencer failed to observe the chain of command, something Spencer acknowledges only as an incidental way down in his op-ed.
But now it's about Trump pardoning Gallagher, he says, and some kind of principaled stance against it on his end.
Which is laughable.
Spencer, recall, was furious over the president's pardoning of Gallagher, who had been acquitted of war crimes by a jury of his peers but convicted of a small violation, which was posing in a photo with a dead terrorist. Maybe against regulations, yes, but not a crime to normal people, given that terrorists like to behead others and burn pilots alive in cages. Gallagher had been in combat with these beasts and that was his victory dance. It was something normal people would give the man a pass on, and so did President Trump.
Not satisfied with that, Spencer and his minions decided to not leave things alone and accept that Trump was exercising his prerogatives. They instead got to work figuring out how to do an end-run around Trump by punishing Gallagher in some different way -- by stripping him of his prized SEAL Trident pin. It was Wile-E-Coyote stuff by enraged bureaucrats, but their logic was obvious: That would show Trump who's boss, so that's what they were going to do.
One problem: they didn't know Trump very well, and Trump slammed them hard and told them that the heck these weasels were going to punish Gallagher after the commander in chief had already made his sentiment clear.
Spencer responded by loudly threatening to muscle Trump on the matter again, this time by threatening to resign, something his buddies in the New York Times printed.
When that got out, and didn't work the way he thought it would work, he made a quick U-turn and said he wasn't going to resign and followed up with a suck-up statement that of course he serves at the president's pleasure.
I would like to further state that in no way, shape, or form did I ever threaten to resign. That has been incorrectly reported in the press. I serve at the pleasure of the President.— SECNAV76 (@secnav76) November 23, 2019
The Times stood by its story. Trump, too, heard him the first time and helped him out on his original plan.
Real lesson for the country and our nation's enemies: Trump doesn't get muscled. The man who made the term 'You're Fired!' his signature television meme, is, after all, the commander in chief for a reason.
It got worse. Spencer then released a sophomorically long winded post-firing letter, nattering on about the importance of the military justice system on the grounds that it's what "sets us apart," a roundabout way of saying he's been being right all along and pay no attention to those suckup tweets he made earlier. It also was an ignorant letter: As he claimed that American military justice "sets us apart" he revealed he knew nothing about most military justice systems, not just in western Europe and Israel, but even in Colombia and Chile and Mexico. Nope, bureaucrats calling the shots against combat vets does not set us apart, it's as common as dirt. (It's pretty bad to have a U.S. Navy secretary who doesn't know that, actually).
Then Spencer ranted on about how Trump's perfectly legal pardon would endanger the entire military justice system, claiming the tiny act of mercy would make that a free for all.
When the press died down on that, he made another leap for publicity, now in the Washington Post's op-ed page, largely trying to justify his same dreary discredited arguments one more time, simply refusing to go away:
Translation: I was right, Trump was wrong, Trump is Orange Man Bad, feel my Trump Derangement Syndrome, and I can't shut up about it, I'm still spitting mad and I, Richard V. Spencer, can't stop talking about it.
This guy is an idiot and a jerk. Trump did nothing wrong by extending mercy and clemency to Gallagher and a few other combat veterans who made mistakes in the heat of battle. No laws were changed, nobody lost a job (except him, but only after he couldn't stop plotting and talking).
Trump's clemency actually served two or three purposes which were important to his military aims: One, he signaled to the troops that he had their backs and if the military lawyers sought to get their skins on their walls over small stuff for their own career advancement, they can expect to be smacked down. Two, he sent a message to our terrorist enemies to forget about putting their faith in leftwing lawyers as they ignore every civilized law of combat, concern-trolling on about war crimes as their last resort. To heck with that. Trump's message was: Make war on America, get annihilated. Three: He's not going to be muscled by anyone because he knows who's commander in chief.
And that gets us back to Spencer again, who nattered on in his letter about America about what winning is -- can you believe a statement like this?
We are effective overseas not because we have the best equipment but because we are professionals. Our troops are held to the highest standards. We expect those who lead our forces to exercise excellent judgment. The soldiers and sailors they lead must be able to count on that.
No, we are effective because we beat the hell out of the enemy. And we win. It's not because we are 'professional.' If professionalism was all it took to win wars, you can bet the Luxembourgian army would be ruling the world. We win because we fight to win. If that involves cutting a few corners, or extending mercy to keep morale high in the ranks, letting the troops know that leftwing lawyers aren't the last word, good.
Spencer hasn't a clue about what victory is. To him, victory is having the best comportment. He's a soft-handed investment banker with a short stint in the Marines in the 1970s, and it's pretty clear he hasn't a clue about the realities of actual combat. He yells about jury of peers to judge Gallagher, but fails to notice that Gallagher as a matter of fact did pass a jury of his peers when he got acquitted. Yet Spencer still retained the same mean-spirited desire to punish Gallagher instead of the terrorists, and worse yet, trump President Trump.
Nobody trumps Trump. Spencer's embarrassing behavior -- his suckupery, his media manipulations, his insistence that he's smarter than his commander in chief, and his refusal to shut up and go away only accomplishes one thing: A reminder that Trump showed superb judgment in getting rid of this guy. He needed to be fired yesterday.
Correction: Triton corrected to Trident.
Image credit: Susan Murtaugh, via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0