'Emotional Reactions' Won't Make America Safe Again

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks before introducing Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice preside
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks before introducing Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential runningmate in New York City, U.S., July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Tonight's theme for the opening night of the Republican National Convention is "Make America Safe Again."

If they were serious about that, the next part of that theme would be, "Do Not Let Donald Trump Near the Nuclear Codes or the Military."

Paul Manafort, the campaign's chief, said something telling and extremely disturbing at the end of last week. Of Trump's decision to postpone the campaign's announcement of Mike Pence as the Vice Presidential selection for a day, Manafort said Trump "reacted emotionally" to the attack in Nice.

Manafort then caught himself and quickly added that Trump didn't feel it was appropriate to engage in politics in the aftermath of Nice, even though that's exactly what Trump did, in appearing on FOX News multiple times the evening of the Nice attack.

As a former commander in the Iraq War, and a Captain and then a Major during that war, we cannot tell you the shiver it sent up our spine to hear a potential Commander in Chief "reacted emotionally" in making decisions after a terror attack on one of our allies.

This isn't to say that a Commander in Chief cannot have emotions. Everyone is human, even our presidents. But when we talk about the temperament to be Commander in Chief, like in this ad, we're talking about having a President who makes their decisions based on clear-eyed thinking, facts, and a good sense of secondary, tertiary, and even quaternary effects of that decision.

Donald Trump does not have that temperament. Paul Manafort confirmed it.

Even the man who actually wrote The Art of the Deal confirmed it. In a piece released today, Tony Schwartz, who ghost-wrote the book, said, "I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization."

It is telling that those speaking tonight -- despite their military service -- back an irresponsible path forward in the Middle East, and even on how we take care of those who fought there.

It includes Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whose most recent book hyperbolically declares that ISIS could conquer the US, put us under Sharia Law, and drink our blood. Flynn also has had a fairly uncomfortable warmness to the leadership style of Vladimir Putin and Russia, much like the candidate Flynn backs.

It also includes Congressman Ryan Zinke, who has taken a lead role in Congress to block refugees from Syria, and has asked his home-state governor in Montana to turn them away.

Demonizing Syrian refugees, and turning them away, is possibly the ultimate feelings-based decision. Despite Donald Trump's declaration to the contrary, we do have a vetting process for refugees. More importantly, turning away refugees only feeds the propaganda of ISIS -- that we do not care about Muslims, that we do not like Muslims, and that we would rather see Muslims sent back somewhere to die, than help them. Refusing refugees is exactly the fear-based type of decision ISIS is banking on us making, to help with their recruiting, globally.

It also includes Jason Beardsley, an Iraq veteran who seems to agree with many Republicans that the cause of ISIS was ending the war in Iraq. Beardsley comes from a group called "Concerned Veterans For America," which was essentially a continuation of a group called "Vets for Freedom," which backed the surge of troops in Iraq, about a decade ago. Now, rather than do the hard work of improving the Department of Veterans Affairs, in the wake of recent scandals, Concerned Veterans is pushing a plan to lead veterans health care into the private, for-profit system. It is an ill-conceived, reactionary plan that would leave veterans to fend for themselves, as health care profiteers look to make a buck off them. Not surprisingly, it is something a strong majority of veterans oppose, according to recent polling.

These all were members of the military who served honorably and ably. Their service should always be honored, deeply. But, it doesn't mean they are wrong, now.

In Trump, they see someone who is weak and easily manipulated by emotions into reactionary decision-making. In Trump, they see someone who won't push back with the clear-eyed thinking we expect from a Commander in Chief.

And why wouldn't they? Paul Manafort admitted that emotional reactions guide even the most basic elements of his decision-making.

Having Trump in command of these world-altering, life and death decisions may do a lot of things.

But his lack of temperament and emotion-based judgement will not "Make America Safe Again."