By Tom Burke
The burial of John McCain at the U.S. Naval Academy brought to mind my time as a midshipman at Kings Point, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and the 25 years we lived 5 miles from the Naval Academy’s cemetery.
Thinking about McCain I was struck by the realization that Donald J. Trump, the nation’s commander in chief, isn’t morally or ethically qualified to attend any of the five U.S. service academies. He’d get booted in a New York minute from West Point, Annapolis, Kings Point and both the Air Force and Coast Guard academies.
Why, you ask?
Simple. He doesn’t meet the ethical standards for entrance, and more importantly, he’s so violated their honor codes that he would be immediately dismissed as unworthy to take a place among the likes of McCain, Dwight Eisenhower, John Glenn, or even Mike Pompeo.
Think on that. The man who orders our finest young men and women to put their lives on the line, risking death defending our country and upholding the Constitution, is patently unqualified and unworthy to attend a day’s class, march 10 steps in a formation, or even eat a salad in their mess halls.
Perhaps a quick review of the academies’ missions, mottoes and honor codes would be illustrative:
At West Point it’s “Duty, Honor, Country.” Trump fails on all three: shirking his duty as president of all the people; having no honor what so ever (“grab ‘em by the p***y”), and putting self-enrichment and ego before country.
At Kings Point, the guiding principle is “Acta non Verba” (Deeds, not Words) and Trump’s deeds, such as being a felonious, unindicted co-conspirator, are anything but honorable.
Air Force Academy cadets live by their motto, “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do.” Using the words Trump and integrity in the same sentence is the cruelest irony of the age.
The Coast Guard Academy focuses on mission, formally stating, “The Sea Yields Knowledge.” But the Coast Guard’s informal motto, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back” puts their life-saving efforts in sharp focus. Can anyone picture Trump, ever-in-his-life, jumping out of a helicopter into the freezing, roiling, deadly Bering Sea to save a drowning fisherman? Didn’t think so. (OK, maybe he’d toss ‘em a roll of paper towels, but that’s about it.)
Finally, like the Coast Guard Academy, the Naval Academy focuses on mission with, “Ex Scientia Trideas,” (Through Knowledge, Sea Power.) But beyond motto, there is an honor code all midshipmen, indeed, all service academy members, live by: “A midshipman (cadet) will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.”
Let’s repeat that, “A cadet/midshipman will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do,” because formal, institutional adherence to such a non-Trumpian concept — honor — is what distinguishes service academy graduates from their commander in chief: Trump is a proven, pathological, habitual liar; has cheated not just on his wives, but on his business partners, investors, and those who voted for him; and has stolen millions, like from those poor benighted souls who believed Trump University would help them get ahead.
As far as the commander in chief tolerating “those who do,” reflect on some of Trump’s people, such as Flynn, Cohen, Papadopoulos, Manafort, Porter, Pruitt, Price, McEntee, Page, Collins and Hunter (two indicted Congressmen), and Gates. All men who have lied, cheated and stolen, and many of whom Trump has praised as “good guys.”
Clearly there’s a lot more to be said about the ethical lapses that would prevent Trump from ever attending a West Point, Kings Point, or the Naval Academy. And I suspect I could riff on them for another couple of hundred words.
But for Trump’s hard-core base and the professional trolls who post comments here, it probably wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Unless, unless they attended a service academy themselves; had a son, daughter, niece or nephew who attended; or had a husband, wife, son, daughter, farther, mother, niece, nephew, aunt or uncle or friend who served in combat under a graduate. Then maybe, just maybe, they would understand the importance of character in those who command their loved ones, and how very important it is to their lives.
Trump is deeply flawed, as a man and as a president. So deeply flawed he isn’t fit to stand among the ranks of those he leads. And there, gentle reader, is the real irony of the age; this utter disaster of a human being holds their lives, and ours, as well as our well-being and the future of our American democracy in his dirty, tiny, grubby little hands.
Duty. Honor. Country. Measure Trump against those ideals, then be sure to vote in November. Not only is it our civic duty to cast a ballot, it’s an honor, and what we need to do for our country.
Tom Burke’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.