A divide seems to be occurring between leaders in the military and representatives of the police. While one group seems to be condemning Donald Trump‘s rhetoric against protestors, the other group is taking issue with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
According to CNN, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, a man who is praised by his troops, told Americans that they should unite without the man in the White House.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” said Mattis, who has been silent since resigning in 2018.
“Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” explained the retired Marine general in a statement. Mattis slammed Trump for threatening to send regular troops to areas experiencing protest and unrest over police violence. Mattis described Trump’s actions as an offensive threat to U.S. political stability.
Mattis’ statement should come as a blow to Trump. Although he eventually turned on his ex-defense secretary, Trump tends to idolize generals, and at one point, he referred to Mattis as “Mad Dog.”
Now, Trump is trying to discredit Mattis, who served in combat roles in Afghanistan and two Iraq wars. Trump described him as “the world’s most overrated General” on Twitter.
Another retired general, Gen. John Allen, also slammed Trump in a commentary published by Foreign Policy. He referenced Trump’s recent photo-op in front of a D.C. church after federal security forces used tear gas on protestors to clear the area. “It wasn’t enough that peaceful protesters had just been deprived of their first-amendment rights—this photo-op sought to legitimize that abuse with a layer of religion,” wrote Allen.
Allen further said that an awakening of what’s going on will “have to come from the bottom up. For at the White House, there is no one home.” Other senior military and political figures have spoken out against Trump’s actions, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, and the current defense secretary Mark Esper, who spoke out against the President’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy troops inside the US.
While military and defense leaders seem to be lambasting Trump, police seem to be turning their backs on his adversary, Joe Biden. According to Politico, Biden’s call for policing reforms after the deaths of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, has angered some law enforcement groups.
“There are other measures to stop transferring weapons of war to police forces, and improve oversight and accountability to create a model use of force standard,” said Biden in a speech where he pledged to establish a national police oversight commission in his first 100 days in office. He also called on Congress to outlaw the use of chokeholds by cops.
Many cops weren’t too happy with Biden’s words.
“Clearly, he’s made a lot of changes the way candidates do during the primary process, but he kept moving left and fell off the deep end,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), which is the umbrella organization for Police Benevolent Association chapters.
“For Joe Biden, police are shaking their heads because he used to be a stand-up guy who backed law enforcement,” Johnson continued. “But it seems in his old age, for whatever reason, he’s writing a sad final chapter when it comes to supporting law enforcement.”
Although cops have a tendency to have politics that lean to the right, the current criticism of Biden from NAPO is new. The group endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 due to Biden’s presence on the ticket, according to Johnson.
However as the #BlackLivesMatter movement started to stem from the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, activists started challenging Democratic candidates over police violence, systemic racism, and the 1994 crime bill.
As the left became more critical of the police, the cops started becoming more Republican, according to Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. Pasco was also a lobbyist and he worked closely with Biden on the crime bill and other legislation.
“There are two evolutions in two directions. On law-and-order issues, Biden was right of center: the ‘94 crime bill, the Brady Law and enhanced penalties. But as time has gone by, his positions have moderated, moderated, moderated to where we are today, where he would not be considered a law-and-order guy in the sense that law enforcement sees it,” Pasco said.
Some cops and former cops are still backing Biden despite the criticism. Florida Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, former FOP member, and Biden’s potential running mate, responded on behalf of the Democrat’s campaign.
“Law enforcement, firefighters know who Joe Biden is,” Demings said. “They know who he is because he has stood with our public servants in the toughest time in their lives.”
Demings’ words were not enough for Bobby Jenkins, a president of Deming’s former union in her home state. Jenkins, a Republican, said cops don’t necessarily like Trump but they believe the Obama-Biden administration wasn’t pro-police enough. He argued the former president didn’t go to the annual police memorial every year, but Trump has. Trump also gained favor from cops when he lit the White House blue to honor cops in 2017. Obama didn’t carry out such a demonstration the year before.
As for Biden, head of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Larry Cosme, said, “Historically, Mr. Biden has always been a friend of law enforcement and that’s why I find his comments a little disheartening.”