Last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) made the startling claim that he (and, by implication, other Republicans) had been urging active duty military generals to resign if they disagreed with President Barack Obama’s policies.
“Let me reassure you on this,” Lamborn told a gathering of tea party voters in Colorado Springs on Sept. 23, according to the Colorado Independent. “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’
“You know, let’s have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory,” he said.
Now Lamborn’s comments have been condemned by some of his fellow Republicans, and a retired military officer told TPM that an effort by a politician to get military officers to resign for political reasons is highly unorthodox.
“I don’t think he’s doing himself a favor by doing this. I doubt very seriously if general officers will do what he’s asking,” retired Army Brigadier Gen. Russell Howard, who is now an adjunct professor at Middlebury College’s Monterey Institute of International Studies, told TPM on Tuesday. “Civilian control of the military is very important. I think the congressman and those who are doing this are making a political mistake.”
“You can vote with your feet,” he continued. “But in my experience, most general officers who do that don’t do it for a political conviction and certainly not at the behest of another branch of government.”
As MSNBC’s Steve Benen chronicled, other Republicans have started to publicly criticize Lamborn’s comments.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), whose re-election race the Cook Report rates as a toss-up, tweeted a rebuke on Sunday.
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) September 29, 2014
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is vying to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, also distanced himself from Lamborn when asked about the reports.
“There is no room for partisan politics when it comes to our men and women in uniform,” Gardner said, according to The Gazette in Colorado Springs.
For its part, Lamborn’s campaign told TPM in a statement that the congressman’s remarks were referencing past policy disagreements — like the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — and that no conversations were ongoing as the U.S. military launched its attack against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“In his remarks, Congressman Lamborn was referencing past policy decisions by President Obama, such as draconian defense budget cuts and changes to don’t ask don’t tell, where generals and admirals approached Members of Congress and expressed serious disagreement with these policy changes,” campaign spokesman Jarred Rego said. “There are no current discussions taking place and there are none that have anything whatsoever to do with criticizing our current military strategy to combat ISIS. Congressman Lamborn supports that plan and voted to implement it.”
The backlash is unlikely to cost Lamborn electorally, though. Cook rates his seat solidly Republican heading into November.