The leaders of half the branches of the military have come out swinging this week to condemn Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) for his blockade of senior military promotions. It’s all part of a broader attempt on the Alabama’s senator’s part to bully the Pentagon into changing its policy that reimburses service members who must travel for abortion care post-Roe, both in the U.S. and abroad. Military officials are speaking out publicly now to make it clear that Tuberville’s anti-abortion charade presents a threat to national security, as three branches of the military are left without official leaders.
In a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth outlined the stakes of Tuberville’s eight-month tantrum. Not only has the blockade left the Army, Navy and Marine Corps with “acting” officials rather than confirmed leaders, Tuberville’s hold has forced hundreds of officers to either stretch out their current tours or seek other assignments until the senator’s stonewalling is done. It’s also halted promotions for junior officers, leaving additional positions, as well as military families, in limbo.
Navy Secretary Del Toro went to cable news to double down on his colleagues’ warnings on Tuesday, describing Tuberville’s action with a GOP curse word: he’s “aiding and abetting Communist and other autocratic regimes.” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley has warned that it sends a message to foreign adversaries that the U.S. military is unstable.
Even some of his Republican colleagues have called on him to drop the act, but he only doubles down.
“I’m disappointed that a secretary would say that about a senator. Makes you feel bad that we got leaders in the country like that,” Tuberville said yesterday. “If I thought it was hurting readiness, I wouldn’t be doing this. But it’s not.”
Donald Trump, for one, is not touching the issue with a 10-foot pole. Like the rest of his party, Trump is struggling to find his footing on abortion heading into 2024 as he faces an American electorate that’s consistently demonstrated its anger at his Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Trump has quietly indicated he’s against abortion bans that don’t allow exceptions for rape or incest, but that’s about as specific as he will get. And it could be part a factor in Trump’s non-answer on Tuberville.
During a wide-ranging and at-times unhinged interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Wednesday, Trump was asked about his opinion on the Tuberville stonewalling. His response could be boiled down to: “that is, in fact, a thing that he is doing.”
Here’s the exchange:
Hewitt: Now Senator Tuberville, he’s an ally of yours. Governor DeSantis has sided with Governor Tuberville on holding up all the promotions. Nikki Haley has criticized him. What do you think of Senator Tuberville’s boycott of 300 colonels and captains?
Trump: Well, let me tell you. Let me tell you. Senator Tuberville, Tommy Tuberville, not Tooberville, but he is a great man. He’s a great senator. He is doing his thing right now, and he has the courage to at least speak up for his convictions. People agree and don’t agree, but that’s not it. He’s got the guts to do what he wants to do, what he thinks is good, and he loves the people of this country and the people of Alabama. And he’s in there fighting, which is unfortunately not true for a lot of other Republicans. We have great Republican support, but the Republicans have to learn to fight stronger and harder and smarter.
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