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Tuberville contradicts military, says his holds are inconsequential

Military officials say Tuberville’s blockade is causing adverse consequences. The senator says the opposite. One side of this argument has credibility.


After Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade against military promotions was undermining military readiness, the Alabama Republican rejected the claim. In fact, he appeared on a conservative media outlet two weeks ago and said, “I’m not holding up readiness.”

The senator didn’t explain why he disagreed with military officials, or why he believed they would make a claim he considered false. Tuberville also didn’t elaborate as to why he’s convinced his radical tactics weren’t having an impact. The GOP lawmaker simply asserted that he’s right, despite what the public has heard from the Pentagon.

Tuberville then pitched a similar line via social media: “All of these jobs are being done. My holds are NOT affecting national security.”

So, is this true? As Tuberville stands in the way of military promotions, are the jobs “being done” anyway?

As it turns out, retired two-star Marine Gen. Arnold Punaro talked to Politico about this last week. After calling the far-right senator “a coward” who “doesn’t understand our military,” the retired general, who also worked as longtime staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee, explained that Tuberville’s unprecedented holds really are “having an impact.”

“A good example of what’s happening in the Marine Corps is you have Eric Smith, who’s the assistant commandant — that’s still his billet because he didn’t get confirmed. He’s doing the equivalent of two full-time four-star jobs right now. It’d be like asking the Auburn quarterback to play offensive tackle and quarterback at the same time. … I don’t think people really understand how detrimental this really is on a day-to-day basis.”

Punaro is hardly the only military voice raising these concerns. CNN recently noted that Redstone Arsenal, an army base in the Republican’s home state of Alabama, is also waiting for Tuberville to let senators confirm its pending leader.

Retired Gen. Jim Rogers, who served as a senior commander at Redstone, told CNN, “Someone has given [Tuberville] bad advice. It affects everyone. It affects the nation, it affects every community like this. I am very concerned our senator is getting led down a path that he does not understand the full impact for the military, and I just recommend that he reconsider that.”

What we’re left with, in other words, is a test of credibility. Tuberville has argued that his radical tactics are largely inconsequential, and he’s not adversely affecting his own country’s military. On the other hand, there are actual military leaders who’ve made the opposite case.

Who are we to believe? Well, Tuberville is a coach-turned-politician whose most meaningful association with the military was coaching the losing team in the 2014 Military Bowl; he’s repeatedly flubbed the basics when talking about his own tactics; he hasn’t yet kept his promise to Alabama veterans; he told claims about his father’s military service that didn’t withstand scrutiny; and he was one of only 11 senators to vote against the Honoring Our PACT Act that expands health care benefits for 3.5 million veterans.

Or put another way, in this debate, if the Alabama Republican expects people to simply take his word for it, Tuberville might be disappointed.