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National security leaders, including former Trump aides, back Biden

When nearly 500 national security leaders, including 22 retired four-star military officers, urge voters to replace a president with his rival, it matters.
Image: Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden talks about the Supreme Court in Philadelphia on Sept. 20, 2020.Carolyn Kaster / AP

In recent months, an astonishing number of retired American military leaders have stepped up in to denounce and rebuke Donald Trump -- to a degree without modern precedent. The list includes four former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, each of whom has publicly slammed the incumbent president ahead of his re-election bid.

Today, however, the story took a step further. NBC News reported that more than 200 retired generals and admirals have collectively endorsed Joe Biden's candidacy.

Some of the officers who signed the letter supporting Biden had retired only in the past few years, including Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Trump before he retired in August 2019; Vice Adm. Gardner Howe, a Navy SEAL leader who also retired last year; and retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who oversaw the Coast Guard until 2018.

It's an important detail: leaders like Selva worked directly under Donald Trump, who re-nominated him to his Joint Chiefs post. The Air Force veteran nevertheless wants Americans to remove the president from office, replacing him with Biden.

He joins a surprisingly long list. NBC News' report added that the new group of signatories features "22 retired four-star military officers, among them Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, who oversaw all U.S. forces in the Pacific from 2012 to 2015, and Adm. Harry Ulrich, who commanded U.S. naval forces in Europe during President George W. Bush's administration."

The same National Security Leaders for Biden list includes nearly 300 former national security officials and diplomats from the civilian ranks, including a Reagan-appointed CIA director (William Webster) and five former Defense secretaries (William Perry, William Cohen, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, and Ash Carter), two of whom served as Republican U.S. senators.

"The next president will inherit a nation -- and a world -- in turmoil," their joint public statement reads. "The current President has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office; he cannot rise to meet challenges large or small. Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us. Climate change continues unabated, as does North Korea's nuclear program.

"The president has ceded influence to a Russian adversary who puts bounties on the heads of American military personnel, and his trade war against China has only harmed America's farmers and manufacturers. The next president will have to address those challenges while struggling with an economy in a deep recession and a pandemic that has already claimed more than 200,000 of our fellow citizens. America, with 4% of the world's population suffers with 25% of the world's COVID-19 cases. Only FDR and Abraham Lincoln came into office facing more monumental crises than the next president.

"Joe Biden has the character, principles, wisdom, and leadership necessary to address a world on fire. That is why Joe Biden must be the next President of the United States; why we vigorously support his election; and why we urge our fellow citizens to do the same."

If there's a modern American precedent for anything like this, I'm not aware of it.