Saturday, April 4, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said a Navy captain was "terrible" for writing a letter attempting to get medical help for his sailors.

Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, was relieved of his command this week. Crozier had written a letter calling for his sailors to be disembarked and the carrier taken out of active service in order to contain a COVID-19 outbreak onboard. The letter, which was sent to his superiors in the Navy and the Department of Defense, was leaked to the media by one of the recipients. His request was granted, but at the price of his command. Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved Crozier for what he called "poor judgment."

Trump had so far avoided comment on the matter, although Modly privately acknowledged that Trump wanted Crozier fired. But today he jumped into the fray, saying:

I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter. This isn't a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that's nuclear-powered. The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That's not appropriate. I don't think that's appropriate.

Actually, the letter was four pages long, and it was quite pointed. Crozier's argument was that on a ship like his, quarantine was impossible, medical facilities were limited, and there would be avoidable deaths if his crew were forced to serve aboard ship during an outbreak. 

About 3% of the crew has tested positive so far, with more than half still untested. Even assuming all 4,400 sailors aboard were in the lowest-risk groups demographically, with no access to intensive care facilities, dozens would likely die as the infection spread through the ship.

The Theodore Roosevelt's sailors saw Crozier off the ship with raucous cheers of support.

Trump is notoriously unpopular with servicemembers for a Republican. Not only has he relieved or fired servicemembers like Crozier, or Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, for acting in compliance with their duties, he's also pardoned convicted war criminals whose lawyers flattered him through appearances on cable TV news programs.

Why does this matter?

  • Presidents who can't bear to hear anything that sounds like criticism can't do the job.
  • Members of the American military swear an oath to the Constitution, not the presidency or Donald Trump personally.
  • Firing people who point out problems is a great way to have more problems.
  • The safety and health of the people who defend the United States is more important than Donald Trump's feelings.