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[00:00:04]

Hello from the Lincoln Project and welcome back, I'm Ron Suslow. In today's episode, we're going to discuss the rhetoric Donald Trump has used when talking about members of the military and their commitment to the United States and how his actions have impacted the lives of military members and their families. We have two very special guests joining on the podcast today to help us better understand these implications of Trump's words and actions. Former Navy SEAL and president of Veterans for Responsible Leadership, Dan Barkov and Gold Star mom Judy Gans, whose son, Capt.

[00:00:38]

. Joel Gance, was a combat rescue officer who died during a rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2010. Thank you both for being on the podcast and sharing your story and your story with all of us.

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Happy to be here. Thanks for having us. Dan, just to help us with a little bit of background, can you can you talk about why you decided to join the Navy in the first place joining the military?

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For me, it was just something I always knew I was going to do. I think some people are wired that way. I mean, some people join the military, people join the military for a variety of reasons to pay for college, to to learn a skill, a sense of patriotism. I was kind of drawn to it, not necessarily for any of those reasons. For me, it was just something that kind of captivated my imagination. And growing up at various times that I think I wanted to do just about every job there was in the military.

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So I wanted to fly jets. I wanted to drive tanks, I wanted to be a Marine, all these different things, and ultimately ended up choosing the Naval Academy in part in large part because the field to choose from that point was sort of the broadest. So you could do anything in the Navy, you could fly jets, be on a submarine, you could do anything in the Marine Corps, you could drive tanks, you could be an infantry officer just seeing kind of the broadest range of possibilities.

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At that point. I only applied to the service academies. You know, I don't come from a military family. My parents both did not serve. I've got one grandfather going back to World War Two who served but never left the US. So I'm not from a military family was just just something I was always drawn to duty.

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Could you share a bit about what motivated Joel to join the Air Force?

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So initially Joel wanted to be an astronaut and he in high school did a lot of research about who was flying the space shuttle at the time. And most of the pilots were test pilots in the Air Force. So that was his plan was to go to ROTC and to become a pilot so that he could ultimately become an astronaut. And actually, he was offered a pilot's slot through ROTC, which he turned down much to the dismay of the commander at the time.

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He thought he was a little nuts, but he had met and talked with people in the rescue community and decided that he wanted to be a part of rescue and that the combat rescue officer was a new career field that they had recently developed within the last ten years. And he just really wanted to be a rescue person. My husband and I are both nurses and he said, I think rescuing is in my blood. And so that's what he did.

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He went into para rescue.

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Wow. In twenty sixteen during the campaign, Donald Trump attacked the family of Army Captain Humayun Khan and Captain Khan's father spoke at the Democratic National Convention. And Khan was a US Army captain who was killed in the Iraq war in 2004. Trump went as far as to say that Captain Khan would still be alive if Trump was elected president in 2004. Khan's father told ABC News. This is the most cruel thing you can say to grieving parents. Do you remember when that happened?

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Judy, I do remember that, yes. What was your reaction when you heard that? Well, I was appalled by several things. I was especially appalled at his criticism of Mrs. Khan, who he made reference that she was subjugating to her husband because she didn't say anything on the stage and that, you know, this is how. People of the Muslim faith treat their women basically, and what Mrs. Khan later said was that they had put up her son's face on a huge Jumbotron type screen and she was staring at her son and she was speechless.

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And I absolutely can understand that reaction because losing a child from any way, any any death of a child from a parent's perspective is something you just don't get used to. And even now, 10 years later, you know, I have times where I just can't even believe that Jill is gone. So the lack of empathy and the lack of respect for Captain Khan's service was absolutely appalling to me. And the disrespect to his family and the lack of understanding was just unbelievable to me.

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Dan, do you remember that moment? And and do you recall I mean, I remember seeing it and thinking, you know, as a civilian, there's there's just there's no coming back from a moment like this for for a candidate. And yet how how mistaken we all were thinking that Donald Trump couldn't come back from something horrifically offensive like that. Do you remember when that happened and what was your reaction? And do you remember the the reaction of other service members?

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I've been a civilian civilian in twenty sixteen by about six years at that point. But I remember very clearly the reverence that deserved reverence that the military and the military family to include civilians who have a loved one in uniform, the reverence that we place around the Gold Star community and the folks who who gave their life the ultimate act of humility and selflessness. There is nothing that is more noble in any kind of any context. And to see it sort of treated so tritely and flippantly and frankly cruelly by a man who at every turn throughout his life has chosen these selfish and self-serving route, it highlighted a couple of things about about Trump to me.

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I mean, one, he just does not get it. He's really just his brain does not have that part that allows him to see empathy. And and and a second point, he just does not get the military like you. You can't do that. And it just it just baffles me. I mean, that's just one of the reasons, one of several one of many that the veterans in my group are are against Trump. He's shown that he does not care about people who sacrifice their life for this country except as it as it applies to his own personal fortunes.

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You know, we say that you just can't do that. And you want to believe that that the person sitting in the Oval Office, that you would never have to worry about that kind of behavior right from the from the commander in chief. And yet we've seen this time and time again, we'll talk about some other examples here that, in fact, he can do it and he does do it. And I wonder we have this reaction that he just can't do that.

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And I think a lot of people do. But then but then either the outrage fades or or we move on to the next the next outrageous thing. I wonder if you have any thoughts about why that is. Why doesn't it seem to stick to him the way it would anybody else, particularly his his his behavior toward his treatment of military families and his and his callousness irreverence toward Gold Star families?

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So I struggle a little bit because I'm a psychiatric nurse practitioner, so I don't want to owe anything to get into diagnosis mode. Sure enough, people have toyed with that. I'll leave that alone. But I think that the president is incapable or unwilling, and I think it's more of a wilfulness to learn from mistakes. He won't admit that he's made a mistake. And so, like you or I, if we mess up, we change our behavior.

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We we alter what we do. Because by and large, as. People like to have approval from society, and, you know, fundamentally, I believe most people are good and they choose and want to do good. And so we learn from kids on up. We learn from our mistakes. And sadly, Mr. Trump seems incapable of that. I don't think he admits that he's made an error, even though it's know you can show him a video of himself lying and he will deny that.

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And consequently, he does not learn from mistakes he's made. And I think that's really problematic for anyone, but especially a commander in chief, if he is to be, ah, in theory, our example and leader. And yet he's not capable of learning. And that's scary to me.

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Yeah, it's scary to me, too. And this is something we haven't spent a lot of time talking about but that I'm curious about. Then I'd love to hear your thoughts. But what does this do to the culture in the military, whether whether it's active duty or retired or just military culture in general when the president behaves this way? It's a great question and and this is what I would say about the military and I've been asked before about this affect morale or something like that.

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And the short answer is no, I don't think it does. And I'll tell you why and explain why. So Trump. Trump is a is a danger to our democracy on a number of different levels. The constitutional norms he's trying to create by executive fiat to basically take over the role of Congress, he's done that in the last twenty four hours. But the military, we have an all volunteer professional military. It has been that way since the end of the Vietnam War and the end of conscription.

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The people in the military are going to do their job. People in the military are pros. And Protus is so far removed from the day to day lives of people in the military. It's a lot more it's a lot more concerning to have a company commander who in the eighty second airborne who acts the way Donald Trump does and in some ways than than it is for for the president to act that way. But that being said, you know, I, I can't help but think people see what a charlatan he is.

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There is no job in the military at any level that you would want Donald Trump doing OK. You're a PFC in boot camp. Do you want Donald Trump as a roommate making his bed? Know you're going to be doing push ups all day? You know, he's going to lie and say that, you know, somebody else should have made their bed or whatever you want. Donald Trump leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan. Now, he's not going to he's going to lie.

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He's going to say, yeah, we went to that checkpoint when in fact, he didn't. And he doesn't care about the mission. He doesn't care about his men. Would you want Donald Trump leading a commanding officer on a submarine of God? No. Right. Like these. These are all rules in the military that are dependent on honor, good order and discipline, teamwork and and essentially humility. The military words, American soldiers win in combat because they are willing to do what's best for the team at the expense of their own personal safety.

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Can you think of a statement that Les describes Donald Trump? One, is Donald Trump ever done anything good for the team ever? Unless it's somehow services purposes, you know, the you go into a room, you clear a room in a close quarters battle problem, the first two guys in are checking the corners. The corners are not the biggest threat to those two individuals. You have to clear your corners because it's the biggest threat to the team.

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When we give someone the Congressional Medal of Honor time and time again, they're given the Congressional Medal of Honor because they put personal interest, personal safety aside, and they did what had to be done to save their team and military military values. Respect that, highlight that and and emphasize that in our training and the culture of the military, it's all about the team. And there is nothing at all on any level about Donald Trump. That's about the team.

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He is the most selfish, least fitting person to be the commander in chief one could possibly imagine.

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I recently interviewed Stuart Stevens, who I think is how we came to know you. Yes. And and one of the things you remind me of, one of the things he said in that interview, which was think about the community leaders that you sort of the pillars of of raising a family in America. You have a coach. Would you want Donald Trump to be your coach? Would you want Donald Trump to be your teacher? Would you want him to be your minister?

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These leadership positions at the most local level that people are reliant on and and very familiar with. And if you think about if you go through the list of them, would you want him to be your firefighter, which was you and your children's boss?

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Right. Would you would you want him to do any of those jobs where you where you really care about the outcome, where you want to know that, for example, your kids are in good hands and two or one, the answer's always no. It's obviously always know. And so why would you want him to be president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, the commander in chief? Why would you why would you want him to be in that job and duty?

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I'd love to know what you think is the disconnect between the way people think about those those really important local positions of leadership and and how they seem to think about the president of the United States.

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I wish I understood that. I truly wish I did. You know, I I actually have family members who have supported this president and I just shake my head. I don't I literally don't get it. The only thing I can think of is that he is a master of projection. And so, for example. You know, people have reason to be upset, especially right now with the whole covid going on, and if there is one thing that Donald Trump is an expert at, it is projecting fear, anger, negativity.

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And for people who are experiencing that, I think it's easy for them to join him in that. So it's not you know, sadly, it's not because of positive qualities that people relate to him. It's for all the negativity and and. People who buy, who buy the message of the stock market is doing great and you look at your 401k for people who for whom that is the most important thing for them, they you know, they like that.

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Yeah. OK, let's switch topics a little bit, and I'm going to ask you about John McCain and another similar case to Captain Combat. In twenty fifteen, then candidate Donald Trump spoke about Senator McCain saying he's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he got captured. I like people who weren't captured. Then how did you and other veterans react when you heard about this?

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Yes, so that's that's just demonstrably false. I mean, John McCain was tortured by the North Vietnamese for five and a half years. He came home from that war, unable to lift his his hands above his shoulder. That's kind of by any definition that's kind of taking one for the team. I truly it's another one I'm truly baffled by and baffled by his continued support. I mean, John McCain. Sure. I mean, I consider myself pretty close to a McCain Republican.

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However, regardless of what you think of his politics, regardless of what you think of his position on taxes, you can't besmirch the guy's service. You know, W's are another one of those categories of people who have truly, truly sacrificed for our country. You know, even short term views from Gulf War One or Jessica Lynch or something, you know, for weeks on end, these people were at the mercy at the whim of the enemy. And John McCain did that for five and a half years.

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And there were Vietnam vets who did not come back with all of their honor, but he's not one of them. There's there's a sharp contrast to to Trump. I mean, Trump after Chino's let's say teens got five draft deferments for bone spurs and his father paid a doctor off and he never had to go to Vietnam. Right. And in the 80s and on Howard Stern, he compares having sexual relations with a bunch of people in New York City in the 80s to his Vietnam.

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I'm not with that. The Vietnam veterans are heroes. The Vietnam veterans held the line against real communist foes from the late nineteen fifties to nineteen seventy five when people can can take what they want from, you know, from the Vietnam War. Some people see it as a failure. It's not a failure to the men and women who fought it. They saw themselves as doing a mission, a national mission that multiple commander in chief from both parties thought was important and they sacrificed in the national interest.

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The W's are the clearest example of that besides the folks who were killed. And it's disgraceful. I mean, the man is a charlatan of the highest order. He's a coward. He's a liar. He lied about that war. He lied about his his attempt to go into service in that war. Time and time again, he's he's demonstrated that he fundamentally has just no concept whatsoever of professional military operations.

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And he thinks it's all just like movies he watches on TV for 12 hours a day. So I don't have I don't have a lot of time for for Trump on that one.

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Yeah. And you might have covered this a little bit earlier, but we talked about morale a little bit. But what does it mean for the safety and stability of military members that the president is so dismissive of the sacrifices of fallen soldiers and prisoners of war?

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The problem with Trump, one of the problems with Trump is he's also appointed people to various high level positions who are who are actual decision makers, who I don't feel have the country's best interests at heart. And Trump sees men and women in the military as as pawns. They're just pawns that he can make them stand in formation and you can fly into pogrom or whatever, and they'll turn out at the dining hall because they're ordered to and they'll give him a round of applause and he's going to look good and he can wear his red hat and stuff like that.

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And he really No. One, I don't trust him at various times. He's gotten a couple of things right. You know, a couple of things he's gotten right are far, far outweighed by some of the real stupid things that he's done, both tactically and strategically. Ultimately, the issue with Trump in the military is his fundamental dishonesty and his lack of honor and how someone like that, how do you want to send your kids into combat, your wife, your husband, your father into combat, and you can't tell them that you can't trust them to tell the truth about runabouts.

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Yeah. And that being able to trust him leads to one of the. Hottest topics with regard to Trump, the military right now, which is the bounties that are being paid by Russia as background for our listeners here who are most likely familiar with this. But in June, The New York Times broke the story that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered cash bounties to Taliban linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan. And they also reported that US intelligence came to their conclusions about Russian bounties months ago and that the intelligence was included in the president's written briefing.

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Despite this, Trump has claimed repeatedly that the information had not even reached his desk. And I think he sort of just kept repeating that statement when one of his most recent interviews. So it didn't reach my level, it didn't reach my level. But he finally admitted, I think it was in the Axios interview, that he had not talked about the bounty plot with President Putin of Russia. And I'll give you in a second. But, Judy, first, I wonder, as a parent, how did you react to hearing the news, not only that Russia was working to kill American soldiers, but that the president of the United States knew about it, couldn't be bothered to read his briefings, couldn't be bothered to talk to the president of Russia, and essentially did nothing to stop.

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It has done to this date, nothing to stop it. Right.

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And I actually and it's so hard for me to believe that this has happened and that he has done nothing. I think my first reaction was, well, of course, he's not going to hold Putin accountable because it's not that Ukraine has dirt on Joe Biden. It's that Putin has dirt on Trump. And I have felt this since he was elected, that his complicity with Russia is all about what they have on him. And I don't know if he's being blackmailed, but I think he's certainly his personality is such that he would be vulnerable to that.

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And I think anybody that with a half a brain would say that he's he's. We know that he has had dealings there and to deny it is. Is just a denial of reality, and his behavior shouts guilt to me, it just shouts they I'm avoiding I'm going to do whatever Putin wants because he has something that can hurt me and I don't want to be hurt. So I'm just going to. Kiss his ass, excuse my French, then I'm assuming you watched the interview with Jonathan one, I'm familiar with this interview.

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Yes, it's hard to avoid, but it seemed to me that that was, I think, the first time that he'd actually been cornered by a journalist, because prior to that, it was Chris Wallace. And Chris Wallace didn't ask him the question about autism. And it seemed pretty obvious that he was he was actively trying to dodge that question to get as far away from it as possible, to not answer it. And and I just I'd love to hear your thoughts on not just that part of the interview, but also do you think it's do you think he's unwilling to set up a Putin because he he secretly just wants his acceptance?

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Or do you think that there's some and whether or not that speculation is even valuable? Because the bottom line is he's not doing anything about it. But what's your read on it?

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Yeah. So, I mean, you know, so the the advertising I shot for First Farell and Lincoln Project, I you know, I made mention of two possibilities.

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I said he is either a coward or he is complicit. The coward, is he a coward? Does Putin have this Putin intimidate him. I think yes. You know, you can see it from the body language. You see it in his interactions. You know, I can I can tell you really when I think back of presidents, who wouldn't you know, if you got that intelligence in your Ronald Reagan? No. Ronald Reagan would walk out of that brief and said, get me Gorbachev on the phone right now.

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Yeah, right. Yeah. You know, I Bush would have done it. The elder Bush would have done it. Probably Clinton would have done it. Obama would have done it. These are all these are all people who know that that is unacceptable and we're not going to tolerate that. And they would have done something about it. A second possibility is as as Judy was saying, I mean, he's complicit, right? Like he knows he knew about it.

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He didn't want to make waves. There's some whether it's it's blackmail or financial dealings, there's something that that Putin has on him that's possible. And I'd also like to throw out the third possibility, which I guess is kind of the most charitable explanation. The third possibility really is just that he's completely incompetent and he's a moron. Right. So you know what? One of those three things has to be true. So the best thing you can say about Trump is that he's so dumb and so stupid that people didn't think he would do the right thing if they brought this to his attention.

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You know, I tend to think it's one of the first two, but I suppose it's possible he's just a complete idiot. The these are all possible explanations for his behavior. I mean, to speculate about it. Yeah, it's it's kind of water under the bridge why he did it. The fact remains, at a minimum, he's known about it for at least forty five days and he still has done nothing about it. And you know, aside, even if you forget about all the moral, ethical, the the geopolitical ramifications, the reasons to do something about it, even if you just think about the silly domestic political, you know, all he has to do is just say we're looking into it.

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We're going to get to the bottom of this. Right. He can't even say that it would go away, but he can't do that because he's so chicken. Scratch that.

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That's that's his worldview.

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I really wonder why more people aren't talking about it, given that it's now that the news is broken, is he says he didn't know about it and now it's very clear he does know about it. And still, there's no action, no answer. And and we're all just left wondering sort of, well, what's the next thing that's going to happen? Right.

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It's like, what what else is happening or that? Are the are the Chinese bugging the embassy? Like what what else is going on that Trump knows about and just decided it's not worth the time or too scary to confront? Yeah.

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So can you give us a little bit of a primer on the ethical rules about criticizing a sitting president within the military as an active or retired military member? What are the what are the whether they are hard rules or they are cultural norms? Can you explain that to our listeners who aren't familiar with military culture? Sure.

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I mean, the quick answer is it's both. I think the military tries to be very apolitical, at least kind of in a public a public sense. I mean, this is a fascinating topic to me, like the the civil military relations since the end of the draft and the transition to an all volunteer force. People have gotten PhDs about that. So that's a huge, massive conversation. But the Hatch Act prohibits, politically speaking, out and becoming politically involved.

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So if you're on active duty, you just can't get so. And moreover, you shouldn't because it's ethically you ought to be kind of you know, you're there to execute policy. You're not there to weigh in on how to make it. Now, once you get out, you know, it's you can kind of say whatever you want. You're a private citizen and you have First Amendment rights just like everyone else.

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And we've seen some very high profile military figures lately do just that. And so I wonder if they're doing that at some personal risk to themselves or if they're free and clear. And are you able to speak to that?

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There are some there are some very brave individuals. Bill McRaven, Mark Hertling, kind of immediate. There's there have been a host of kind of former four stars. And in my opinion, they haven't done enough because the threat to this democracy is so great. My organization, we're a bunch of excellence corporals and lieutenants, and we're trying to take the fight to the Trump and Trump ism. And we could use some more help. So, hey, if you're an export star, listening to this podcast, let's get in touch.

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But this is an existential threat to our to our democracy. And I am baffled that more retired command sergeant major and two star generals are not speaking out, but there.

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But there are many who are like yourself. And and we at the Lincoln Project, we're building a coalition, a veterans coalition with lots of former military members and cabinet members who are who are joining our ranks every day. Judy, I wonder if you have thoughts on why so many members of the military in particular are speaking out.

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Against Trump, I mean, if for all the reasons probably we've discussed so far, but there are other things that we haven't we are not a military family, but I would think just as general citizens, if they're anything like me, I'm embarrassed by our president in the international, how he presents himself internationally. It's a folly. And, you know, if I was in the military, especially in a leadership position in the military, knowing that this is how he is representing our nation across the world, I would be horrified knowing that I had to then follow up in in one of those nations and try to clean up the mess.

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Our relationships across the globe have been so greatly damaged by this man. It's I just hope and pray that world leaders, especially democratic world leaders, will give us a second chance. And and I hope and pray that after November, someone who understands world relations and international politics will help heal the world from this man because he's just damaged the whole world.

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Do you think it's do you think it's unfair to say that that really Americans can't claim to care about our military members and support the president at this point, at the same time?

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I can't speak for other people, but what I can tell you is that. He has no clue what honor is, and having raised a son who chose such an honorable job in the in the military and who after 9/11 was ready to enlist and held off because we wanted him to get his college education. I think Trump is fundamentally incapable of understanding honor and commitment to this country, and so even the military piece aside, I don't understand how anyone can support him in this job.

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We talked about whether you'd trust Donald Trump with your child's life, and I wonder when we think about Joe Biden, whose son was in the Delaware Army National Guard and deployed in Iraq in 2009, and someone who has seen great tragedy in his personal life. How do you think about a President Biden and maybe draw some contrast to to our current president? One of the things we're doing at the Lincoln Project, obviously, is is speaking to Republicans who are making up their minds about who to vote for in November.

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And many of them have never voted for a Democrat in their life. And this might be the first time. They might be the only time they do. But it's a very sincere question for them. And and and a lot of them are still on the fence and aren't sure. So from the from the context that we're approaching this conversation, how do you draw a contrast between the choices and focusing on on Joe Biden as far as the alternative to Donald Trump?

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I would advise people who would like to hear Joe Biden talk about grief, to look at to look under YouTube. There is a YouTube video of a presentation he gave to at a Tap's Retreat, the tragic assistance program through the military for Gold Star Families. And in his presentation, he talked about his grief experience when his wife and daughter were killed in the car accident. And he is so genuine and so willing to take an emotional risk with that group of families.

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It's it's phenomenal. It's a phenomenal presentation. And I think for me, he is a real person. He has lost two children, one in a car accident and one to cancer. He has. Gone through his life, being turned upside down and knows what it's like to muddle through that time and come out on the other side, and a lot of people have asked me, well, how do you stay strong? How do you deal with your grief on a day to day basis?

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And the most honest answer is, I don't have a choice. Know, I could, I guess, lay in bed in a fetal position, curled up in a ball and just not function. But I have two other children. Joel's wife know we we need each other. And and I think Vice President Biden has those those strengths and skills. He has met tragedy and he has come out a better person on the other side and he's honest about it.

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He's willing to go out on a limb and and talk about it. And I think that that is something that Donald Trump is incapable of. He has obviously lost family members to death and it didn't even seem to faze them. Dan, what are your thoughts? I voted mostly, but not exclusively Republican, my adult life. I consider myself a conservative and here's what I would say to any conservatives who are kind of on the fence is, guys, it's OK to vote for Biden.

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This is not a normal election. This is an existential crisis to our democracy. We can argue about Social Security after this. We'll get that. You know, Republicans, you know, you were kind of good in some ways in those Obama years as the minority party. But just it's going to be OK. It's going to be fine. But you've got to do the right thing for the country. The country is more important than the Republican Party by leaps and bounds and orders of magnitude.

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Vote for Biden. Now, that being said, you know, particularly how it relates to the military, I think there's a few very serious, relevant differences between the two the two men. I mean, the thing about Trump is it's very impulsive, right? So that's not a good quality in in in a leadership where people are in a life and death profession. It's it's a quality that multiple people at multiple times, including General Mattis, have said, well, it's a slow walk, this one, and wait till he calms down a little bit.

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Well, eventually, one of these things is going to bite the adults in the room, quote unquote, in the butt, because, you know, he's just getting more senile. He's just getting more impulsive and spontaneous and not thinking things through. Now, you hear the argument, oh, Joe's getting senile and stuff like that, too. But, you know, Joe, Joe Biden's not going to surround himself with enablers and yes-man the way that Trump does.

[00:41:09]

And so I feel a lot better about in this election, in this particular set of circumstances, Joe Biden than I do Trump. And that's both as a as a civilian now and when I think of my own military service. Before we start to wrap up, I wonder if there's anything that you wish someone would ask you about your experience. I ask this because I'm coming into these conversations with the questions that I think our listeners need to hear and the information they need to understand.

[00:41:52]

But I also want to make sure that we're not missing part of the story or part of your experience or part of the wisdom that you might have to offer to folks, because I didn't bring the right question. So is there something that you've never been asked that that you wish you had done?

[00:42:09]

So maybe not. Maybe not a direct question per say, but I'd like to know at least use this platform to offer a thought on on military service in general, especially especially now the military. There's a lot of hero worship, I think, on behalf of the general public, some of it very well placed. I mean, someone like Joe, someone who who lost their legs in an IED. Those are special people who deserve to be commemorated, who deserve to be remembered, and their sacrifice deserves to be honored veterans.

[00:42:48]

But I want to say this clearly, veterans are not victims. There is kind of a lot of, you know, whether it's Hollywood, whether it's kind of just the popular press. You don't need to thank me for my service, OK? I didn't do I played one small part in a couple of deployments. Right. Like, that's why I chose to do that. I volunteered to do that. That was my decision. Most of us do not have PTSD.

[00:43:20]

I do not have PTSD. Most combat veterans do not have PTSD. We're we're a whole people. We're proud of what we did, but we are not victims. And this kind of trope of the veteran as a victim who is sort of, you know, abused as a pawn for the most part, that's just untrue. Are there are exceptions to that? There are folks who had horrible things happen and deal with and struggle with mental issues, mental health issues when they come back.

[00:43:55]

For most of us, you know, we just want to be treated like like fellow citizens because that's what we are. We are not victims and, you know, and we take our citizenship seriously. And speaking out against Trump is less about me being an ex anything and more about me being an American citizen who takes this democracy and our rule of law seriously. So that's that's all I would say. I know it's not exactly what you asked, but.

[00:44:27]

No, it is. That's that's really helpful. And I think a lot of people need to hear that. Appreciate it. OK, I think there's there's this one last question that I've asked lots of guests so far with a wide range of answers that are all equally powerful. And so I want to ask both of you then maybe you could go first and and then, Judy, but. He's got five minutes in a room with Donald Trump, and there's no cameras, there's nobody watching.

[00:45:01]

It's just the two of you and you have an opportunity to say something to him. What do you say? What I would say is I would ask him, do you understand the consequences of this awful lot? Do you? I'd be curious to know if he does he actually understand that when he tweets off something silly at 3:00 in the morning, he's upset people take that seriously? Does he understand that there are people getting hurt and getting killed in the streets right now because of things that he's at it?

[00:45:40]

Does he understand that he's throwing gasoline on the fire and these are real people? That's that's what I would ask him. Or do you get it? And do you even I mean, do you even care? But do you do you get it? Understand that this office that you told is incredibly important and has real world consequences. Do you do you understand that we're a democracy and interfering with our elections is if you can't make an argument and convince the American people that you should be elected, you should be elected, don't try to cheat.

[00:46:17]

You know, that's that's what I'd be curious. I'd be curious to see if he even gets it.

[00:46:23]

Yeah, Judy, this was a wonderful question for me, because I have mentally rehearse this so many times. I'm not even with President Trump yet, but actually a couple other people. So I'm just I wrote it down and I'm I'm going to say it as I thought it. Mr. President, my son Joel took an oath, just as you did, he vowed as a pair of rescue combat rescue officer to put his life and safety second to those he set out to rescue, living the motto, these things we do that others may live.

[00:47:02]

You, sir, have done the exact opposite. Rather than giving selfless service, you have demonstrated self-centered, selfish service you have gained personally while the American people have lost jobs, safety, environmental stability and their lives. Because you, sir, sir, have put yourself and your interests above all else. Joel graduated from what the military calls Superman School, yet he remained humble. You have placed yourself on a pedestal built of lies, conceit and greed.

[00:47:40]

I wish I could trade places with my son so he could help vote you out of office. Thank you to Judy and Dan for coming on the show and thanks to everyone at home for listening. You can find more information about our movement and Lincoln Project U.S.. Now, if you have advice or questions about the podcast, please email us at podcast at Lincoln Project U.S. Even if we don't respond, please know that we read everything we get and we appreciate it if you haven't yet.

[00:48:16]

Please make sure to subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts and rate and review the show. This helps more voters find the show and join our movement to defeat Trump and Trump ism at the ballot box for the Lincoln Project. I'm Ron Suslow. I'll see you in the next episode.