Tue. Oct 3rd, 2023

Representative Doug Lamborn, (R-Colo.), is accused of urging generals who disagreed with the president to resign. (photo: Getty Images)

Representative Doug Lamborn, (R-Colo.), is accused of urging generals who disagreed with the president to resign. (photo: Getty Images)

On September 25, 2014, Corey Hutchins posted a piece on Medium.com with a headline strange enough to serve as a warning all by itself, since it suggested that some Republicans were somehow, actively plotting against the president, right now, as you read the headline:

Congressional Republicans Urging
Military Officers to Rebel Against Obama

“Rebel Against Obama!” That sounds pretty spectacular, like “Seven Days in May” or some other political conspiracy fiction, but the headline actually inflates the significance of the story that follows. The subhead gives a hint of the downsizing to come:

Colorado representative wants generals to quit in protest

If you react to the idea of generals quitting in protest (to whatever), it’s more intriguing than focusing on the desires of the lone “Colorado representative.” Still, it’s almost exciting to think about all those possible rebels in uniform, even if the rebellion under consideration is merely quitting the field of battle loudly. Here’s the way the story starts:

Members of Congress have been talking to U.S. generals behind the scenes and urging them to publicly resign “in a blaze of glory” if they disagree with how the White House is handling conflicts in the Middle East, according to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado.

The Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee made the remarks at a Sept. 23 liberty group meeting in the basement of a Colorado Springs bar … [sic] following a kilt-wearing contest.” [Links in original]

Corey Hutchins was apparently the only reporter covering Lamborn’s kilt-contest event with an audience of about 50. The rest of the story describes a relatively mundane exchange (see below) between an audience member and the congressman in which he allows that, as far as he knows, nothing like a rebellion is going on now, and hasn’t been for years. Neither the Pentagon, nor Lamborn’s office, nor the House Armed Services Committee responded to the reporter’s inquiries, and Lamborn’s Democratic opponent, a former Republican, issued an anodyne statement that said, in part, with little intelligence and less relevance to the actual event:

It is inappropriate for Congressman Lamborn to politicize our military for his own gain. Our elected officials should not be encouraging our military leaders to resign when they have a disagreement over policy. Congressman Lamborn’s statement shows his immaturity and lack of understanding of the American armed forces. Someone who serves on the House Armed Services Committee should know better.

That opponent is retired major general Irv Halter, 58, who once called himself “a common sense, get something done type of person.” He is the first serious competition Lamborn has faced since he defeated two colonels running as Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Describing his politics, and quoting Ronald Reagan without attribution, Halter told the Colorado Springs Independent in 2013:

I didn’t leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me. What disturbs me about the Republican Party is it’s become the party of “My way or the highway.” It’s all about a certain doctrine and if you don’t adhere to that doctrine, you’re called names….

If people want incendiary speeches about the other side, don’t come see me. Enough of that. Let’s send capable, competent people of character to Congress.

Now Halter’s campaign Facebook page features at least eight posts in reference to “Lamborn’s inflammatory comment” and asks you to contribute if you are “incensed.” And Halter’s rather slow and unreliable campaign website is full of the Lamborn “rebellion of the generals” story which, in the hands of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC September 26 became a “story” about a congressman fomenting mutiny in the military in a time of war. Seriously, that’s what she said, with almost no accuracy at all.

“… trying to inspire mutiny in the military during wartime….”

Maddow returned to the Lamborn story on September 30, saying the congressman was “trying to inspire mutiny in the military during wartime.” In the meantime, the MaddowBlog website has been posting skewed versions of the story almost daily. Other, non-local media have been slow to jump on this made up story, exceptions being Huffington Post and Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald, whose piece ran under the nonsensical headline: Talking Treason: Is Hatred of Obama Trumping Patriotism?

So what’s going on here?

Doug Lamborn is pretty much a lamebrain of the run-of-the-mill Republican variety. He’s a lawyer who spent 12 years in the Colorado legislature before being elected to Congress in 2006. His record is unspectacular. He has voted the party line more than any other Republican. He enjoyed shutting down the government. He’s prepared to shut it down again if he has the chance. He wants to de-fund public broadcasting. He doesn’t want to penalize people who hire illegal immigrants. He opposes more restrictions on dog-fighting. He referred to President Obama as “like touching a tar baby.” National Journal says he is the most conservative congressman.

His district includes Colorado Springs and is one of the most conservative, militarized, and Christianized districts in the country. All the same, someone like Lamborn might be vulnerable even there, when opposed by a centrist former general in a reasonable campaign that wasn’t helped by McCarthyite tactics from the left. That chance is gone, now, because Halter decided to run with the smear that Corey Hutchins set in motion and Rachel Maddow pushed over the top.

So what’s the proof that Lamborn has been smeared? Here’s the complete transcript of what Lamborn said about this subject, as provided by Hutchins, who recorded it. The transcript is credible, and begins with a comment from an audience member:

VOTER: Please work with your other congressmen on both sides of the aisles and support the generals and the troops in this country despite the fact that there is no leadership from the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House. [applause] It was not necessarily a question but [unintelligible].

LAMBORN: You know what, I can’t really add anything to that, but do let me reassure you on this. A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation. You know, let’s have a public resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory.’ And I haven’t seen that very much, in fact I haven’t seen that at all in years.

So was this snatch of dialogue at an obscure event with low attendance reported accurately anywhere? Or was it hyped, or misreported, or distorted, or lied about in a style made all too common on the right by Limbaugh, Fox, and the rest of that pack?

Whatever the motive, the reporting was corrupt and dishonest

Lamborn is the only source for this story, and there is no independent corroboration for any of the more lurid interpretations of what it might mean. Lamborn’s spokesperson has said that Lamborn was referring to conversations in the past, not current conversations about current military policy, which Lamborn supports even though it’s not bloody enough for his taste. What Lamborn was essentially talking about was resignation in protest, and its current rarity.

Resignation in protest is honorable.

Resignation from government in protest is as honorable as it is rare. It is an act of personal sacrifice for the sake of principle. Last February, Oklahoma Republican senator James Inhofe told reporters that some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were considering resigning in protest over Pentagon budget uncertainty; he wouldn’t say who they were, and they didn’t resign on principle. On September 28, American Thinker called for Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to resign for apparently contradicting his commander-in-chief on the issue of ground troops in the war against the Islamic State; Dempsey remains in office. This article concludes:

Resignation in protest is an honorable tradition, and one that seems to have been forgotten in recent decades, and not just in the military. It places duty above ambition, and in some cases, personal financial gain. General Dempsey has served this nation with great distinction for decades. Now he can cap his career with an important service, by letting the public and the Commander he serves know how grave the mistake is that he sees so clearly. He could revive a tradition that needs resuscitation, as well.

Perhaps the most dramatic resignation in protest occurred October 20, 1973, when President Nixon ordered the firing of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. Believing the president’s order to be illegal, Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned in protest. Believing the president’s order to be illegal, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned in protest. Solicitor General Robert Bork then executed the order.

Thomas Ricks, writing in Foreign Policy on September 26, puts the principle of resignation in protest in perspective as it applies to the military, and especially to the highest ranking military officers:

If he [Gen. Dempsey] slaps his four stars on the table and tells the president to find somebody else to pitch the next inning, it will make a real difference.

In a telling study of the Vietnam War, H.R. McMaster, now an Army general officer himself, castigates the military general-officer class of that era for quietly carrying out orders that they knew to be wrong. In 2003, many generals strongly disagreed with President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq, but none resigned in protest. How does this happen?

General officers have offered a number of rationalizations for lack of moral courage over the years….

“Republicans Urging Military Officers to Rebel Against Obama”???

Lamborn is recorded on tape saying, somewhat awkwardly, that an honorable general will resign on principle at some point when that principle becomes important enough. He doesn’t even say he or anyone has tried to persuade any general to resign, and he doesn’t mention any specific principle. He says only that resignation is an option for any general with principle.

That is not the same as what Hutchins reported: “Members of Congress have been talking to U.S. generals behind the scenes and urging them to publicly resign ‘in a blaze of glory’ if they disagree with how the White House is handling conflicts in the Middle East, according to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado.”

That report is fraudulent in many ways: in having only one source; in having no corroboration at all; in a made-up reference to the Middle East; and in falsely saying anyone was “urging” generals to resign, when all Lamborn actually said was that a resignation in protest was appropriate, conditionally, if a general had any principle worth resigning over.

Reality is not the same as what Rachel Maddow reported, starting with calling the Hutchins piece “a scoop” instead of an imaginary nothing. She ran the full tape on September 26, but when she re-ran it then and later, she omitted the critical last line: “I haven’t seen that at all for years.” And she rattled on for several minutes about things that were not in fact said, concluding, falsely, that: “… maybe Republicans in the House Armed Services Committee are en masse trying to incite mutiny in the military. Because that’s the prospect he raised …”

Actually, no, that’s NOT the prospect he raised, any more than he mentioned the House Armed Services Committee or said any group was working “en masse.” All of that is Maddow’s projection, based on a sloppy reading/hearing of what Lamborn said, which in no way came close to implying any “mutiny.” A mutiny, by definition, is a defiance or seizure of authority by lower ranks. A mutiny is quite the opposite of a resignation in protest, which is precisely what Lamborn said, and which is honorable.

The best thing to be said about these two reporters is that they didn’t get it anywhere near as wrong as Newsweek’s Eichenwald, who started his piece this way, untethered from reality:

Congressman Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, is an un-American demagogue, willing to sabotage this country for his own grandstanding narcissism. If his words are to be believed, this brigadier blowhard is thoroughly unfit for public office and instead should be rotting in jail on charges of treason.

What these reporters and their distortions have in common is an implied willingness to accept and defend the idea that being at war means that no one has a right to dissent any more, that going to war, even illegally, nullifies the Constitution. Now that’s something to mutiny against.


William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


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