Last June, Florida representative Matt Gaetz used his allotted time during a congressional hearing to attack military leadership over the Republican–manufactured claim that the U.S military has become a bastion of wokeism by teaching critical race theory. Unfortunately for Gaetz, the stunt clearly didn’t pan out as he’d hoped, and he essentially had his ass handed to him on live TV. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him: “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke,’ or something else, because we’re studying [things like critical race theory] that are out there.… I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read…and it is important that we train and we understand.”
You might have thought that after that experience, Gaetz—a member of the party that talks a big game about its respect for “law and order”—would subsequently avoid churlishly attacking military leaders in general, let alone repeat that the armed forces have been infected by “woke” ideology. But you‘d have thought wrong!
On Tuesday, the conservative lawmaker used a House Armed Services Committee hearing about the Defense Department’s 2023 budget to berate Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the military’s supposed failures, which he pinned on the Pentagon’s alleged embrace of “wokeness.”
Referring to a February article in the conservative Washington Free Beacon that reported that Thomas Piketty, an economist whose work focuses on inequality, was slated to give a lecture at the National Defense University titled “Responding to China: The Case For Global Justice and Democratic Socialism,” Gaetz asked Austin why taxpayers should be funding talks that “embrace socialism.” When Austin said he was unaware of the lecture, Gaetz snarkily responded that it was “widely reported,” and asked the defense secretary if he agreed that “embracing socialism” would be an effective strategy. Naturally, as Austin began to reply, Gaetz cut him off, moving on to a line of questioning no doubt tailored specifically to appear in a clip on Fox News hours later.
“While everyone else in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic, we got time to embrace critical race theory at West Point, to embrace socialism at the National Defense University, to do mandatory pronoun training,” Gaetz said, to which Austin informed him that the U.S. military remains “the most capable” and “the most combat critical” force in the world and “will be so going forward.”
But Gaetz, who loves himself a camera, obviously wasn’t done. Sounding like a bratty teen yelling at his parents, the lawmaker lectured Austin: “You guys said that Russia would overrun Ukraine in 36 days. You said that the Taliban would be kept at bay for months. You totally blew those calls. And maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism.”
To this Austin asked him, “Has it occurred to you has Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done? And what our allies have done?” Gaetz, who undoubtedly believes he could lead the military if necessary, shot back: “That was baked into your flawed assessment,” before claiming that the Obama administration “tried to destroy our military by starving it of resources, and it seems the Biden administration is trying to destroy our military by force-feeding it wokeism.”
Austin, who clearly has more class than Gaetz, obviously did not use the time between questions from lawmakers to mutter something under his breath about the congressman being a smug little shit, or something to that effect. But it would’ve been hard to blame him if he had!
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