Editorials

Stop playing politics with national security

Activists heckle former Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary and CIA director, as he speaks Wednesday during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Activists heckle former Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary and CIA director, as he speaks Wednesday during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The Associated Press

American security is nothing to trifle with, or undercut with publicity stunts and nationally televised catcalls. And yet that’s what happened this week as elements of both parties put personal politics before national defense.

It was unsettling enough that Donald Trump spouted off at a Wednesday news conference, inviting Russians to hack and release Hillary Clinton’s emails. Not to be outdone, Democratic delegates at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia also saw fit to make Americans a little less safe by shouting down two respected voices on defense on national TV.

Retired Rear Adm. John Hutson was trying to make points about Trump’s cavalier views on national security at the Democratic convention when a fringe group of delegates began chanting loudly. Later, when former CIA Director Leon Panetta spoke about the very real threats posed by radicals who would pervert Islam, a small but loud group tried to drown him out, shouting, “No More War.” Millions of viewers heard them.

From Trump’s “sarcastic” invitation to Russian hackers to Democratic delegates’ catcalls, this is no time to toy with national defense.

If only it were that easy. Radicals threaten this nation and many others. North Korea tests missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads. China has expansionist plans. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is an opportunist who has shown a willingness to invade neighboring countries and, perhaps, to meddle in American politics.

Trump’s comments on Wednesday prompted rebukes from Democrats, including Panetta and Hutson, and forced fellow Republicans, including his running mate Mike Pence, to do damage control.

“Most likely, Donald Trump was simply making light of Hillary Clinton setting up her own homebrew email server that trafficked in classified information,” offered House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Tulare. “Nevertheless, now that he is officially a candidate for president, Trump should consider that his public comments will receive much more scrutiny than before – especially when it comes to U.S. foreign relations.”

On Thursday, Pence claimed Trump was being sarcastic, though the joke was lost on the public. This nation has 150,000 troops stationed overseas, in harm’s way. NATO troops must be on the ready in the Baltics and other former Soviet bloc nations.

They cannot be pleased that the man who would be their commander in chief is making light of Putin, who has destabilized Ukraine, annexed Crimea and regularly threatens small countries that, until Ronald Reagan’s presidency, were part of Russia’s orbit. We’re not pleased either. It’s time for all sides to stop heckling national security.

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