Radicalized: The Grooming of Doug Mastriano

The Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor is unfit for office, writes Bucks County military veteran Steve Nolan.
mastriano with christ sign
State Senator Doug Mastriano at the “Hear Us Roar” rally in Harrisburg on January 5. Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Spotlight.

Donald Trump’s inauguration address was a message of American Carnage. The first self-admitted sex offender to run for public office, and the first American politician with zero allegiance to truth, told the nation that the carnage was created by the former presidents sitting behind him. In reality, the carnage was about to be unleashed which would lead to two impeachments and an insurrection to overthrow the government of the United States. 

Doug Mastriano was in that crowd of confederates on Jan. 6; he was comfortable standing in solidarity with those committed to stopping the peaceful transfer of power. Mastriano is a former Colonel in the United States Army. He knows better (or should). He knows that he or I would have severely disciplined any of our soldiers who attacked law enforcement to break and enter a building. He knows the core values of military service, what duty, honor, integrity and selfless service look like and that we eliminate people from the military who “wash out” due to impulses they can’t control, who violate law, like the violence we witnessed at the nation’s Capitol or Geneva Conventions violations abroad. Why would a combat veteran, the son of a career Navy man, find himself embedded with insurrectionists attempting a coup of the government he served for so many years? 

Donald Trump has a great ability to radicalize others. Michael Cohen, the former president’s fixer, told Congress that you go to work for this man and find yourself doing things you never imagined. 

Our nation is in trouble because of that ability. Our former Commander in Chief is going around the country and appearing on television telling millions of Americans, including our Armed Forces, that their current Commander in Chief is illegitimate, that he stole an election. Doug Mastriano is peddling the same snake oil. The fact is that the highest law officer in the land, Attorney General William Barr, addressed the nation and assured us that he found no significant voter fraud in any of the 50 states, period. He resigned rather than support a lie. The “Stop the Steal” mob threatened to hang Vice President Mike Pence for opposing that same lie.  

Our military oath of office is a pledge to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I served 30 years, Army and Air Force, I am an Afghanistan veteran, both my brothers served in Vietnam, my parents both served in WWII. We all witnessed tremendous sacrifices for this country, including the ultimate sacrifice – patriots willing to spill their blood to protect the principles of freedom. One freedom is the right to belong to the party of choice, vote for the person of choice. Trump, as Commander in Chief, declared in rally after rally that Democrats are unfit to govern. Retired Colonel Mastriano knows that no military leader would ever utter such unconstitutional rhetoric to our troops  (roughly a third Democrat, Republican, Independent); and he knows that when Donald Trump said that white supremacists were “very fine people,” he was speaking of people disqualified from military service for unconstitutional beliefs. He certainly knows that when Donald Trump said that the Geneva Conventions tie the hands of our military that he was endorsing war atrocities. 

Doug Mastriano should have shown disgust when Donald Trump pardoned a war criminal, when he invited that former Navy Seal to his private home, Mar a Lago, and hailed him as a great warrior. 

He should have been appalled when Trump described Vladimir Putin as a “genius” for installing “peacekeepers” in Ukraine. Putin’s big lie is that he is denazifying Ukraine and its Jewish president. Trump’s big lie is that 81 million Americans did not decide the last election and that he won “by a landslide.” It is one thing for a pathological narcissist to make such a claim, it is quite another for a retired Army Colonel whose only oath has been to defend our constitution. 

Mastriano, like George W. Bush, should have opposed Trump’s assault on the first amendment when he declared the free press “the enemy of the people” and he should be opposed to the other assault of the First Amendment – trying to merge church and state. In his victory speech for the Republican primary for governor, Doug Mastriano looked to the heavens and said, “When we make His story our story we can make history.” At the end of his speech he said, “Let’s choose this day to serve the Lord.” How soon he has forgotten why we have priests, rabbis, ministers and imams as military chaplains; and how soon he has forgotten that atheists are also welcome into our military with equal rights and privileges because the military is a microcosm of American society committed to equally protecting the rights of all citizens.

The truth is this simple: If any service member claimed that they knew more than the generals, refused to believe that the commander in chief was a U.S. citizen, thought that sexual assault was due to putting men and women together, claimed that proven U.S. intelligence was a hoax, that the Geneva Conventions tie our hands, that Neo-Nazis are fine people, or that a free press is the enemy of the people, we would be obligated to discharge that person from the military. For the first time in American history we had someone in charge of the military who was unfit to hold the lowest rank within the military. Donald Trump exhibits a level of narcissism that renders him unfit for command. Doug Mastriano has no such clinical excuse, but by imitation and admiration has slowly rendered himself unfit for public office. 

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Steve Nolan

Steve Nolan spent 30 years in the military and 25 years as a mental health professional. He has published in numerous journals and his poetry was featured on National Public Radio, Morning Edition, upon his return from Afghanistan in 2007. He is the author of “Go Deep,” “Base Camp,” and “American Carnage, An Officer’s Duty to Warn.” His work reflects his commitment to social justice.

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