The Biden-Trump Debate: A Question of Patriotism

Steve Nolan, a 30-year military veteran and author of “American Carnage: An Officer’s Duty to Warn,” explains why so many journalists' and pundits' takes on last week's debate miss the mark.
Trump supporters gathered at a rally at Washington DC’s Ellipse Park on Jan. 6 to watch a propaganda film prior to the insurrection. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

I am disappointed and, frankly, disgusted at the media reaction to the first presidential debate of 2024. 

Granted, President Joe Biden looked old and his gait has become markedly geriatric over the past couple years. However, there is a piling-on of “group-think” that is nothing short of voluntary national suicide. Many pundits have decided to make Biden’s poor performance in the debate their top story rather than the fact that Donald Trump is incapable of answering any question, on any subject, truthfully. This focus on Biden’s cognitive abilities would be warranted if it was additional evidence of something hinted at by cabinet members, military leaders who brief the president, or foreign leaders who meet with him and talk with him about national and international security issues. I’ve heard no such complaints or even hints of his cognitive decline.

As a career military officer this abandonment of the Commander in Chief feels like desertion on the field of battle after the first firefight lost to an enemy. This is not hyperbole, as the president likes to say, but warranted criticism, because this domestic enemy, Donald Trump, is a threat to the survival of the Republic; an enemy, who has, ironically, repeatedly declared these same members of the press to be enemies of the people.

Biden, admittedly had a bad night, but he came-off as over-prepared, over-memorized. When he froze toward the end of a long answer, he reminded me of an actor who flubbed the line of a script. But does the actor who forgets their lines have cognitive impairment?

Some of this county’s most famous journalists, from some of our most reputable news outlets, seem to have memory problems of their own – a memory of January 6th, where Donald Trump invited, incited and orchestrated a violent overthrow of the United States government. He watched for hours as our nation’s law enforcement officers were brutalized; 140 were injured and one died the next day. They are so concerned about appearing fair and balanced that they are sleeping with the enemy – one can’t help thinking that this bunch would have reported how meek and mild Neville Chamberlain looked next to the energetic, charismatic, forceful, Adolph Hitler. 

READ: The MAGA Movement Betrays the United States Military

Winston Churchill said that he was an optimist, that he didn’t see the point of being anything else. He realized the responsibility one has to the outcome of battle by influencing morale. Many of these leaders in the field of journalism are so committed to some grad-school sense of balanced criticism that they have lost any semblance of patriotism. And yes, it’s possible to be a great journalist and a great patriot at the same time. 

President Biden’s big mistake was debating Donald Trump in the first place because it gave Trump the legitimacy denied him by the 14th amendment to the Constitution, Section 3, which states that no person can hold any office, civil or military, in the United States who has engaged in insurrection or given aid and comfort to the insurrectionists. Not only did Trump invite the violence and refuse to protect members of Congress and his own vice president, but he told the violent mob, at the end of the day, that they were special and that he loved them. And, as I write this opinion piece, Trump continues to promise to pardon those convicted of sedition. There is no better example of aid and comfort.

The other reason these sunshine journalists should rethink their positions is that we already have all the safety measures we need even if their unproven allegations of Biden’s cognitive decline prove over time to be true. This is why we have a vice president waiting to assume command and why we have a 25th Amendment for the cabinet to remove the president if they judge that he is mentally incompetent to fulfill the duties of his office; which, by the way, was discussed privately by members of the cabinet on January 7, 2021. Two cabinet members, Elaine Chou and Betsy DeVoss, resigned that day, dramatically stating for American history that they could not serve a man whose decision-making threatened the peaceful transfer of power. 

READ: When Two Capitol Police Officers Who Defended Democracy on Jan. 6 Visited Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Republican Lawmakers Added Insult to Injury

Because I am a career military officer, this entire post-debate scenario infuriates me, as journalists and members of congress prove that they have no idea what it requires to be a member of the United States military. No one is allowed to break the law and remain in a position of leadership over others. There is no general or admiral nor sergeant or private who could steal classified documents, or be found guilty in a court of law of rape and fraud, and be allowed to stay in uniform. Never in American history have we allowed the Commander in Chief to commit crimes that would be a mandatory court martial. Trump has been given a pass for the most heinous crime in the history of our presidency (an attempt to overthrow our government), while those in position to influence millions of voters concentrate on the signs of aging of one of the most competent presidents in American history – one who presides over the most successful post-covid economy on the planet and who helped orchestrate a near-miraculous war effort against the vaunted Russian military.

This November vote to save your country – it’s an easy vote – because, for the first time in our history, there is only one candidate eligible or mentally qualified to be Commander in Chief. 

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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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