It almost was unfair. Almost. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III is a West Point graduate. He holds a Master of Arts degree in counselor education from Auburn University and a Master of Business Management from Webster University, is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, the Army Command and General Staff College, and the Army War College. His 41 years as a command officer prepared him well to lead President Joe Biden’s Pentagon.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a graduate of Princeton and Columbia universities and has commanded thousands and thousands of troops. His chest brims with the medals he’s earned serving in Panama, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan during his impeccable 39-year military career.
Matt Gaetz, on the other hand, is a 39-year-old three-term Republican congressman with a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University, which is best known for its football teams. During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, Gaetz apparently didn’t realize how overmatched he was when he unwisely sought to challenge Austin and Milley on the issue of critical race theory (CRT) in the military.
CRT has become the talking point du jour for Republicans like Gaetz and their Fox News echo chamber. Gaetz used his time in the hearing to allege that CRT is corroding morale in the military. Austin slammed the door, hard, on Gaetz’s suggestion.
“We do not teach critical race theory,” Austin said. “We do not embrace critical race theory and I think that’s a spurious conversation.”
Milley then weighed in on Gaetz’s assertion. “I want to understand White rage. And I’m White,” the general said. “I want to understand what it is that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America. What caused that?” Milley also took umbrage at Gaetz’s implied suggestion that the military should simply ignore CRT and pretend like it’s not something to be understood.
“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers of being quote ‘woke’ or something else because we are studying some theories that are out there,” Milley said.
The best Gaetz could offer in response was a shake of his head.
You can watch the entire exchange below, courtesy of CNN.