Donald Trump threatened to veto the annual defense authorization bill if bases named in honor of Confederates are renamed. While Pentagon brass have indicated they are open to the idea of renaming bases that honor Confederate soldiers and politicians, Trump has steadfastly resisted the idea.
I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020
Last month, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Trump won’t sign any bill that renames bases named for Confederates. “It’s a non-starter,” she said.
But even many Republicans are onboard the name change train.
Nonetheless, the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to its version of the National Defense Authorization Act proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that would force the Pentagon to remove names, monuments and paraphernalia honoring the Confederacy from military bases over the next three years.
Senior military leaders including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy also expressed openness to renaming the 10 Army bases and facilities named after Confederate leaders, but encountered opposition from the president, who tweeted that his administration “will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
Trump has consistently stood with southern traditionalists on the issues of statues and bases. Of course, this has made it easy for liberals to accuse him of being a racist. But Trump has exercised his considerable power as president to preserve the history at stake.
Trump’s veto threat, if realized, would represent his latest display of presidential power aimed at protecting tributes to the Confederacy and other memorials complicated by the country’s racist past. He issued an executive order last Friday directing the Justice Department to prioritize the prosecution of protesters who damage federal monuments and to limit federal funding for local governments perceived to not be adequately protecting them.
The mania to change history and go after those who stand up to their skewed version of the past will continue until enough people stand in their way and prevent them from succeeding. But the $740 billion defense bill is not the vehicle for either side’s argument in this fight. Why can’t Warren offer her own bill to rename the bases rather than attach it to vital legislation?
Politically, she knows that it might not pass the Senate. But does she really have to hold a gun to the head of some Republicans by forcing them to accept the base renaming amendment in a defense authorization package? Try for an up or down vote on the base renaming issue by itself.
Either way, it’s going to happen. Trump’s veto will be overridden by terrified Republicans who don’t want to be seen as “racists” for standing against the mob in an election year. And that’s a shame — shame for history and America.