Among the signatories are former officials from the Reagan administration; others who served both George Bush and George W. Bush; and a few, like John Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael Hayden, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency and whose service extended over both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Is this a good thing for Joe Biden? Most of these people, of course, are associated with the biggest U.S. policy disaster of the 21st century. They all supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a criminal blunder for the ages. On a once in a generation national security question, they demonstrated poor judgment. Among older voters who remember the run-up to the Iraq war—and the arrogance with which the Bush administration treated its opponents–the impact of this endorsement may well be negative.
These people will also likely have influence on Biden–who made the same mistake on Iraq and had the decency to apologize. If history is any guide, their influence will be negative.
That said, these former officials are not institutional vandals or self-interested grifters like the White House clique that is attempting to take over the U.S. intelligence community. They are public servants, and they can’t be defined by the Iraq issue alone. Former NSA director James Clapper was wrong about Iraq and mass surveillance. He was also right about COVID-19.
Joe Biden and the Democrats can’t forge a new foreign policy to end the endless wars and curb the surveillance state unless Trump is ousted. If these hawks can help persuade die-hard conservatives that the price of Trumpism is too high, then their endorsement is welcome. They can probably reach a group of voters who will not listen to arguments from any Democrat. Let’s hope.
“While some of us hold policy positions that differ from those of Joe Biden and his party, the time to debate those policy differences will come later. For now, it is imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy,” they added.
One other point: under Trump, these Republicans have personally experienced, perhaps for the first time in their privileged lives, the dangers of unchecked presidential power. For the first time, the abuse of presidential power has actually harmed them.
They should know that over the years, many millions of people have experienced harm from the abuse of U.S. power. Maybe these former officials have learned something about the need for the rule of law in U.S. foreign policy and intelligence activities.