Part II of the Tata chronicles appeared on CNN’s website on June 15. This time, KFile revealed that Tata had called Obama “a manchurian candidate” — i.e., a sleeper agent — for “Hamas & Muslim brotherhood.” In other tweets, Tata accused the Obama administration of “sedition and/or treason” and threatened former CIA director John Brennan: “Might be a good time to pick your poison: firing squad, public hanging, life sentence as prison b*tch, or just suck on your pistol. Your call. #Treason #Sedition #crossfirehurricane #Obamagate.”
Part III was published on Tuesday. This time, CNN revealed that Tata had spread conspiracy theories about a “deep state cabal” seeking to undermine President Trump and accused the Obamas of “borderline treasonous” behavior. He also accused Brennan of supporting “the overthrow” of Trump. After Brennan quoted Cicero in a tweet, Tata purported to see this as a coded signal for Trump’s assassination: “As incompetent as @JohnBrennan was as a #CIA analyst (failure at Khobar Towers), we must assume he knows spy tradecraft. This is a signal to someone, somewhere. Cicero was assassinated for political reasons. This is a clear threat against @POTUS.”
After the first CNN story, many of the Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee announced their opposition to Tata’s nomination for undersecretary of defense for policy. After the second story, several of the retired generals who had initially endorsed him — including Joe Votel, the former head of Central Command, and Tony Thomas, the former head of Special Operations Command — pulled their support.
In desperation, Tata sent a letter to the committee trying to walk back his lunatic comments. “I have a strong record of inclusivity and bipartisanship in my commentary. However, I did misspeak in 2018 on Twitter in hyperbolic conversations,” Tata wrote. “There is no excuse for those comments, for which I take complete responsibility and also fully retract and denounce.”
Nice try, but anybody who displays such pervasive racism, Islamophobia, paranoia, incivility and sheer right-wing nuttiness is not remotely fit to fill a senior Defense Department post. It isn’t as if Tata misspoke once or twice. There is an extensive record of his making crazy comments that reveal he is better suited to run a QAnon bulletin board than the Pentagon’s policy shop.
I initially raised a red flag about Tata’s nomination on April 24, long before the CNN revelations. I noted that he left the Army under an ethical cloud and that he had a long track record on Fox News of sickening Trump sycophancy. Even when the president is pardoning accused war criminals, deploying troops to the border with Mexico in a political stunt, abandoning America’s Kurdish allies or striking a dubious deal with the Taliban, Tata cannot hide his enthusiasm. He is a Trump cultist, not an objective analyst. He has also trafficked in extremism on Fox: “There is intent to harm Western society by Islam,” Tata once said, and he has claimed that China’s initial attempt to cover up the novel coronavirus was “tantamount to detonating a nuclear bomb accidentally and killing 150,000 people.”
If someone with Tata’s wing-nut views is confirmed to a senior Pentagon post, it will further accelerate the politicization of the nation’s armed forces. Trump’s commissars tend to purge anyone at the Pentagon with a hint of independence. The casualties include Undersecretary John Rood (the position Tata has been nominated to fill), Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary for international security affairs, and Elaine McCusker, the acting comptroller. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a true profile in courage — may have his well-deserved promotion torpedoed for testifying truthfully about Trump’s attempts to extort Ukraine.
This is a disgraceful situation, and it will become simply farcical if a character straight out of “Dr. Strangelove” — you expect Tata to start raving any minute now about a Commie conspiracy to “sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids” — were to actually occupy a seat of power in the Pentagon. Tata’s nomination is now said to be in trouble, but, unfortunately, given the cravenness of Senate Republicans, he could still get confirmed.
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