I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked by Douglas Macgregor’s selection to be U.S. ambassador to Germany. When it comes to the appointment of officials, the Trump administration appears bent on refuting Darwin. Instead of evolution, we are seeing devolution. No matter how unqualified, dangerous or extremist an appointee, odds are that whoever comes next will be even worse.
Mike Pompeo is a worse secretary of state than Rex Tillerson. While Tillerson was merely ineffectual, Pompeo is actively malign: helping Trump ratchet up tensions with countries such as China and Iran, while alienating U.S. allies such as Germany and South Korea — and trying to blackmail Ukraine.
Mark Meadows is a worse White House chief of staff than Reince Priebus, John F. Kelly or even Mick Mulvaney. More so than his predecessors, Meadows actively enables Trump’s worst abuses, such as tear-gassing peaceful demonstrators and mismanaging the pandemic.
Chad Wolf is a worse secretary of homeland security than Kirstjen Nielsen was. While Nielsen was willing to torment undocumented immigrants, Wolf has become Trump’s favorite because he is also eager to wage war on unarmed demonstrators.
William P. Barr is a worse attorney general than Jeff Sessions was. While Sessions appointed a special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Barr has appointed a U.S. attorney to investigate the investigators — and generally acted as Trump’s personal attorney.
And so we come to the choice of Macgregor, a retired Army colonel, as U.S. ambassador to Germany. If confirmed, he would succeed Richard Grenell, a right-wing Twitter troll and Trump propagandist who most recently served as acting director of national intelligence. As I noted when he was appointed in February to briefly run the U.S. intelligence community, Grenell had a reputation for dishonesty and abusive behavior online. He alienated his hosts in Berlin by loudly lecturing them, and by seeking to promote right-wing populists in Europe.
Grenell did nothing to improve Trump’s toxic relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom the president reportedly bullies and abuses. In fact, Grenell is widely seen as the architect of Trump’s recent decision to withdraw nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany without consulting Berlin. Trump claims the redeployment is punishment for Germany being “very delinquent on their 2% fee to NATO.” In reality, no such fee exists (2 percent is a long-term goal set by the alliance for defense spending as a percentage of gross domestic product), and Trump is sending some of the troops to Italy and Belgium, which spend even less on defense than Germany does.
Macgregor is the last person you would choose to pour oil on these troubled waters. He would be more likely to set fire to the oil and revel in the flames.
Macgregor is a genuine war hero — he commanded a pivotal tank battle during the 1991 Gulf War — who developed a reputation as a maverick and innovator within the army. But since retiring, he has gone very far off the deep end. He is reminiscent of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who recently endorsed the QAnon cult, and retired Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata, who has just been appointed as acting deputy undersecretary of defense after failing to win Senate confirmation thanks to his racist rants.
CNN’s Kfile team has compiled a lengthy list of Macgregor’s horrifying views — many of them expressed on Fox “News.” He says that immigration from Mexico is our greatest national security threat and that Democrats are trying to “create demographic change that will make them the permanent power inside the borders of the United States.” He advocates that we declare martial law along the border and “shoot people” if necessary.
Macgregor has also been an outspoken critic of Merkel’s government. He claims that Germany “seems more concerned about providing free services to millions of unwanted Muslim invaders, to be blunt, than it does about its own armed forces in the defense of its country.” He even thinks that Germany has gone too far in making penance for Nazi crimes: “There’s sort of a sick mentality that says that generations after generations must atone for the sins of what happened in 13 years of German history and ignore the other 1,500 years of Germany.”
Like Trump, Macgregor has cast doubt on the NATO alliance, saying that we should withdraw our troops in Germany and make it clear “that we are not going to be the first responder” if allies are attacked by Russia. Also like Trump, Macgregor has a disquieting tendency to echo Vladimir Putin’s propaganda. While appearing on Russia’s state-owned RT, he justified the Russian invasion of Ukraine by falsely saying that eastern and southern Ukrainians are “clearly Russian” and “should be allowed to join Russia.” By contrast, he criticized the U.S. intervention to stop the ethnic cleansing of Muslims by “Orthodox Christian Serbs in Kosovo.”
Macgregor is a racist crackpot who is pro-Russia, anti-Merkel, anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican. He has no business representing the United States in any embassy, much less in one for an important ally. But I fully expect that if Macgregor is confirmed and Trump stays in office long enough to choose a successor, whoever comes next will be even more odious.
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