4 min

Marc Racicot is a former Montana governor and chair of the Republican National Committee.

Rarely stopping to inventory the essential qualities in human character, we all know them when we see them: decency, honesty, humility, honor and faithfulness.

Character is the lens through which, especially when pressure mounts and there is little margin for error, we all choose a path to be followed.

And though I’m somewhere between the autumn and winter of my life, I don’t claim to possess unique insight or wisdom. I also know that my voice is small, one of millions. But I’m certain that remaining silent is the wrong course for me and for all of my fellow citizens regardless of political party.

Read a letter to the editor responding to this piece.

My purpose is to urge all Americans of good sense and honest purpose to confront, define and vindicate the truth. Sometimes that truth has sharp edges, but nonetheless, it is still the truth. This is one of those times.

And so it must be said again: Donald Trump does not possess the essential qualities of character to lead this nation, most especially in a time of crisis.

My unease with Trump didn’t begin with his recent remarks concerning the barbaric invasion of Ukraine. It goes back to his arrival on the national political scene roughly seven years ago. I’m from Montana, where there is appreciation for leaders who speak their minds but an expectation they will also stick to the facts. It is also a place where drivel and deceit are quickly set aside as a waste of precious time. And, frankly, Trump is wasting our time.

If the former president’s recent remarks about Ukraine had amounted to just another ration of narcissistic self-indulgence, it would have been briefly noted, but not thoroughly examined. Such patent nonsense has become, after all, predictable and expected.

But his recent comments before and after the Russian invasion were laced with reckless propositions, cruelty and improprieties that continue to poison and fray the political life and social fabric of the nation.

The former president’s statement that NATO is nothing more than a “paper tiger” reveals a stunning ignorance of the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty, as well as the solidarity and 73-year history of the alliance.

As Stalin’s Soviet Union was taking control of numerous sovereign nations after World War II, the treaty was signed by the original 12 members of the pact and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1949. During the more than seven decades of NATO’s existence, 14 former Soviet and Soviet-aligned republics have joined the alliance. What started with 12 functioning democracies has expanded to 30 countries today.

NATO’s most ardent advocate was Arthur Vandenberg, a conservative Republican from Michigan, an avowed isolationist before witnessing World War II and the terrifying hegemony of the U.S.S.R. in its aftermath. Vandenberg worked tirelessly with the Truman administration to forge bipartisan support for the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and NATO while instructing his colleagues that “politics stops at the water’s edge.”

Greg Sargent: Five vile things Trump did to Zelensky and Ukraine that you forgot about

The vicious actions of the Russian president have been universally condemned by decent people everywhere. But not by Trump. To the contrary, the former president could express only his admiration of the Russian president’s tactics — describing them as “savvy,” “smart” and “genius.”

There is no record of anybody else, other than Trump, anywhere, at any time during this Russian massacre, who has described Vladimir Putin’s actions as “savvy,” “smart” and “genius.”

That’s not all. The former president then went on to make light of the situation in Ukraine, telling his donors in New Orleans that the United States should put the Chinese flag on its F-22 planes and “bomb the s--t” out of Russia. “And then we say, China did it. ... They start fighting with each other, and we sit back and watch.”

In addition to revealing a complete lack of maturity and morality, such comments expose an appalling lack of compassion for the destruction of the lives, culture and country of the people of Ukraine. And they remind us, once more, how critical the character and stability of one person can be.

Those who, during this painful moment in human history, find any redeeming value or humor in the former president’s remarks; or who continue to ignore his profound lack of knowledge or intellectual curiosity; or who excuse his lack of regard for the truth; or who consciously or unconsciously modify the priorities of their own character or moral imperatives to secure his favor, or the favor of his disciples, might do well to remember the words of author J.M. Smith: “If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.”