Sen. Tom Cotton Floats Vetting Senior Military Nominees' Views of Critical Race Theory

Sen. Tom Cotton Floats Vetting Senior Military Nominees' Views of Critical Race Theory

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said during a discussion Thursday that he may vet senior military officers’ views on Critical Race Theory before approving their nominations for promotion.

Cotton — himself a military veteran — opposes introducing Marxist-based Critical Race Theory into the U.S. military via military leaders’ recommended reading lists and diversity trainings. The issue rose to prominence after Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier was fired from his command at Space Force after warning that Critical Race Theory was spreading throughout the military.

As a senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Cotton has the ability to place a hold on a senior military officers whose nomination for promotion needs Senate confirmation.

During a discussion hosted by conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, he said:

It’s gotten worse over the last six months. That’s one reason again I’ve highlighted it and I’ll continue to highlight, and I may start probing nominees to be promoted to the ranks of O-7 to O-10 on their views on it and what’s happened in their commands. You know, normally, as you know, military nominations are handled at the staff level, there’s not a deep review unless there’s a red flag.

There’s almost never a confirmation hearing unless it’s also a four-star promotion to a major combatant command or one of the services. But maybe it’s time to change that. Maybe it’s time that we start ensuring that our flag officers subscribe to those very basic principles that are outlined in our Declaration or [Martin Luther] King’s Dream speech.

An O-7 rank and above is the general officer level in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and rear admiral level in the Navy.

Cotton recently grilled Naval Chief of Operations Adm. Michael Gilday after Gilday defended putting critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to be an Antiracist on his recommended reading list for the entire Navy force.

Cotton asked Gilday if he agreed with some of Kendi’s assertions in the book, such as that capitalism is racist. Gilday — who said he has read the book himself — said he would have to understand the context of that assertion. “Sir I’d have to go back to the book to take a look at that,” he said.

Gilday also argued that reading the book was important to understand racism:

In talking to sailors over the past year, it’s clearly obvious to me and others that the murder of George Floyd and the events surrounding that and the discussions in this country about racism which go back for years and years and years are still a painful part of our culture and that talking about them, understanding them is the best approach.

The issue of Critical Race Theory being taught in the military flared up last Wednesday after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley defended it as way to understand what enemies are thinking, but also, to understand what propelled the “white rage” of January 6.

After Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) asked him to respond to questions by Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about Critical Race Theory being taught at West Point, Milley offered his opinion, saying:

I’ll obviously have to get much smarter on whatever the theory is. But, I do think it’s important actually for those of us in uniform to be open minded and be widely read and the United States Military Academy is a university and it is important that we train and we understand– and I want to understand white rage and I’m white, and I want to understand it.

So, what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here and I do want to analyze it. It’s important that we understand that because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardians, they come from the American people. So, it is important that the leaders, now and in the future, do understand it.

I’ve read Mao Tse-tung. I’ve read–I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So, what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And, I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers of being ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.

Milley has taken heat from Republicans since then. Former President Donald Trump released a statement about Milley on Wednesday, calling for him to resign.

“Gen. Mark Milley’s greatest fear is upsetting the woke mob,” Trump said.

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Kristina Wong