Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida was slammed after he threw a tantrum about "wokeism" in a tense exchange with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that prompted Austin to accuse him of feeling "embarrassed" of his own country.
Gaetz, speaking during a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing, accused the Pentagon of strategic failures, suggesting they'd prioritized "wokeism" and socialism over military preparedness.
Gaetz pressed Austin about a talk he gave on democratic socialism at the National Defense University. Conservatives seized on the speech as evidence "woke" politics had impacted the Pentagon's prognostications regarding Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
You can watch the exchange in the video below.
Heated exchange between @RepMattGaetz and @SecDef Austin.\n\nSecretary Austin: "This is the most capable, the most capable combat critical force in the world...the fact that you are embarrassed by your country--"\n\nRep. Matt Gaetz: "No. I am embarrassed by your leadership!"pic.twitter.com/U3H1S99GTv— CSPAN (@CSPAN) 1649175090
"You guys said that Russia would overrun Ukraine in 36 days."
"You said that the Taliban would be kept at bay for months."
"You totally blew those calls, and maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University actually worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism."
Austin defended the Pentagon, saying it obviously had not struck Gaetz "Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we've done and what our allies have done."
Gaetz later said the military had dropped the ball on the development of hypersonic weapons, which are primarily intended to be used offensively to destroy high-value enemy assets, including command-and-control facilities. He claimed his criticisms are not about "just the hypersonics."
To that end, Austin praised the United States military as the "most capable, most combat-credible force in the world."
When Austin accused Gaetz of feeling "embarrassed" of his country, Gaetz issued the terse response:
"I'm embarrassed by your leadership."
"It seems the Biden administration is trying to destroy our military by force-feeding it woke-ism."
Gaetz was heavily criticized following the exchange.
A few of Gaetz's critics suggested it is inappropriate for him to question Austin given he has never served in the military and is currently embroiled in a federal child sex trafficking investigation.
Federal authorities are investigating Gaetz on child sex trafficking charges after it emerged the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a probe into whether he paid a 17-year-old girl and took her across state lines for sexual purposes.
Gaetz denied allegations he violated sex trafficking laws and engaged in other sexual misconduct while in office by citing the age of consent.
Critics seized on these facts and others, saying Gaetz had grossly disrespected Austin.
I seem to have missed the part where Matt served in the military & is qualified to ask questions about the militaryhttps://twitter.com/cspan/status/1511375990966173699\u00a0\u2026— M-A.Stay\u2019Legit \u2122\ufe0f\ud83c\udde8\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\udde9\ud83c\uddea (@M-A.Stay\u2019Legit \u2122\ufe0f\ud83c\udde8\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\udde9\ud83c\uddea) 1649248061
Conservatives have long attacked the military for its initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion in addition to its efforts to purge White nationalist and White supremacist extremism from its ranks.
Last summer, in a statement designed to denigrate his progressive opponents and the military, Donald Trump Jr. claimed the United States armed forces failed to predict the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan because its generals were "too busy" learning about critical race theory and gender identity.
Trump Jr.'s statement misconstrued remarks made by General Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before Republican members of Congress who'd claimed the military is indoctrinating troops by teaching critical race theory, a body of legal and academic scholarship that aims to examine how disparate racial outcomes have shaped public policy via often implicit social and institutional dynamics.
At the time, Milley noted critical race theory is taught at West Point because it's a college.
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