CAPITAL GRILLE, D.C. — The Beltway is oft seen as a cynical part of the world. Politicos seem more concerned with making gridlock than they are with making legislation. But once in a while, the bravery of one person can shock even the most experienced reporter.
Lt. Col. Durwood Hemlock (US Army, ret.) is a former Bush administration official who spearheaded numerous initiatives under the 43rd President of the United States. Yes, this hero of the Granadan War led such initiatives in Iraq as Operation Bury Alive and Protocol Jugular Slice. He is famous in the halls of the Pentagon for having written the acclaimed policy brief “My Lai 2.0: How To Get It Right This Time.”
As ardent a Republican as he is a defender of American freedom, Lt. Col. Hemlock surprised me this weekend by announcing that he would be voting for Hillary Clinton. It’s certainly extraordinary to hear a man who at the 2004 Republican Convention proclaimed that he would have “fragged Kerry in Cambodia if God saw fit to give me the opportunity” pledge for the Democratic nominee, but it’s an extraordinary year.
To better account for this soldier’s answer to a higher calling, I caught up with him at a favored D.C. hangout, the Capital Grille.
Seemingly poured into his grey civilian suit in place of his usual fatigues, my friend Durwood was virtually unrecognizable, save his eyepatch (though he never told me the exact origin story, he does have a palpable hatred of Nicaraguans that could explain it). As the soft shell crab sliders came to the table, he began to open up about his bold announcement.
“Believe me, Carl, I am no fan of the Clintons,” he said in his characteristic growl. “From their refusal to liquidate Arafat when he was sleeping peacefully at Camp David to the disgrace they laid upon an Oval Office that once hosted Colonel Oliver North, I am going to have to hold my nose in that voting booth. But Trump is a new threat.”
After I washed down some of that delicious crab with a Michelob Platinum, I asked what he meant by “a new threat.”
Lt. Col. Hemlock grimaced.
“He’s intemperate, petty, and a loose cannon. He’s in tight with Putin, NATO’s greatest enemy, and would sacrifice valuable allies like Estonia and Lesser Ossetia. You cannot have a man who is set off by a Tweet rewriting the Minor Combatant Torture Manual.
“Hillary Clinton as the leader of the free world may fit the 3 categories of how the Antichrist is described in Revelation, but Trump’s callous disregard for grand strategy would leave what was the Biblical Asia Minor in disrepair, prompting a sure opening of the Fourth Seal. No one can tell me that’s a lesser evil.”
But it wasn’t just foreign policy. After his retirement from CENTCOM in 2005, Lt. Col Hemlock led President Bush’s Committee To Investigate Gay Adoption. Trump, he says, is not a true conservative.
“Any oaf in a bar can grandstand about how much they despise immigrants. But can they name the specific passages in Corinthians that instruct why a man who lays with another man cannot raise a child in the eyes of The Lord?”
Though Lt. Col. Hemlock may be angered that he has to, in his words, “cast his lot with a woman who wears pants as if to prove some point,” he understands the dangers of a Trump presidency. And if a man who spent most of his adult life protecting Americans from those who do us harm says there’s a threat, I believe him.
Yet why would a lifelong Republican like Lt. Col. Hemlock sacrifice his standing with the GOP when it would be so easy for him to keep his head down and quietly vote against Trump? For that answer, I turned to an old friend.
It’s conservative intellectual and National Review blogger the Billiards Fool!
“Carl, it’s important for all patriots to speak out against Donald Trump’s overly permissive bathroom policies,” mewled my friend BF. “There’s a war on our public restrooms, Carl, and a war needs soldiers. Soldiers like Lt. Col. Hemlock constitute our front lines against gender-weaponized Others using our toilets.”
I can’t say I agree with my old pal Billiards Fool’s Target bathroom paranoia, but it’s clear to me that there’s a deep cleavage in the Republican Party. If Trump keeps losing good men like Lt. Col. Hemlock, it’s hard to see how the GOP survives the veritable waterboarding that is 2016.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years and is the host of the Digcast, a weekly podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at email@example.com or Tweet to @carl_diggler.