In a letter to the editor two weeks ago in the Washington Post, I condemned the decision by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to deploy Virginia National Guard troops to the Texas border to stanch the flow of fentanyl from Mexico to the United States. I found the decision offensive, a blatantly inappropriate use of troops under the peacetime command of the governor.
An accompanying letter criticized the action on legal and constitutional grounds. The writer, a Virginian, was right.
Fentanyl arrives in the U.S. by tractor-trailer or by ship. Consequently, I wonder what the Virginia Guard soldiers are supposed to do. Hijack the trucks or the ships? To burnish his credentials as a possible presidential candidate in an already crowded field, Youngkin is misusing citizen-soldiers as political pawns.
The state is spending $3.1 million to deploy the troops. In so doing, he is implicitly signaling to Virginians that it is more important to spend their taxpayer money outside, than inside the state.
The governor’s logic is flawed. Political calculation is his motivation.
As a state resource, the Guard is intended to support citizens in event of manmade or natural disasters within the state. The border mission is the bailiwick of the federal government. Good, thoughtful governors consider the Guard a precious resource to be used in extreme need. Deployment to the Texas border represents crass opportunism as its worst.
Youngkin is deliberately thumbing his nose at President Biden. He hopes to show he is more sensitive to transmission of illegal drugs across the Texas border than the president. He is treading where he should not.
Publicity is more important to Youngkin than common sense.
Guard members’ families and employers can recognize a foolhardy political scheme. Regrettably, they will endure the absence of loved ones for self-serving governmental reasons.
My fellow letter-writer took a different tact, one focused on states’ rights versus federalism. He believes, as I stated earlier, border control is a federal responsibility. He goes further to compare the use of states’ rights as an argument for action akin to states seceding from the Union prior to the Civil War.
James R. Kunder of Alexandria, Va. wrote, “He (Youngkin) is contributing to a “states’ rights” perspective that erodes our national consensus on appropriate federalism. He is acting like pre-Civil War political leaders who ended up as Confederates. He is being disloyal to the United States with his near-treasonous policy. He has guaranteed that I—as a Republican voter—will never support him for any other elected office. Mr. Youngkin should read some U.S. history and put the nation’s interests ahead of his own,”
The strong scent of traitor-like behavior underscores Mr. Kunder’s criticism. I am a bit more circumspect in charging Youngkin with treason. Perhaps I have succumbed to low expectations of our political leaders based on the disgraceful performance of some (I am trying so hard to avoid mentioning the Mar-a-Lago resident).
Youngkin has acted carelessly and politically. His stature has diminished when he sought just the opposite. His disrespect for the proper use of the military is obvious.
Military units have undeniable expertise. They love to serve. They disdain ill-advised actions by civilian leaders. They can smell political deceit. The odor is pervasive.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.