Congressman Seth Moulton served four tours of duty with the Marines in Iraq, and he draws lessons from his military experience when weighing issues ranging from instability in the Middle East to veterans health care to a potential Donald Trump presidency.
Moulton touched on all of these subjects during the eighth LIVE Political Happy Hour, presented by Suffolk University in partnership with the Boston Globe on March 23.
Trump has dominated political discourse for months, and it didn’t take long for his name to surface during the interview, conducted by Globe reporter Joshua Miller. Moulton implored audience members to convince their “crazy uncle” not to vote for Trump, whom he said is “fundamentally opposed to our values and to who we are as Americans.” Those were not, however, Moulton’s harshest words about Trump.
“When you’re in politics, one of the cardinal rules is you never say what I’m about to say,” Moulton added. “But people should read the history of how Germany elected Hitler and just try to understand the analogies.… I’m not saying that Donald Trump is necessarily Hitler. I’m not saying that, but you ought to understand how an unbelievably advanced, educated society can elect a demagogue and how bad it can get as a result.”
When pressed on whether he thought Trump was capable of committing the same kinds of atrocities as Hitler, Moulton demurred, but he cited Trump’s proposal to carpet bomb the Middle East as an example of both his disregard for morality and his poor understanding of foreign policy.
“He has absolutely no idea how to fight terrorists without creating more terrorists in the process, so his ideas are not only radical, ridiculous, and immoral, they’re also really stupid,” Moulton said.
But Moulton didn’t reserve his criticism for Republicans like Trump. He also criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for how it handled the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, arguing that the United States should not have disengaged militarily unless it was willing to increase its engagement politically and diplomatically.
“I do think it’s fair to say that there are places, there are times when President Obama has not been engaged enough with the Middle East, and as a result we’ve now had to get back in,” he said, adding that, as someone who fought in the 2007 surge, it’s hard for him to return to Baghdad and see everything the military accomplished gone to waste.
Moulton's military service has also influenced his views on domestic policy. He recalled two recent occasions when his or his staff's personal experiences have underscored the need for reform at the Veterans Health Administration.
On one of those occasions, a Washington, D.C., hospital could not find Moulton’s records before a surgery, forcing him to wait. Then, after the surgery, Moulton was prescribed the painkiller Percocet but received Advil instead.
“I don’t know how many doctors are in the crowd, but it doesn’t work the same,” he joked.
In a separate instance, Moulton staffer Dennis Magnasco, an Army veteran, found himself in an infinite loop of referrals when trying to schedule an appointment at a Veterans Affairs facility. An automated voice system sent him from one menu to the next and then back to the original menu—over and over again. Moulton posted a video of Magnasco’s ordeal to his Facebook page, using it to promote a bill he filed in January, the Faster Care for Veterans Act.
“My bottom line is very simple,” Moulton said. “Our veterans deserve the best health care in the world.”