While President Joe Biden has done little to nothing to hold the Pentagon accountable for foreign policy troubles in Afghanistan and Ukraine, according to Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not get a pass from the congressman at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.
Questioning from Gaetz to Austin about the military pushing ''wokeism'' and ''Democratic socialism'' turned heated and resulting in Gaetz blasting the Pentagon's struggles in miscalculating the swift Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
''No, I control the time,'' Gaetz scolded Austin for talking over his questioning. ''You guys have been blowing a lot of calls lately on matters of strategy, Mr. Secretary. You guys told us that Russia couldn't lose, you told us that the Taliban couldn't immediately win.''
Gaetz then asked Austin what will the $773 billion budget for fiscal 2023 do to help the Pentagon make ''accurate'' assessments — ''in the face of so many blown calls'' — when the National Defense University hosted a lecture on ''Responding to China: The Case for Global Justice and Democratic Socialism.''
Austin stared at Gaetz with no expression for seconds, before clicking to respond with no response, saying the budget speaks for itself.
''We're behind in hypersonics, we failed to deter Russia,'' Gaetz said.
Austin shot back quickly this time, cutting Gaetz off.
''What do you mean we're behind in hypersonics?'' Austin asked curtly. ''How do you make that assessment?''
After talking over each other debating the claim, Gaetz responded: ''By the way, your own people brief us that we're behind and China is winning. Are you aware of the briefings we get on hypersonics?''
Austin replied that he is, but Gaetz took the mic again.
''While everyone else in the world seems to be developing capabilities and being more strategic, we've got time to embrace critical race theory at West Point, to embrace socialism at the National Defense University, to do mandatory pronoun training.''
Austin jumped in to defend the U.S. military under President Joe Biden and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who infamously told Congress emphatically, ''yes, I want to understand white rage.''
''This is the most capable, the most combat-critical force in the world,'' Austin said with increased anger. ''It has been, and it will be so going forward.''
''Not if we continue down this path — not if we embrace socialism,'' Gaetz replied.
''Is [it] the fact that you're embarrassed by your country?'' Austin asked.
''No, no, no, I'm embarrassed by your leadership,'' Gaetz said. ''I am not embarrassed for my country.''
Gaetz added that it was ''disgraceful'' for Austin to conflate his ''failures'' for the ''failures of the uniformed service members.''
''You guys said that Russia would overrun Ukraine in 36 days,'' Gaetz continued. ''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 worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism.''
After talking over each other a bit more, Gaetz got the last word before yielding at the end of his five minutes of allotted time.
''I saw that the Obama administration tried to destroy our military by starving it of resources, and it seems the Biden administration is trying to destroy our military by force-feeding it wokeism.''
Gaetz is seeking reelection this year in Florida's 1st Congressional District. He faces three challengers in the Republican primary on Aug. 23, according to Ballotpedia. The general election is on Nov. 8.
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