Trump Time Capsule #109: ‘Unqualified and Unfit’

Robert Gates (center) receiving the Liberty Medal five years ago. Gates has served under every Republican president since Richard Nixon, and every Democrat since then too. This week he said that the GOP nominee was "unqualified and unfit" for office. (Tim Shaffer / Reuters)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Robert Gates is as experienced a national-security figure as America now has. He joined the Air Force when Lyndon Johnson was president and has served under every president, Republican and Democratic, since then. He was deputy CIA director under Ronald Reagan, CIA director under the first George Bush, and Secretary of Defense under both the second George Bush and the only Barack Obama. He is also very sure-footed in bureaucratic, domestic, and international politics, as his long record of appointments might suggest and as his surprisingly score-settling memoir Duty makes clear. In foreign policy he is more “realist” than neocon.

In an essay for the the Wall Street Journal this week, Gates takes a little time getting to his conclusion, including laying out the reasons he’s lukewarm to (his onetime Cabinet colleague) Hillary Clinton. But conclude he does, in forthright terms:

At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.


If you’re keeping score at home, here are some of the senior figures who have declared Donald Trump “unfit,” “dangerous,” “reckless,” or in other ways unsuitable for service as President:

  • The current U.S. president, as reported in Time Capsule #67;
  • Apart from Gates, two other former CIA heads, including one who said Trump had become “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” in #70;
  • A former Prime Minister of Sweden, calling Trump “a serious threat to the security of the West,” #61;
  • Some 50 former military, intelligence, and foreign-policy appointees from Republican administrations, “most reckless president in American history,” #72;
  • Another 160-plus foreign policy experts—“Mr. Trump’s foreign policy vision has inspired alarm … in allied capitals throughout the world”—also #61;
  • A former Republican president, by implication in saying that he would take the unprecedented step of voting for the Democratic rival, #107.

So it stands with 47 days to go, no tax records or non-Dr. Bornstein medical information forthcoming, and the Republican establishment saying: He’s fine.

To say it once more: nothing like this has happened before.


Colin Powell? Condi Rice? George Tenet? Your G.W. Bush-era Cabinet colleagues Robert Gates, and before him Henry Paulson, Michael Hayden, Michael Chertoff, John Negroponte, Tom Ridge, and others have set the precedent of doing the right thing. Dick Cheney will never do so, but you have the opportunity, and not just in leaked emails.