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WATCH: Matt Gaetz thought he could get one over on the military. He was wrong.

Matt Gaetz questions the military yesterday (Photo: C-Span/YouTube)

Matt Gaetz was among GOP lawmakers who tried to take the military to task yesterday because they believe it’s become too “woke”. The military chiefs they quizzed were having none of it.

The DC lawmakers were questioning Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.

Why do they think the military is turning “woke”? Partly because an army recruitment advert recently featured a cadet from a same-sex parent family. Others have questioned a book on critical race theory being added to a recommended reading list for military cadets.

Gaetz (R-FL) also said that several unnamed service members had told him a military-wide “stand-down” – to address extremism in the ranks – had “impaired group cohesion.”

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Gaetz also claimed that Lloyd Austin’s senior adviser for human capital, diversity, equity and inclusion, Bishop Garrison, was a “critical race theorist.”

“Could you enlighten us as to what advice Mr. Garrison has given you and are you concerned that while you testified publicly to our committee that the department doesn’t embrace critical race theory, you have hired someone who is precisely a critical race theorist?” asked Gaetz.

This received short shrift from Austin, who replied, “This is the first I’d ever heard Mr. Garrison being described as a critical race theorist, so this is new.”

Fellow Florida Rep. Michael Waltz, then asked about cadets at the elite military academy West Point being taught about critical race theory in class. He thought such teaching would be “divisive.”

General Milley eloquently tackled this point and the wider issues raised, to Gaetz’s obvious disgust. C-SPAN caught Gaetz sneering and shaking his head at Milley’s considered response.

Critical race theory has been talked about for the last 40 years in academic circles but has only more recently entered mainstream debate. It explores the idea that racism and patterns of discrimination in the US have shaped its society, legal systems and institutions.

General Milley said it was important to teach cadets critical thinking skills. He said simply adding a book to a reading list did not mean every view within that book was supported by the military.

“I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin,” said Milley. “That doesn’t make me a communist.

“So what is wrong with understanding — having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?” Milley continued.

“And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”

“I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read … and it is important that we train and we understand.”

Milley went on to say he wanted to understand “white rage” and how it might have impacted events on January 6.

“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white.

“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it. … It is important that the leaders now and in the future do understand it.”

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Milley’s seemingly impromptu and impassioned speech earned plenty of comment on social media, as did Gaetz’s response.

You can watch the fuller exchange below.