Yes, I know, “McRaven started it!” Nonetheless this is stupid for all sorts of reasons, a reminder that in his haste to “counterpunch” Trump sometimes punches himself in the face.
Trump on retired Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who called Trump's attacks on the press "the greatest threat to democracy."
"He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer. And frankly, wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?" pic.twitter.com/lyaBvC9KFd
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 18, 2018
McRaven didn’t endorse anyone in 2016. Either Trump’s confusing him with some other high-ranking officer (John Allen, maybe?) or he’s lumping all of his critics together in a “must have backed Hillary” box regardless of their criticism.
“I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else,” McRaven, who oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, told CNN. “I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times.”
“I stand by my comment that the President’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime,” McRaven said, referencing remarks he made about Trump last year. “When you undermine the people’s right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands.”
Trump taking Wallace’s bait and jabbing at McRaven is impressive in this sense: Of all the military personnel in the United States, there may be no single group that enjoys more goodwill from Americans of both parties than the unit that took out Bin Laden. You could make a case that, from a standpoint of pure politics, McRaven is quite literally the last person in the military whom Trump should want himself pitted against. Even his Republican allies are uncomfortable with it:
I don’t know if Adm. William McRaven shares my political views or not.
But I do know that few Americans have sacrificed or risked more than he has to protect America & the freedoms we enjoy.
His military career exemplified honor & excellence.
I am grateful for his service.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 19, 2018
If Rubio doesn’t move you, how about Rob O’Neill? Not only was he part of the Bin Laden raid, he claims to have fired the fatal shot:
ADM McRaven was born to lead this mission. I’ll follow him anywhere. If only people heard the real speech he gave the Team…. https://t.co/KEzkIgYIcG
— Robert J. O'Neill (@mchooyah) November 18, 2018
The mission to get bin Laden was bipartisan. We all wanted to get him as soon as we could.
— Robert J. O'Neill (@mchooyah) November 19, 2018
We could only fly so fast, bro. https://t.co/yAFgsQZUsb
— Robert J. O'Neill (@mchooyah) November 19, 2018
O’Neill’s not a liberal, as you probably know from his Fox News appearances.
Needling McRaven about not catching Bin Laden sooner doesn’t even make sense on the merits. It was the CIA’s job to find him, not McRaven’s. And it invites criticism of Trump’s own failures:
It also invites criticism of his multiple recent no-shows at military cemeteries, both in Arlington and in France, which is what Hayden’s alluding to in his reference to Belleau Wood. Chris Wallace asked Trump about another notable snub in yesterday’s interview, his failure thus far to visit the troops in war zones. That’ll happen, said POTUS, before reminding Wallace that he opposed the Iraq War. (Which isn’t even true, but whatever.) Imagine a Democrat defending the fact that he hasn’t visited soldiers abroad by noting that he opposed the wars they fought. Obama opposed the Iraq war too and met with U.S. troops in Baghdad less than three months after being sworn in as president.
And of course the dust-up with McRaven inevitably leads people to compare his military record with Trump’s, reminding voters of the multiple Vietnam-era deferments that led Tammy Duckworth to refer sneeringly to POTUS a few months ago as “Cadet Bone Spurs.” That would be bad enough, but this is at least the second time that Trump has publicly second-guessed a war hero’s abilities. The first was his “I like people who weren’t captured” shot at McCain in 2015, implying that McCain was somehow at fault for his own captivity. Trump may be the only figure in American life, political or otherwise, who can denigrate the service of a celebrated serviceman without ever having served himself and reliably receive cover for it from the “pro-military” Republican Party. It’s too easy to say that Republicans would have had conniptions if Obama had said what Trump has said; they would have had conniptions if anyone had said what Trump has said. If a particular politician enjoys near-total immunity in behavior that would be excoriated in any other case, how earnest can the excoriation be in those other cases?
I mean, really:
Worth noting after recent comments: Retired Adm. William McRaven was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s short list for Vice President in 2016.
He’s been critical of President @realDonaldTrump— even dating back to the 2016 campaign.
He’s hardly a non-political figure.
— GOP (@GOP) November 19, 2018
As it is, this will be the takeaway for most voters:
What may be most notable about the President's attack on McRaven is that it is not new but fits a pattern he established with McCain, Khizr Khan, and Mueller: Military heroism and sacrifice is no protection if you criticize Trump.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) November 19, 2018
There’s no achievement so great, up to and including killing the mastermind behind 9/11, that it can absolve a man from the sin of criticizing Donald Trump.
He tweeted a bit about this earlier today to try to steer the focus away from McRaven and back to Pakistan’s deficiencies, which suggests that he knows this particular war of words isn’t a winner for him.