President Donald Trump showed Sunday where his deferential respect for military officers stops: when they criticize him.
In an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, Trump insulted retired Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who commanded the 2011 raid that took down Osama bin Laden, calling him “a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer” and asking, “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”
Trump was responding to ongoing criticism from McRaven, who in August resigned from the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board over his disapproval of Trump. McRaven also wrote an open letter in the Washington Post in which he asked Trump, who had recently revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, to revoke his own, “so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.” McRaven has previously called the president’s anti-media sentiment “the greatest threat to democracy in [his] lifetime,” according to the Daily Texan.
Trump on retired Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who has called the president's attacks on the press "the greatest threat to democracy."— Axios (@axios) November 18, 2018
"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/tXsZHjJzaA
Trump went on to suggest that finding bin Laden should have been easy: “You know, living — think of this — living in Pakistan, beautifully in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, I don’t know, I’ve seen nicer. But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there.”
Others — from former soldiers to political commentators — have stepped in to defend McRaven on Twitter, calling him “a patriot and true hero,” as well as to correct the record. (McRaven never endorsed Clinton and maintained the military’s traditional apolitical stance while serving under Obama, though he was at times criticized for being too open with his opinions.)
Bill McRaven was NOT a Clinton “backer.” He never endorsed her or anyone for president. He was also on the short list that Chris Christie (then transition planning) put together of people who should be sought out for top natsec posts in a Trump administration. https://t.co/eFiw91oZTJ— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) November 18, 2018
FWIW, having served with Bill McRaven in Europe and Iraq, he is one of the best leaders and selfless servants of our nation I have ever met. Not a political bone in his body. https://t.co/YMoZkD0gMp— Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) November 18, 2018
It’s not the first time Trump has insulted a war hero
These comments are part of a pattern for Trump, who has repeatedly disparaged veterans from the late Sen. John McCain — whom he once mocked for being captured in Vietnam — to slain US Army Capt. Humayun Khan, whose mother Ghazala he implied had been kept from speaking because of her gender and religion.
Trump, who says he has the utmost respect for the troops, has also recently been criticized over his failure to attend military cemeteries in DC and France on important commemorative days, due to calls and rain, respectively.
According to a transcript, Wallace later went on to press Trump on why he hasn’t yet visited any American troops stationed in war zones, to which Trump replied that he was “unbelievably busy,” echoing his excuse for why he failed to go to Arlington Cemetery for Veterans Day:
I don’t think anybody’s been more with the military than I have, as a president. In terms of funding, in terms of all of the things I’ve been able to get them, including the vets. I don’t think anybody’s done more than me.
I’ve had an unbelievable busy schedule and I will be doing it. On top of which, you have these phony witch hunts. On top of which — I mean, we’ve just been very busy. But I will be doing that.