President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE on Monday stoked his latest unlikely feud —a fight with the decorated admiral who oversaw the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
Trump lashed out at retired Adm. William McRaven in an interview with Fox News on Sunday over McRaven’s criticism that the president’s rhetoric toward the press is the “greatest threat to democracy” in his lifetime.
Trump, asked about McRaven’s comments, suggested the U.S. could have captured bin Laden sooner and chastised the admiral’s perceived political leanings.
The president’s remarks were widely criticized by people on both sides of the aisle, but that didn’t keep Trump from doubling down Monday on Twitter.
“Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Support for McRaven filtered in from both political parties and members of the military community on Monday. Several individuals refuted the president's claim that the U.S. was slow to take down bin Laden.
“This president owes Adm. McCraven and all of the SEALs involved in that operation an apology for what he’s saying,” Leon Panetta, the CIA director at the time of the mission, said on MSNBC.
“He’s undermining his position as commander in chief not only with those that conducted the operation, but with the entire military,” Panetta added.
Robert O'Neill, the former Navy SEAL who is said to have killed bin Laden, wrote on Twitter that the mission was “bipartisan,” and the team involved “wanted to get him as soon as we could.”
“ADM McRaven was born to lead this mission. I’ll follow him anywhere,” O'Neill said.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPoll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Milley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod MORE (R-Fla.) praised McRaven for his military service, tweeting that “few Americans have sacrifice or risked more than he has.”
Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (R.I.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, pointed out in a statement that numerous Americans died in the pursuit of bin Laden. He credited McRaven with speaking out “because he feels a moral obligation to do so,” and chided Trump for failing to dispute the admiral's original criticism.
McRaven is just the latest individual with a decorated military career to absorb the president's wrath for speaking critically.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump exchanged barbs with Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of a slain soldier, over his criticism of Trump at the Democratic National Convention.
Trump mocked the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden falters in pledge to strengthen US alliances 20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home MORE (R-Ariz.) for being a prisoner of war, and attracted criticism in August for being slow to formally acknowledge McCain's death by lowering flags to half-staff.
Just last week, Trump was criticized for not attending any ceremonies for Veterans Day. In the Fox interview, the president said he regretted not doing so.
The president's attacks on individual service members or their family members are at odds with the pro-military persona he has attempted to cultivate by touting reforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs, securing additional funding for the armed forces and stocking his Cabinet with former military officers.
It’s unclear whether the attacks are hurting Trump’s standing with the military or military families, though some in the community were critical of the president on Monday
“I don’t think personal attacks on anyone is warranted,” retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who resigned as the nation’s top military commander in Afghanistan in 2010 after remarks he made critical of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE and other civilian leaders were published in a story by Rolling Stone.
“I think there’s a certain honesty to what’s happening now,” McChrystal told CNN when asked how Trump's remarks may impact troops' morale. “The president didn’t go to Arlington Cemetery for Veterans Day, and maybe that’s honest because if you really don’t care it would be dishonest to pretend that you do.”
McRaven stood by his assessment of Trump in a statement issued Sunday. He clarified that he did not back former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE or any other candidate in the 2016 election as Trump suggested, and that he worked under both former President Obama and former President George W. Bush.
McChrystal, who served in the military for more than 30 years and led U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, said he hasn't spoken to his colleagues explicitly about whether views of Trump have changed within the military as a result of his repeated attacks on some of its most prominent former members.
The four-star general suggested the president's rhetoric, and the way he carries himself as a leader, could impact how he's received among troops.
“We have certain things we want and demand of leaders,” McChrystal said. “And to a degree, there has to be a confidence in the leader's basic core values. We have to believe in enough of what that leader represents to feel comfortable following them, sometimes to our deaths.
“And so I think the degree to which people are uncomfortable with behavior or attitudes that are incongruent with what they believe in, that that has to be a factor,” he added.