Trump’s attacks on McRaven are tasteless, baseless and regrettable

November 24, 2018 GMT

Retired Adm. William McRaven has served this country with honor and integrity.

His decorated military career, which spanned nearly four decades, includes the killing of Osama bin Laden and the capture of Saddam Hussein. He served under former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. That is, a Democrat and a Republican.

After military service, he served as chancellor of the University of Texas at Austin, but he left that post in May, citing health concerns.

In short, McRaven, a San Antonio native, reflects the best of America. He rose to the top of the U.S. Navy, leading some of the most important missions of the past 20 years. He put the country first and demonstrated excellence in leadership.


He has also spoken with candidness about what he views as President Donald Trump’s failures as a leader, saying Trump “has embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”

These comments, and others, have not gone unnoticed by the president, who derided McRaven during a recent interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

During that interview, Trump referred to McRaven as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and suggested he should have caught bin Laden faster.

Of course, McRaven’s forces were not tasked with finding bin Laden. That task fell to the CIA. McRaven’s forces were tasked with catching bin Laden, and they did just that, killing the terrorist in 2011 during a breathtaking and harrowing raid. The capture of bin Laden, at any point in time, is a moment to be celebrated, not to be disparaged.

As for the “Clinton backer” comment, it’s inaccurate and meaningless. McRaven has said in a statement that he did not back Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, but even if he did, who cares? It’s beside the point. McRaven hasn’t been criticizing Trump because he is a Republican. He’s been criticizing the president because he clearly believes the president has been acting unpresidential.

“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,” McRaven said.

If Trump dislikes such criticism, he should give his critics less fodder. He has disparaged judges, political opponents and the Federal Reserve, undermining faith in key institutions. He has been slow to dismiss white nationalism. He has strained relationships with key allies in Europe, Canada and Mexico.


And most recently, the president has stepped in it in regard to his treatment of the military. His rhetorical attacks on McRaven are reminiscent of his rhetorical attacks on John McCain, the late Arizona senator and war hero (“I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said).

They also were made on the heels of Trump’s failure to attend a World War I ceremony in France because of concern about rain, a failure to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day due to travel considerations, and a decision to not hold any public events on the Monday holiday for Veterans Day.

These actions matter. It’s important for presidents to honor veterans for their past, present and future sacrifices. It all ties back to that quaint notion about the dignity of the office. Trump’s rhetorical attacks on McRaven again showed that lack of dignity. They were regrettable remarks that reflect poorly on the president.