President Trump’s knee-jerk reaction to anything associated with his sorely-missed predecessor Barack Obama is immediate rejection, even when it comes to the former president’s successful elimination of the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden.
Trump proved this point when his pre-taped interview with Chris Wallace aired on Fox News Sunday today and included a bashing of the retired admiral and Navy SEAL who headed the operation to assassinate the organizer of the 9/11 attacks.
Wallace pointed out to the president that the retired SEAL, Bill McRaven, had referred to Trump’s constant barrage of criticism of the nation’s free press as the “greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime.”
Rather than consider for even a brief moment the effects that his angry political rhetoric was having on the fabric of public discourse in our country and the divisiveness that it has engendered, Trump immediately went on the offensive, calling McRaven a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama-backer.”
In typical Trump fantasy land fashion, the president imagined an alternate universe where he would have been in charge so much sooner and done everything so much better.
“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice?” Trump asked. “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.”
Chris Wallace was too dumbstruck by this response to ask the obvious question of the Monday Morning Quarterback-in-Chief: if he knew, like “everybody,” where Osama Bin Laden was all that time, why didn’t he do anything about it?
Instead, Wallace replied with wonderment: “You’re not even going to give them credit for taking down Bin Laden?”
“They took him down but – look, look, there’s news right there, he lived in Pakistan, we’re supporting Pakistan, we’re giving them $1.3 billion a year, which we don’t give them anymore, by the way, I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us,” Trump responded.
“I’m totally in favor of the media, I’m totally in favor of free press, got to be fair press,” he added, a statement undercut by every other thing he has said about any media outlet that dares to say a negative thing about him.
McRaven has been an outspoken critic of Trump since the president revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan earlier this year. The retired admiral defended Brennan as “a man of unparalleled integrity” and asked that his own clearance be revoked as well out of solidarity, writing in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post:
“Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs,” McRaven wrote. “A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.”
“Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities,” McRaven added. “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”
Trump’s reflexive defensiveness to this type of criticism is a function of his deep insecurity in taking on a role as president that he didn’t expect to win, was ill-prepared to fulfill, and is failing miserably at conducting. Only a person who deeply understands his own inadequacies for the presidency he has assumed would be so vigilant in trying to undermine everyone who dares point out his obvious deficiencies.
The president’s troubled relationship with a military that he uses as a convenient prop when it suits him and ignores otherwise is not surprising coming from someone who evaded service in the Vietnam war by claiming bone spurs that have never seemed to impair his ability to walk around a golf course. McRaven has him pegged, and Trump just wants to get his revenge.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.