A day after President Donald Trump was widely condemned for attacking Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven during a Fox News interview simply because McRaven criticized him publicly, the Republican National Committee indicated it wholeheartedly sides with Trump.
A tweet posted from the official @GOP account on Monday said, “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 [Trump]— even dating back to the 2016 campaign,” the tweet adds. “He’s hardly a non-political figure.”
Last year, McRaven — a retired four-star admiral who oversaw the operation that resulted in the capture of Saddam Hussein and the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, and has recently been battling leukemia — described Trump’s attacks on the free press as “the greatest threat to democracy in [his] lifetime.”
Chris Wallace of Fox News mentioned that to Trump during their interview on Sunday. Trump responded by unloading on McRaven as “a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer,” and suggesting his Navy SEAL team should have been able to capture bin Laden sooner.
“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?” Trump said.
While McRaven’s name did appear at one point on a lengthy list of possible Clinton 2016 running mates, he did not in fact endorse a candidate. (Ironically, Trump’s team also reportedly considered McRaven for national security adviser.) And while McRaven’s SEAL team was responsible for executing the bin Laden raid, it wasn’t tasked with trying to locate him beforehand — that was the responsibility of the CIA.
The party of veterans or the party of Trump?
Trump, of course, has a long history of attacking decorated veterans who have been critical of him, including the late Arizona Sen. John McCain and the family of slain US Army Capt. Humayun Khan during the presidential campaign.
The RNC’s support for Trump’s attack on McRaven comes on the heels of an election cycle where the party tried to position both itself and the president as reliably pro-veteran, unlike Democrats.
Less than 24 before the committee posted the tweet echoing Trump’s attack on McRaven, the account quoted Trump saying, “It’s our sacred duty to support America’s service members every single day.”
But Trump’s comments during the Fox News interview and the RNC’s subsequent support for them indicate their support for veterans only extends so far — to ones that support the president politically.
“I won the Senate”
While the RNC stands by Trump even while his attack on McRaven is being condemned by prominent Republicans and top former intelligence and military officials, Trump has suggested his loyalty to the party isn’t quite as ironclad.
During the same interview in which he attacked McRaven, Trump tried to simultaneously distance himself from the losses the party suffered in the midterm elections, while taking all the credit for Republican victories in the US Senate.
“I won the Senate, you don’t mention that — excuse me, I won the Senate,” Trump told Wallace at one point, before in the next breath claiming with regard to Republicans losing the House that “my name wasn’t on the ballot. … I get it all the time, ‘Sir, we will never vote unless you’re on the ballot.’”
That comment contradicted what Trump told his supporters at rallies before the election, when he said that “in a certain way, I’m on the ballot, so please, go out and vote.”
Democrats’ takeover of the House was in part fueled by first-time veteran candidates. According to Stars and Stripes, at least six veterans who ran as Democrats won seats in Congress.
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