I’ve been watching the recent comments flying back and forth between President Trump and Admiral McRaven — as well as heckling from the media cheap seats — over remarks that McRaven made about Trump being the biggest threat to democracy in his lifetime. The President then fired back about McRaven not finding Bin Laden sooner, and I figured this would be the right time to share a few of my own thoughts on this. I deployed to Afghanistan after 9-11 and then left in 2006 to start my own business. Running a media company for more than five years has given me access and perspective that very few in the SEAL teams could understand, outside of maybe Rob O’Neill and a few others.
First, after two years let’s just stop being surprised that when you blast Trump he comes right back at you. The President is from Queens. If you make a crack at a hotdog vendor in this city you’re going to get something just as harsh or worse in return. That’s New York City.
If you are a public person of any significance and you want a few days of wall-to-wall press coverage, all you have to do is take a public shot at Trump and wait for him to fire back on Twitter. That being said, is McRaven justified in making his statements? He said in an interview with CNN, “I stand by my comment that the President’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. When you undermine the people’s right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands.”
Admiral McRaven was born in 1955 so this might be true from his perspective, but if we go back to WWI and WWII we had complete press censorship then. You had to clear your stories through the government or you would get arrested. President Nixon got a federal court injunction to prevent the New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers. It went all the way to the Supreme Court before it was struck down. But had it stayed in place, they would have put reporters in prison for publishing those papers. Wasn’t that a little worse than Trump making his “enemy of the people” remark?
During the first Gulf War, a major news network was passing its stories through Saddam’s Ministry of Information before they aired them. This was while U.S. and coalition forces were engaged in armed conflict with Iraq. This made a major U.S. media outlet a de facto propaganda arm of Iraq.
This current situation seems a bit outlandish. That is not to say that the President is right in his claims that McRaven is a Hillary and Obama fan, or that he should have found Bin Laden sooner. The CIA, NSA, JSOC and other intel agencies were charged with finding Bin Laden, not McRaven personally. I personally served with McRaven at SEAL Team Three, and can tell you he’s a great leader — although he is not without faults. But we all have them, myself included.
Maybe someday the talking heads in Washington, D.C., will tell us why we paid Pakistan billions of American taxpayer dollars for years to help us find Bin Laden while he was hiding in their country for ten years. From where I am sitting, Pakistan played us for chumps and I’m tired of America being used this way. I’d also like to know why we’re still in Afghanistan 17 years later, and why we still have no clear foreign policy strategy after multiple presidential administrations. Maybe President Trump, McRaven, and the free press can look into that together. Because it would be better for the country and the Constitution than a media-instigated catfight that has no ultimate purpose other than finger-pointing.