Sunday, November 18, 2018


I'm impressed by what the president did here:
President Trump derided retired Adm. William H. McRaven as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer” and suggested that the venerated former head of U.S. Special Operations Command should have apprehended Osama bin Laden faster.

... the president made [the comments] in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” ...

McRaven, a retired Navy SEAL, oversaw the 2011 operation that killed bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. After Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance in the summer, McRaven wrote an article in The Washington Post defending Brennan as a man of unparalleled integrity and asked the president to revoke his clearance, as well, in solidarity. McRaven also criticized Trump more broadly.

... On Sunday, about three months later, Trump fired back at the retired admiral when Wallace brought him up in the interview.

“Bill McRaven, retired admiral, Navy SEAL, 37 years, former head of U.S. Special Operations, who led the operations, commanded the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama bin Laden, says that your sentiment is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime,” Wallace said....

Trump ... accused McRaven of not finding bin Laden fast enough.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice?” the president said. “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.”
Do you see what Trump did there? He recalled some basic facts about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and he got them more or less correct. Bin Laden was living in what Wikipedia calls "an upper-class mansion" (although it says that "the compound's ramshackle buildings were badly in need of repainting"). The mansion wasn't "right next to the military academy," but it was less than a mile away. Close enough!

Of course, any other president would have had these and other facts about the bin Laden raid down cold, as do many people who aren't government officials. But this is Trump we're talking about. He doesn't read. He doesn't pay attention to his briefings even when they're largely pictorial. He gets most of his information from Fox News. He was ignorant when he ran for president and he's ignorant now.

But on this he has a decent grasp of the facts. Why? Because he's motivated to learn the facts. As soon as McRaven wrote that op-ed, our lazy, incurious president suddenly became ravenous for knowledge. One line of thought possessed him: What's this guy McRaven's weak spot? How can I kick him in the ass by smearing something he considers a great achievement?

(Or, alternately: What did I learn about this raid back when it was allegedly a big achievement by Barack Obama, who announced it the same weekend he rudely insulted me at the White House Correspondents Dinner? What did I find out that made me realize Obama's not the big hotshot he thinks he is just because he killed that guy?)

So Trump really is capable of taking in and absorbing information. He just has to hate someone before he accomplishes this.

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