With President Trump’s approval ratings stubbornly sitting at 43 percent, mainstream media has launched another Attack of the Generals to try to bring it down.
On Monday, Harriet Agerholm of the Independent wrote that retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and now a commentator for CNN, is defending his new bosses from attacks by the president.
Hayden’s tweets have called the president’s attacks on CNN “an outrageous assault” on freedom of speech, Agerholm wrote.
“If this is who we are or who we are becoming, I have wasted 40 years of my life,” Hayden tweeted. “Until now, it was not possible for me to conceive of an American president capable of such an outrageous assault on truth, a free press or the First Amendment.”
Hayden was reacting to a tweet from Trump: “@FoxNews is much more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!”
It is unclear why this tweet set Hayden off. The president has been critical of CNN since he entered the political arena, and the network has been caught in a series of incorrect claims against the president.
Hayden’s “Until now” formulation also doesn’t ring true. He has criticized the president repeatedly and on a number of topics.
Trump criticized NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem earlier this year, saying, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now!”
“As a 39-year military veteran, I think I know something about the flat, the anthem, patriotism, and I think I know why we fight,” Hayden responded. “It’s not to allow the president to divide us by wrapping himself in the national banner.”
ABC News turned to another anti-Trump retired military leader – Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – to impugn the president and the military leaders who serve him now.
Mullen told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general; National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, an active-duty Army general, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, another Marine Corps retired general, “are all great Americans who want to do the best for their country.”
But when Kelly took up for Trump after controversy arose over a call the president made to comfort the widow of a soldier killed in Niger, that was a bridge too far for Mullen.
Kelly’s comments – that “it absolutely stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation” – were “really a sad moment for me,” Mullen said.
Kelly’s defense, which included providing details that exonerated the president of the charges Rep. Frederica Wilson, D.-Fla., had made against the president about the call, show Kelly “clearly is very supportive of the president no matter what.”
Asked about the implications, Mullen said, “That doesn’t mean generals and admirals can’t serve” in the White House.
“They certainly have in the past. But it’s particularly difficult right now because of the politics of the town. And there’s nothing that seemingly is not able to be politicized in the current environment.”
Mullen suggests it is improper for the Trump’s chief of staff to tell the president’s side of the story when he views the president as having been unfairly accused.
Hayden suggests an attack on a network that has been relentlessly critical of the president – even to the point of producing stories that had to be withdrawn or were subjects of lawsuits because of factual challenges – is an attack on a free press.
It’s meant to imbue these accusations with the credibility Americans associate with its top military leaders. But what it is is proof Trump is right … he’ll never get a fair shake from the press.