Earlier this month, President Donald Trump took a swipe against his former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, calling him “the world’s most overrated general.”
Mattis responded to those comments during a charity dinner. “I’m not just an overrated general, I am the greatest, the world’s most overrated…I am honored to be considered that by Donald Trump, because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress, so I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals,” Mattis said in response, according to The Week.
“Frankly, that sounds pretty good to me. You do have to admit, between me and Meryl, at least we’ve had some victories,” Mattis added.
Mattis’s comments, though subtle, were a direct rebuke of the president. On Monday, however, a former aide to Mattis wrote an op-ed piece in Politico, detailing that Mattis was pretty tame in terms of what he could say about the president.
Guy Snodgrass, the former chief speechwriter for Mattis when he was Defense Secretary, recalled Trump’s first Pentagon briefing in July of 2017. During that event, which was supposed to give Trump an overview of America’s interests and military operations around the globe, the president instead seemed disinterested, and couldn’t focus on a number of the details his military leaders were giving him.
Instead, his focus was on producing a military parade.
“I want a ‘Victory Day.’ Just like Veterans Day. The Fourth of July is too hot. I want vehicles and tanks on Main Street. On Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House,” Snodgrass recalled Trump saying. “We need spirit! We should blow everybody away with this parade. The French had an amazing parade on Bastille Day with tanks and everything. Why can’t we do that?”
During the more longwinded parts of the meeting, in which the president had to listen rather than speak, Snodgrass noted that he frequently frowned and crossed his arms. Following a slow talk from then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump decided it was his turn to talk — which he did, at length, without a coherent topic in mind.
“Trump veered from topic to topic — Syria, Mexico, a recent Washington Post story he didn’t like — like a squirrel caught in traffic, dashing one way and then another,” Snodgrass said in his article on the subject.
Trump’s ability to pay attention to intelligence and military leaders has been noted in the past. In January of this year, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi criticized the president for failing to pay heed to their words.
“One dismaying factor of it all is that the president just doesn’t seem to have the attention span or the desire to hear what the intelligence community has been telling him,” Pelosi said, per reporting from The Federal Times.