The latest evidence that this White House has little respect for those who offer even mild criticism came on Friday. When word got out that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had lied about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson trying to take credit for a federal building in Miami, CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid did what any reporter would do. He asked for a chance to have Kelly explain himself.
But White House Press Secretary and Princess of Lies Sarah Huckabee Sanders harrumphed that Reid would be crossing a line if he went that route. She told Reid that it is “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general.
Well, another four-star general disagrees–David Petraeus. He reminded Sanders, the White House, and the nation that our men in uniform fight for our right to speak out.
Petraeus dropped by ABC’s “This Week” to discuss the brouhaha over Trump telling the family of one of the soldiers killed in Niger that “he knew what he signed up for.” Watch here.
Guest host Martha Raddatz got right to it, asking Petraeus what he thought of Sanders’ disturbing comments. Petraeus disposed of the matter quickly and firmly.
“Well, I think we’re all fair game. And I certainly experienced lots of that in testimony on Capitol Hill during the surge in Iraq and subsequent endeavors in Afghanistan central command and so forth. We in uniform protect the rights of those to criticize us, frankly.”
Petraeus recalled that he “didn’t appreciate” MoveOn.org’s 2007 ad calling him “General Betray Us.” However, he said, he and other veterans consider freedom of speech to be a sacrosanct right–“even if that includes criticizing us.”
As Petraeus sees it, this whole episode is proof that the biggest threat facing our country is “parochialism at home,” especially in Washington. He believes toning down the partisanship would give us a chance to “capitalize on extraordinary opportunities.” He called for our leaders to “relearn the word of compromise,” and expressed hope that Kelly would understand the need to “turn down the volume.”
Sanders got the message–well, sort of. In a statement, Sanders said that “of course everyone can be questioned.” However, she believes that anyone who saw Kelly’s “heartfelt and somber account” of his son’s own death in the line of duty would agree that “impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes is not appropriate.”
No, Sarah. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Kelly’s account of the opening ceremony of that building doesn’t withstand serious analysis. She’s engaging in what’s become standard operating procedure for her–deflect and distract when she knows she’s been busted. She could have left well enough alone by acknowledging that anyone could be questioned. But she didn’t.
Petraeus was reportedly on the short list to be Trump’s Secretary of State, but would have probably been unable to take up his post if appointed. His probation for sharing classified information didn’t end until this past spring, meaning that he would have needed permission to travel to Washington or travel outside this country. Listening to this interview, though, it’s just as well. After all, Trump has shown that he is not someone who can bear to be criticized. This week’s episode only proves it.
(featured image courtesy Soldiers Media Center, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)