President Donald Trump said that he could have made “a good general” in a White House meeting, even as he maintained feuds with several retired generals.
During a rambling 95-minute Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump criticized the strategy of American military leaders in Afghanistan, adding, “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?”
In the same meeting, Trump also criticized retired General James Mattis, saying that he had “essentially” fired the general from his position as Secretary of Defense because he had done “not too good” in Afghanistan.
In fact, Mattis resigned from the post in protest after the president announced his plan to withdraw all U.S. troops currently serving in Syria.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.
Trump’s comments about his unrealized potential as a general also stand out because he was criticized throughout his 2016 campaign for his lack of military service. Trump received a medical deferment during the Vietnam War after he was diagnosed with bone spurs. Trump was later criticized for referring to his avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases as his “own personal Vietnam.” During the campaign, Trump also received scorn for saying that he had “always wanted to get the Purple Heart,” a medal awarded to soldiers who have been wounded or killed in service.
Trump has also publicly feuded with various generals during his campaign and presidency.
In recent days, Trump harshly attacked retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, calling him a “Hilary lover” who had been fired by President Barack Obama and has a “big, dumb mouth.”
Trump also reportedly has a strained relationship with retired General John Kelly, his former chief of staff. While Kelly has rarely publicly criticized the president, reports say that he has called Trump an “idiot.” Other reports suggest that Trump resented Kelly for acting as if he “thinks he’s running things.”
Kelly has also contradicted Trump’s stance that steel slats would constitute a border wall, saying that the president had long since abandoned his commitment to constructing a real wall.
“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly said an exit interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, retired General David Petraeus said he is not considering joining in the Trump Administration.
“I think there does have to be policy alignment [with Trump,] and I’m not sure that exists, I’m afraid,” Petraeus said, according to an interview with BBC Radio Four.
Last year, Petraeus also signed a letter along with 12 other former national-security leaders criticizing Trump for removing of John Brennan’s security clearance.