The Alfred E. Smith dinner is famous for hosting presidential candidates, including both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump just before the 2016 election on a night Trump ignored the decorum that usually attends such events, insulted Clinton, and got booed by the crowd. On Thursday night, Gen. James Mattis, the Mad Dog himself, ensured that the 2019 version of the dinner will be the second-most famous installment when he took it upon himself to roast his former boss.
Here’s the quip that’s making headlines (start at the 45-second mark):
As ABC News reported, he also compared himself to Meryl Streep using Trump’s own words:
“I’m not just an overrated general. I’m the world’s greatest overrated general,” joked Mattis, who received a standing ovation as he stepped to the dais. “I’m honored to be called that by Donald Trump, because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actor. So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals.”
The rebuttal came a day after President Donald Trump called Mattis “the world’s most overrated general” during a meeting with lawmakers about the situation in Syria.
Mattis resigned in Dec. 2018, largely over differences of opinion on Syria, and while mildly funny, these rebukes are more noteworthy for the way the worm seems to be turning on Trump and his former allies who, even if they clearly didn’t like him, had seemed to keep a respectful silence. But as ABC also noted, Mattis had previously said that he wouldn’t be quiet on Trump “forever,” and we may already be seeing the first cracks in what was always a poorly maintained omerta.
On a similar note, William H. McRaven, a retired Navy Admiral who commanded the U.S. Special Operations Command, wrote an op-ed in the Times yesterday taking Trump to task for abandoning our responsibilities in Syria. His salient theme:
It is easy to destroy an organization if you have no appreciation for what makes that organization great.
He concluded that the fate of our Republic depends on removing Trump from office, and while, yes, McRaven is yet another retired public servant, it still seems as though the tide is turning against Trump from those who would have traditionally either been in his corner or refused to speak out. And if he loses them, he’s left with only his base, which is sizeable still, despite everything, but almost definitely not enough to win another election.