President Trump Dishes On Milley, Afghanistan, And George W. Bush

Tom Bevan for RealClearMarkets

This is Part 2 in my interview with Donald Trump. Part 1 can be found here.

U.S. Army General Mark Milley was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He testified before both the Senate and House Armed Services committees on Tuesday and Wednesday. These were Milley’s first public appearances since the publication of excerpts from a new book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which made several explosive revelations, including the following:

  • Milley insinuated himself into domestic politics by conducting backchannel conversations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in which they called President Trump “crazy.”
  • He also added himself to the chain of command, telling top U.S. military commanders they couldn’t launch nuclear weapons without him.
  • The JCS chairman also made secret phone calls to his military counterpart in the People’s Republic of China, promising to forewarn him of any impending U.S. attack.

While testifying this week, Milley defended his phone calls as fully coordinated and above board, and he denied any suggestion he had attempted to usurp the president’s authority.

RELATED: Report: Milley Blamed Biden State Department For Afghanistan Withdrawal

Milley’s name came up repeatedly in my interview with Donald Trump last week. After initially disparaging him as “not the brightest bulb,” Trump said that he had liked the general while he was in the White House, but that Milley had changed.

“Don’t forget, he wasn’t this way,” Trump said. “He became this way because he was a politician. Biden was his curry man. It was obvious that he had choked while under stress. He was really bad.”

Trump said keeping Milley on as chairman of the Joint Chiefs is a “bad idea,” but when asked about other senior leadership in the military, he refused to single anyone else out by name as having done a poor job.

“They are good people,” Trump said, referring to other generals he had worked with, “but they make really bad decisions.”

Trump insisted that he had made the right decision to end the war in Afghanistan but criticised President Biden’s handling of the exit. “It’s the single most embarrassing moment in the history of our country,” Trump said, adding that had he been in office, his administration would have handled it much better.

RELATED: Video: Matt Gaetz Brings The Heat, Tells Gen. Milley He Would Have Been Fired If Biden Wasn’t So ‘Addled’

“For us to flee,” Trump said, “surrender with ‘hands up,’ and give them the best military equipment in the world, without a shot being fired. They would not be intimidated by me. We were going to get out too, but we would’ve got out with dignity and actual victory.”

I asked Trump how much resistance he faced in Washington in ending the war in Afghanistan, despite the policy’s broad popularity with the public.

“I had a lot of resistance from the military, and I had a lot of resistance from Congress,” he said. “A lot of people in Congress didn’t want to leave. … They would’ve stayed in forever. We were there for 21 years, and I said 21 years is enough.”

Trump also criticized former President George W. Bush with no qualms, as he was seen back on news media recently marking the 20th anniversary the September 11 attacks. At the Pennsylvania memorial to passengers who fought for control of doomed United Airlines Flight 93, Bush paid homage to the “heroism and decency” Americans showed in the face of evil. He also took a thinly veiled shot at Donald Trump and many of his supporters, saying domestic extremists are “children of the same foul spirit” as the violent jihadi terrorists who attacked America in 2001.

For his part, Trump didn’t appreciate the swipe.

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“George Bush doesn’t have the right to lecture people, because he blew it,” Trump said dismissively. “Bush made the single greatest mistake in the history of our country, which was going into the Middle East. We have spent trillions of dollars, millions of people’s lives and are now further from the utopia they wanted than we were 21-years ago. It was a terrible decision going into the Middle East, so when I hear him lecturing people, I just don’t think he has the right to do it. He was a failed president.”

RealClearWire permission granted this syndicated version.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and president of RealClearPolitics and the co-author of “Election 2012: A Time for Choosing.”

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