Admiral James Matoon McRaven Attacks Trump in the New York Times - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Admiral James Matoon McRaven Attacks Trump in the New York Times
Burt Lancaster as General James Matoon Scott in ‘Seven Days in May’ (YouTube screenshot)

“If this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better. The fate of our republic depends upon it.”

Thus wrote retired Admiral William McRaven in a New York Times op-ed.

That a man with a distinguished military career behind him (among his accomplishments was overseeing the raid that finally captured and killed Osama bin Laden) was effectively calling for a coup d’état to oust a duly elected president is nothing short of astonishing. It is nothing if not a recall of the plot from an early 1960s bestselling political thriller turned into a dramatic film — Seven Days in May.

The film version — here’s the trailer on YouTube — starred some of the movie icons of the day: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, and Ava Gardner.

Lancaster played the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. James Mattoon Scott. Like McRaven, the fictional Gen. Scott was a well-decorated military leader with a distinguished career.

The plot centered around a president (played by March) who has signed on to a controversial disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Gen. Scott and his fellow military leaders who compose the JCS are vehemently opposed to the treaty. Scott sets in motion a secret plot for a military overthrow of the president — in which Scott himself would take over the country. Spoiler alert: the plot is discovered by Scott’s own assistant, Col. Martin “Jiggs” Casey (Douglas), himself a career Marine officer. Casey goes to see the president and tell him, setting in motion the fight to uncover the details and stop the plot.

Suffice to say the story was a decided hit. It had some political currency in the day as the novel appeared after President John F. Kennedy had fired Gen. Edwin Walker, a real-life right-wing general who stood accused of indoctrinating troops under his command with his right-wing views. Walker had also accused former President Truman and others of being communist sympathizers.

Kennedy had read the novel and behind the scenes pushed John Frankenheimer, the Hollywood filmmaker, to get the book made into a film. Released in 1964 after Kennedy’s assassination, the film was a great success, with Lancaster unerring in the role of military man as coup leader.

Yet it was a novel and a movie. Beyond the eccentric Gen. Walker, there was no there there. No one in the military of the day was plotting to overthrow JFK or his successor LBJ and move into the White House himself.

But now comes Admiral James Matoon McRaven … um, sorry, that would be William McRaven … taking to the pages of no less than the New York Times to say that

it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.

The McRaven call was hardly unnoticed. Over at American Greatness, Angelo Codevilla said what doubtless many were thinking. The piece was titled “Who the Hell Do They Think They Are?” Among other things Codevilla, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, author of The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It, and former draftee, says this:

At the very least, McRaven called for impeachment ahead of an election, or perhaps for a coup, and pretended to do so on the military’s behalf. In fact, his was just one more voice from an establishment that has squandered the public’s trust, senses that it can no longer win elections honestly, and is pulling out all the stops.

It pretends to be trying to take down Donald Trump. In fact, it is trying to do something much bigger: Invalidate the votes of the “deplorables” who oppose them.


The McRaven article is a classic example of left-wing ruling-class elitism in action. But it is made dangerous by the fact that the call to overrule a president or remove him in a coup is coming from a serious-minded military man.

Meanwhile, retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey took time out from calling the president a “serious threat to U.S. national security” to say this in reaction to the news Trump had canceled the White House subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post:

No room for HUMOROUS media coverage. This is deadly serious. This is Mussolini.

It is startling to see such historical ignorance in a one-time general. Clearly McCaffrey either has no knowledge that it was no less than President Kennedy himself who set the precedent for canceling newspaper subscriptions. Or he doesn’t care because, you know, it was JFK. It was in fact JFK, irritated over his coverage from the Republican-leaning New York Herald Tribune, who made a point of canceling the White House subscription. Reportedly when Kennedy saw a copy of the paper used to line a box for some new White House puppies, he remarked,

It’s finally found its proper use.

Since McCaffrey feels that a president canceling a subscription makes him Mussolini, can we expect McCaffrey to lead a move to strip Mussolini’s — uh, JFK’s — name from the Kennedy Center?

Of course not. Which is to say McCaffrey is merely one more ruling-class elitist with double standards — one for his fellow left-wing elites and another for his favorites, of whom I assume JFK would be one.

As the raid that successfully delivered justice to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi vividly illustrated — yet again — the U.S. military is filled with very brave, very skilled people.

Clearly McRaven and McCaffrey are in that category. But their post-military ventures into the political world also reveal a chilling side to their respective minds — minds that have been infected with Trump Derangement Syndrome to such a degree that one muses about a military coup while the other irrationally compares the president of the United States to one of history’s most heinous tyrants. And that merely for canceling a newspaper subscription.

To say the least: not good. And dangerous to boot.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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