WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Thursday laughed off the news that President Donald Trump had called him “the world’s most overrated general,” joking that he’s not just an overrated general, but the greatest overrated general.
“So I would just tell you, I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress,” Mattis said at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York. “So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals and frankly that sounds pretty good to me.”
“And, you do have to admit, between me and Meryl, at least we’ve had some victories,” he added.
Trump disparaged Mattis — who resigned as defense secretary last year — during a contentious White House meeting Wednesday with congressional Democratic leaders to discuss Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria, according to a Democratic source familiar with the meeting.
Trump has previously leveled criticism at Streep, considered one of the best actors of her generation, just before taking office after she used an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes to criticize the then-President elect. Streep referenced Trump’s mocking of a disabled New York Times reporter in her speech and said Trump used his position to “bully others.”
The following day Trump called Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and referred to her as “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”
During his speech on Thursday, Mattis insisted that Trump’s comments didn’t bother him. Mattis riffed that he “earned my spurs at the battlefield” while Trump “earned his spurs from a letter from the doctor” in a pointed jab at his former boss’ cited reason for avoiding the Vietnam War draft.
Mattis went on to joke that “the only person on the military that Mr. Trump doesn’t think is overrated” is “Colonel Sanders,” the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurant chain.
Mattis resigned in December 2018 on the heels of Trump’s announced plans to withdraw troops from Syria, citing irreconcilable policy differences in a move that took Washington by surprise at the time.
“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 letter to the President.
The former defense secretary’s comments Thursday night come as Trump faces bipartisan criticism over his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing the Trump administration’s troop withdrawal.
Earlier in the day, retired four-star Admiral William McRaven , the architect of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said Trump was working to “destroy” the country from “within” and “without.”