Media pundits continued to praise Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley after a new book claimed he made two phone calls to Chinese officials during Donald Trump‘s presidency in fear that the commander in chief would attack.
The allegation is laid out in “Peril,” a new book from the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book also claimed Trump was in “mental decline” and might start a nuclear war.
MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle said Wednesday the general’s phone calls, if true, would have been “common sense” in a Trump administration he said was marked by four years of “imbalance.” It was a common refrain for the press to suggest Trump was unhinged and unstable throughout his White House term.
“This is just common sense,” Barnicle said. “It’s called public safety. And certainly you can make a strong case during the conclusion of the former guy’s presidency, there were a lot of people, both in the House and the Senate on both sides of the aisle, Republican and Democrat, worried specifically about what we’ve just been talking about here for the last few minutes.”
On CNN, analyst Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark argued Milley was “within his rights” to make the calls and he would have been “derelict” in his duty if he hadn’t picked up the phone.
Several others, like CNN’s Mark Hertling, said Milley was justifiably trying to put “guardrails” in place between Trump and foreign policy disaster.
“Gen. Milley took some very prudent measures,” Hertling, a retired U.S. Army officer, said.
“What he did was ensure the guardrails were in place,” he later added. “So I give him high marks for this based on what’s described in the book.”
Barnicle predicted the book would result in a polarizing debate that would have half of people calling him a patriot, and the other half deeming him a traitor. Former President Donald Trump and many Republican lawmakers were squarely in the latter camp.
If the report turns out to be true, Milley is guilty of “treason,” Trump said Tuesday.
“For the record, I never even thought of attacking China—and China knows that. The people that fabricated the story are sick and demented, and the people who print it are just as bad. In fact, I’m the only President in decades who didn’t get the U.S. into a war—a well known fact that is seldom reported,” Trump said.
“If true, there is a word for it, and it sure seems like treasonous activity to me,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., agreed. “This seems like exactly what Benedict Arnold did in the past.”
Perry added that Milley should “absolutely resign.”
“Late Show” host Stephen Colbert defended Milley during his monologue Tuesday night, while “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough ripped Milley’s critics as “so stupid.”
“Are you so stupid, I just got to ask, are you so stupid, are you so ignorant of how things work that you don’t know that from time to time generals talk to generals?” Scarborough asked.
Contributing writer to The Atlantic Tom Nichols said the alleged call to China was a “good thing” and decried calls for Milley to resign, while Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin said Milley’s “revelation” about Trump raised important questions about the president’s authority to order nuclear strikes unilaterally.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald accused the media of engaging in a double standard.
“The other bizarre aspect of the last 5 years was watching these same liberal media figures prance around as defenders of ‘norms’ and ‘democratic values’ while simultaneously swooning over every unelected military/intel official who purposely impeded or sabotaged Trump’s policies,” he added.
Other observers called the media “corrupt” for putting Milley on a pedestal.
“In case you were wondering how the hacks in the corrupt corporate media were gonna spin this, you got your answer: Sure, Milley committed treason but it was just, you know, common sense,” radio host Gerry Callahan tweeted.