Senator Marsha Blackburn asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley about the books in which he is quoted to inflammatory effect. He acknowledged that he had sat for interviews with the authors of each of the books she specified. In his Washington Examiner Daily Memo yesterday, Byron York cited them and extracted a few of the quotes:
Three of the biggest such books, all bestsellers, were Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa; I Alone Can Fix It, by the Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker; and Frankly, We Did Win This Election, by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender. All featured quotes and information that appeared to come directly from Milley.
At Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked Milley whether he had spoken to the authors. “Did you talk to Bob Woodward or Robert Costa for their book, Peril?” asked Blackburn. “Woodward, yes, Costa, no,” answered Milley. “Did you talk to Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker for their book, I Alone Can Fix It?” “Yes,” said Milley. “Did you talk to Michael Bender for his book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election?” “Yes,” said Milley.
What did Milley have to say?
Milley told Leonnig and Rucker that he feared Trump might try to stage a coup after losing the 2020 election. “This is a Reichstag moment,” the authors quote Milley telling aides. “The gospel of the Fuhrer.” And more: “They may try, but they’re not going to f—ing succeed,” the authors quote Milley telling his deputies. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”
Then the coup never came. “Thank God Almighty we landed the ship safely,” Milley told Leonnig and Rucker. The authors described a scene at the inauguration of President Joe Biden in which Milley expressed relief to former first lady Michelle Obama. “No one has a bigger smile today than I do,” Milley told Obama. “You can’t see it under my mask, but I do.”
Where does such dishing fit in the job description of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? At Tuesday’s hearing, Republican Sen. Rick Scott asked, “Why would you as the sitting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talk to a reporter who is writing a book about a prior administration? Why would that be part of your job description?”
Milley said he talks to the media regularly, multiple times a week. “I think it’s very important that senior officials talk to the media, in all its various forms, in order to explain what we’re doing,” he said.
But Scott wanted to know why Milley was dishing about a former president. “Why would you … talk to a reporter who is writing a book about a prior administration? Why would that be part of your job description?”
“I think it’s important to make sure that the American people are transparent with what our government does, is all,” Milley said. “Nothing more complicated than that.”
Milley’s talks with Woodward, Leonnig, Rucker, Bender — and possibly other authors as well — clearly went beyond ensuring “transparency” about the Joint Chiefs’ activities. The general’s “Reichstag moment” quote spoke volumes about the statement he wanted to make for the books that would describe the Trump administration’s final days.
And then Milley got burned by Woodward’s and Costa’s sensational portrayal of his conversations with a top Chinese general, which led to some critics accusing Milley of “treason.” As it turned out, the critics were not being fair, and events did not transpire exactly as the book said. Milley suffered some unjustified criticism. But that’s the lesson for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Live by the media, die by the media.
I think we need more information about Milley’s interviews with Woodward, but I think we know enough to infer that in each of these interviews Milley was promoting himself in a most unsavory and unprofessional manner.
At the House hearing yesterday Rep. Jim Banks homed in on another aspect of Milley’s effusions to Woodward. He is a man of poor judgment, perhaps about himself most of all. In addition to providing what he believed to be a heroic self-portrait to Woodward and other media friends, he appears be a patently untrustworthy witness.
Gen. Mark Milley is asked by Congressman @Jim_Banks if he referred to Epoch Times, a paper founded by Chinese critics of the Chinese Communist Party, & Newsmax “domestic terrorist” organizations. The general said he doesn’t recall. pic.twitter.com/wqCqrn8MsL
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) September 29, 2021