Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had an epic response to Trump calling him 'overrated'

  • Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is OK with President Donald Trump calling him the "world's most overrated general" because the president also called Meryl Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood."
  • "I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals," Mattis said during his speech at the 74th annual Al Smith dinner - known for its comedic roast tradition - on Thursday.
  • On a more serious note, Mattis said that he doesn't like to dip into partisan matters, but he warned that we live in deeply divided times, invoking President Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum speech (which was made before he was president).
  • He also addressed US soldiers who fought with the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces, who were allies against the Islamic State in the region.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is OK with President Donald Trump calling him the "world's most overrated general" because the president also called Meryl Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood."

"I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals," Mattis said during his speech at the 74th annual Al Smith dinner — known for its comedic roast tradition — on Thursday.

"And you have to admit, between me and Meryl, at least we've had some victories," he added.

The president attacked Streep after the award-winning actress criticized Trump in a speech she delivered at the Golden Globes in 2017. She condemned Trump mocking a disabled reporter, saying, "When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."

"I'm not just an overrated general. I'm the most overrated general," Mattis says. "I'm honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me." 

Read more:Trump reportedly called Jim Mattis the 'world's most overrated general' in a chaotic meeting on Syria

Mattis, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, resigned his post as secretary of defense in December after Trump first expressed the possibility of pulling US troops in Syria. In his resignation letter, he said the president was entitled to "a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours."

In a contentious meeting between Trump and congressional lawmakers on Wednesday (where both Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the other was having a "meltdown"), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, invoked comments Mattis made about the withdrawal from Syria in a recent interview, The Washington Post reported.

Trump responded by calling the retired four-star Marine Corps general "world's most overrated general," who wasn't "tough enough."

Mattis' response included biting jokes: "I earned my spurs on the battlefield ... Donald Trump earned his spurs from the doctor," he said referring to Trump's medical deferment during the Vietnam war for alleged bone spurs in his heels.

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Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis walks out after a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster Township, N.J. on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence greet retired Marine General James Mattis for a meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Retired Marine General James Mattis departs as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump walks back into the main clubhouse following their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster following their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump stands with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis following their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James 'Jim' Mattis and Operation Gratitude Founder Carolyn Blashek speak during the DIRECTV and Operation Gratitude day of service at the fifth annual DIRECTV Dealer Revolution Conference at Caesars Palace on July 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Photo by Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for DIRECTV)

Egyptian Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Sami Anan shakes hands with US Commander of the Central Command James Mattis during a meeting in Cairo on March 29, 2011.

(KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James 'Jim' Mattis speaks during the DIRECTV and Operation Gratitude day of service at the fifth annual DIRECTV Dealer Revolution Conference at Caesars Palace on July 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Photo by Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for DIRECTV)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James 'Jim' Mattis, former commander of the U.S. Central Command testifies before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee on 'Threats Posed by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), AQ (al Qaeda), and Other Islamic Extremists' on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., September 18, 2014. Yesterday the House approved President Obama's plan to train Syrian rebels to counter ISIL.

(Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Marine Corps General James Mattis, commander of the US Central Command, appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, March 1, 2011. Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya would first require a military operation to destroy the north African nation's air defense systems, top US commander General James Mattis warned Tuesday. A no-fly zone would require removing 'the air defense capability first,' Mattis told a Senate hearing. 'It would be a military operation,' he added.

(CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Joint Forces Command Commander James Mattis speaks during the 2010 Atlantic Council awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Kuwait Major General James Mattis, a high ranking Marine commander who also led troops into Afghanistan, visits Living Support Area one in Kuwait near the Iraqi border where troops are poised to begin a war against Iraq if called to do so by the President of the United States.

(Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis addresses a news conference during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis attend a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testifies to the House Armed Services Committee on "The National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reviews the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
U.S. Secretary for Defense, Jim Mattis, sits opposite Britain's Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, before a meeting at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in central London, Britain November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis waits for the arrival of Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli prior to a meeting on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 8, 2017. Reuters/Virginia Mayo/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Defense Secretary James Mattis participates in a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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On a more serious note, Mattis said that he doesn't like to dip into partisan matters, but he warned that we live in deeply divided times, invoking President Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum speech (which was made before he was president).

He also addressed US soldiers who fought with the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces, who were allies against the Islamic State in the region.

The Syrian Kurds, who Turkey says are linked to the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) (a group designated as a terrorist organization), are now facing an attack from Turkey in northeastern Syria. Northeastern Syria had been a Kurdish-controlled area of civil war-torn Syria, where detained Islamic State fighters were being held, backed with US special forces, who have since pulled out of the region at Trump's orders.

With the US decision to pull roughly 1,000 troops from Syria, Turkey launched a military operation.

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