In an interview published in August, James Mattis promised that his silence on all things Trump wouldn't be "eternal." CNN reports that on Thursday evening, the former defense secretary lifted the veil just a bit, making jokes about the president at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a fundraiser that often includes comedic barbs. Mattis' biggest crowd-pleaser was his reaction to a report that Trump had called him "the world's most overrated general." Mattis' response: "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. And, you do have to admit, that between me and Meryl, at least we've had some victories." Mattis added that "the only person in the military that Mr. Trump doesn't think is overrated is ... Colonel Sanders."
After a few minutes of lighthearted jabs, Mattis took on a more serious tone, referencing a speech Abraham Lincoln gave in January 1838 to the Young Men's Lyceum in Springfield, Ill. In that speech, Mattis noted, "Lincoln observed great nations crumble for one of two reasons. The first is aggression from the outside." The second? "Corrosion from within," he continued. "The rot, the viciousness, the lassitude, the ignorance. Anarchy is one potential consequence of all this. Another is the rise of an ambitious leader, unfettered by a conscience or precedence or decency, who would make himself supreme. If destruction be our lot, Lincoln warned, we must ourselves be its author and finisher." Watch Mattis' entire speech here. (Trump has called these 9 people and things "overrated.")