Tag Archives: Defense Department

Another ‘acting defense secretary’ set to take over

How is this going to work?

The United States well might go to war with Iran. We’re still fighting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and who knows where else. The Pentagon has just ordered another 1,000 American troops into the Persian Gulf region.

Against that backdrop, the acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, today has pulled out of the nomination to become the permanent defense boss.

Is this another example of Donald Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” in action? Is this how we’re supposed to believe that our national security network is in steady hands?

Trump has named Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the latest acting defense secretary. For how long will Esper be the “acting” Pentagon boss?

Oh, my.

I’m still trying to get over the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who quit because of serious policy disagreements with the president, who then lied about Mattis being “fired.”

Shanahan said something today about wanting to spend more time with his children. Trump said Shanahan had done a great job as the acting defense secretary. There were reports of a domestic disturbance in 2010 with his now former wife, which might have played a part in his decision to pull out of the effort to be confirmed as permanent defense secretary.

The revolving door keeps on turning at the Pentagon. It is happening at a time of tremendous national peril.

What in the world can possibly go wrong without a strong hand at the Pentagon helm?

Frightening.

Gates, hardly a flaming lib, weighs in on ‘case closed’ claim

Robert Gates is no one’s flaming liberal. He’s a lifelong Republican who served as defense secretary for — get set! — Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack H. Obama.

Gates’ bipartisan credentials are, thus, set. So, when he says that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that it’s “case closed” regarding the Russian attack on our electoral system is flat wrong, well, I’m inclined to listen to him.

Gates has suggested that the Trump administration’s response to the Russian attack has been tepid and weak-kneed.

He said this on “Face the Nation” today: “And frankly, I think elected officials who depend on honest elections to get elected ought to place as a very high priority measures to protect the American electoral system against interference by foreigners.”

Gates doesn’t believe the Trump team has made those measures a “very high priority.” Gee! Do ya think?

I remained baffled and astonished that Donald Trump would stand next to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and actually disparage U.S. intelligence analyses that Russians interfered in our election in 2016, and then went on to say he didn’t see “why they would.”

The president was wrong. Stubbornly wrong at that.

Robert Gates has served at the pinnacle of power in administrations governed by presidents of both major parties. He is not the partisan hack that clearly fits the description of the Senate majority leader.

This case is not “closed.” Nor is the matter involving the obstruction of justice charge that special counsel Robert Mueller left wide open in his 448-page report.

Case closed? Not . . . even . . . close!

Promise made … promise broken

Donald Trump made a solemn vow while campaigning for the presidency of the United States of America.

He said he wouldn’t be a typical Republican. He said he would leave Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending alone. He wouldn’t touch them. He would solve the nation’s budgetary woes — as he defined them — without laying a hand on those valuable social programs.

So, what does the president do when he presents his fiscal year 2020 federal budget? He proposes cuts to Medicare by $845 billion, cuts for Medicaid by $1.5 trillion and reduces Social Security spending by $25 billion.

His record-setting budget of $4.75 trillion does add money for the Department of Defense.

Broken promises

My point here is that Donald Trump persuaded many American voters that he would leave these coveted programs alone.

OK, he has officially stuck it in our household’s eye. My wife and I are retired Americans. We draw from our Social Security accounts and we also depend on Medicare to help with our health care needs; I also have Veterans Administration benefits to assist with my health care issues.

Is this the bargain the nation got when it elected this promise-breaker president of the United States?

Trump does Mattis a huge favor

Put yourself into James Mattis’ boots for a moment.

You’ve just tendered a resignation letter that scorches the commander in chief’s methods of governing, of managing the nation’s foreign and military policies.

You have told the president of the United States you would stay in your job as defense secretary until Feb. 28.

But the president is so angry with you — with all the attention and love you’re getting from the media and politicians of both parties — that he’s decided to cut you loose early.

You’ll be gone instead by the end of December, just a few days from now.

How do you react to that? If it were me, I would be thrilled to death. Thrilled beyond words. Excited to get my life re-started. Secretary Mattis isn’t married, so he doesn’t have a spouse or children to share his joy, but my guess is that he’s cheering along with his best friends, siblings and other extended family members.

Donald Trump well may have done Mattis the biggest favor he could imagine. He has spared the retired Marine general from the chaos of another two months working within an administration where the cadence is being called by someone who is clueless about how government works. He doesn’t know how to forge and maintain strategic alliances. The commander in chief has no inkling of how his policy pronouncements via Twitter disrupt the normal flow of information.

Mattis brought a retired Marine Corps general’s order and discipline to the president’s inner circle, to his national defense team. He will take it all with him when he departs on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump will keep on bumbling his way toward an uncertain future as our head of state.

The newly department secretary of defense will be relieved of the insanity and chaos that now masquerade as presidential governance.

James Mattis is likely smiling broadly.

I know I would be. So would you.

Angry POTUS gives Mattis an early out

This is the least surprising development in the days since Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation from the Trump administration.

Donald Trump has told the defense boss to hit the road at the end of next week; don’t bother waiting until the end of February.

The president appears to be angered over Mattis’ rebuke of him in his letter of resignation. It’s an unprecedented dismantling of the president’s approach to foreign and defense policy. What’s more, the letter lacks a single word of appreciation for the service Mattis rendered to the president himself, although Mattis does restate his pride in serving the men and women in uniform.

Accordingly, Trump decided to give Mattis an extra push out the door. If you think about it, that is an understandable reaction from the president, given the tone and tenor of the letter that Mattis delivered in announcing his resignation.

It does not diminish or degrade the essence of the concerns that Mattis raised in declaring his intention to depart from his post as defense secretary.

So now the Trump administration will have an acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, to go along with an acting White House chief of staff, an acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator, an acting interior secretary, an acting attorney general and,  um, no ambassador to the United Nations.

This is not a “fine-tuned machine.”

The cascade continues

I’ll admit to not knowing anything about Brett McGurk . . . until today.

That’s when I learned that our nation’s leading envoy in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State has decided to quit early. He is angry with Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, to abandon the fight against ISIS in that country. It was a decision that prompted Defense Secretary James Mattis to quit.

Now it’s McGurk who’s hitting the road.

This is a big deal, too.

McGurk had planned to leave in February, but decided to submit his resignation to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McGurk joined the George W. Bush administration and stayed on through the Obama administration, where he was appointed to his current post.

Two years into the Trump administration, McGurk seems to have had enough.

As NBC News reported: Trump’s decision left McGurk flat-footed, unable to explain to U.S. allies who have been fighting ISIS with the United States why they were neither consulted nor informed in advance. Nor have senior Trump administration officials been able to tell allies and Kurdish forces whether U.S. air strikes will continue in Syria to support the mission against ISIS.

Mattis was quite clear in his resignation letter that part of where he differed with Trump is in the treatment of our allies. They cannot trust us to be faithful to our pledges and commitments.

Neither can key administration operatives who are charged with doing the most serious work possible. In McGurk’s case, it is the task of working with allies in the fight to defeat the monstrous terrorists known as the Islamic State.

The chaos is showing signs of taking a terrible toll on U.S. influence in a world that has grown accustomed to what we once touted as our national indispensability.

No longer can we make that make assertion.

James Mattis enters hall of glory with resignation letter

James Mattis doesn’t seem like someone intent on self-glorification.

The secretary of defense appears to be motivated by love of country, devotion to public service and to living by the code instilled in the Marine Corps from which he retired as a four-star general.

However, his letter of resignation has emerged as an instant iconic message that might stand as a defining epitaph — perhaps the defining epitaph — for the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

The closest recent example I can find that resembles the tone Mattis uses in his resignation letter comes from the late Cyrus Vance, who in 1980 resigned as secretary of state to protest President Carter’s decision to launch the ill-fated mission to rescue the American hostages who were held in Iran.

He calls out the president for his lack of understanding of the importance of our alliances, for his failure to understand the consequences of presidential actions or pronouncements. He scolds the president for his failure to be “resolute” in his relations with our nation’s traditional adversaries, such as Russia and China.

He ended the letter without salutation. Simply signing it “James N. Mattis.”

Read the letter here.

Its message should sadden — and frighten — every American who shares his concerns about the presidency and the man who occupies this exalted office.

Chaos begets more chaos in Trump’s world

Chaos is running rampant throughout the executive branch of the U.S. government.

Nope. It isn’t a “fine-tuned machine,” no matter what Donald Trump calls it. It is a clanking, sputtering bucket of bolts with the wheels about to fly off the rickety machine.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has resigned, revealing specific differences of world view with the commander in chief. He becomes the eighth Cabinet officer to resign or be fired in the first half of the president’s term in office.

Three Cabinet officials quit under clouds of scandal. Three of them were canned outright. Yet another one resigned for reasons that weren’t entirely clear.

Let’s not forget the departure of two White House chiefs of staff, several communications directors, two national security advisers and any number of lower-level White House aides.

Now this happens. I happen to be a huge admirer of Secretary Mattis. I admire his military background, his studious nature, his commitment to the men and women in uniform. I admire his steady hand and his repeated resistance to the president’s impulsive nature.

He has had enough of the chaos. This decorated Marine Corps general can no longer answer to a commander in chief who operates the way Donald Trump seeks to operate.

Chaos is Donald Trump’s modus operandi. He revels in it with no understanding — none at all — of the misery and mayhem it creates for those who must deal with it up close.

And this all comes as the president responds to the bellowing of his political base and insists after all for money to build that wall along our southern border. What’s more, the government well might shut down partially at midnight Friday, putting thousands of federal workers out of a job right before Christmas.

This is not how you make America great again. It is not how you tell it like it is. It is not how you win.

This is a frightening time. James Mattis’s upcoming departure signals a growth in chaos at the highest — most sensitive — levels of our government.

Read Mattis’s resignation letter right here. Then ask yourself: Is this any way to run the world’s most indispensable nation?

The ‘best’ are great, the worst are, well, something else

Donald Trump has shown an ability to hire a wide-ranging array of key administration officials. They run from the brightest of lights to the dimmest of bulbs.

I consider Defense Secretary James Mattis to be among the stars of the Trump administration. He’s a retired four-star Marine Corps general; tested in combat. He’s dedicated to the defense of this country. Thoughtful, learned and a totally competent strategic thinker.

I hope he stays for the duration of the Trump administration, although Mattis’s tenure is beginning to show signs of wobbliness.

Then there’s the president’s latest selection to be our ambassador to the United Nations.

I am having difficulty wrapping my noggin around this one. Heather Nauert is nominated to be our nation’s top envoy on the world stage. Her credentials? None. She has nothing to offer.

Except for this: She once was a “news” personality on the Fox News News Channel, the president’s network of choice. She did a co-hosting gig on “Fox & Friends.” She dressed up in goofy costumes and acted totally, well, the way morning “news” talk show co-hosts often act.

Then she got a job as spokeswoman for the State Department. You might be recall how she sought to praise U.S.-Germany relations by citing, for instance, the upcoming D-Day commemoration. D’oh! Wait a second!

Our guys fought the Germans to the death on the beaches at Normandy, France. We were at war.

This is the kind of “experience” the president sought when he named this person to be our advocate on at the United Nations.

Weird, man.

Is the defense boss next one to go?

Oh, I was hoping James Mattis could survive the on-going purge of grownups within the Donald J. Trump administration.

It appears the hope is fading.

Mattis is the defense secretary, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, a decorated combat veteran, a seriously competent military expert and a man known to be a bona fide check on the president’s lack of knowledge of damn near anything involving foreign/military policy.

He once was one of Trump’s favorites. He’s no longer among those folks, according to The New York Times.

As the Times reports: In the second year of his presidency, Mr. Trump has largely tuned out his national security aides as he feels more confident as commander in chief, the officials said. Facing what is likely to be a heated re-election fight once the 2018 midterms are over, aides said Mr. Trump was pondering whether he wanted someone running the Pentagon who would be more vocally supportive than Mr. Mattis, who is vehemently protective of the American military against perceptions it could be used for political purposes.

Mattis has become a subject of some chatter of late, given the release of Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear.” Mattis reportedly has actually explained to Trump that U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to “protect us against World War III.” Trump supposedly asked out loud just why in the world do we have those troops on duty in South Korea.

Mattis reportedly has said the president has the attention span of a fifth- or sixth-grader.

Mattis is pushing back

Ah, yes. The grownup speaks a version of the truth about service within an administration run by a man who once claimed to “know about ISIS than the generals.” Actually, he doesn’t … know anything, let alone “more about ISIS.”

There’s this from the Times as well: Mr. Mattis himself is becoming weary, some aides said, of the amount of time spent pushing back against what Defense Department officials think are capricious whims of an erratic president.

This, according to the president, is how a “fine-tuned machine” functions.

Donald Trump is delusional. To the max!