Tag Archives: James Mattis

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.

Guy with no experience to lead Pentagon? Oh … wait!

Donald Trump has decided that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan should get the job on a more permanent basis.

Thus, he is nominating the former Boeing Co. executive to lead the world’s mightiest military apparatus.

Shanahan would seek to fill a huge void created by the resignation in late 2018 of former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned over differences he had with the president’s defense policy.

OK, the critics are out already regarding Shanahan. They say that his lack of any defense experience does not commend him to this job.

I must say: Whoa! Wait a minute!

In 1961, another president, John F. Kennedy, named a Ford Inc., executive, Robert McNamara, to lead the Pentagon. McNamara had the same zero defense experience that Shanahan would bring to his new job.

Now, it’s a highly debatable point that McNamara did a good job as defense secretary. He did lie to the public about whether the nation was winning the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He kept the truth from us until the mid-1990s, when he wrote in a book that he knew as early as 1963 that Vietnam was essentially a lost cause.

His lack of experience, though, likely didn’t play a part in McNamara’s big-league deception.

Do I wish the president could find someone with the chops that James Mattis brought to the post? Sure. Then again, would another revered general-grade officer — such as Mattis — last any longer than the retired Marine did? Likely not.

Still, let’s not dismiss Patrick Shanahan just because he doesn’t have prior government experience.

VPOTUS is getting roasted … for loyalty to POTUS?

I am going to shock, maybe stun, critics of this blog — and perhaps supporters of it — by offering a word in defense of Vice President Mike Pence.

He is getting roasted, skewered, sliced and diced because he expresses admittedly blind loyalty to Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.

I am baffled a bit by the criticism. It’s as if his praise of the president has caught critics by surprise, that he shouldn’t be saying all those nice things about the guy who selected him to run on the Republican Party presidential ticket in 2016.

Let me stipulate, as if I need to do so: I detest the idea of Donald Trump serving as president. I cringe, too, when I hear Mike Pence speak so sickeningly about the president’s so-called accomplishments. I want Donald Trump removed from the office at the earliest possible opportunity. I also want Pence to hit the road right along with Trump.

Trump’s amorality is stunning in its scope. I am puzzled as well that Pence, a deeply religious man, even would have agreed to run alongside the slug who won the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

But he did agree to run as VP. The two of them won the election. Pence serves at the pleasure of the president. I am going to presume, therefore, that he likes being vice president and that he finds plenty to do to keep himself occupied during the day.

So I am left to ask: What do the Trump-Pence critics expect the vice president to do or say about the president? When has any vice president been openly contemptuous of the head of state, head of government and the commander in chief?

Perhaps the VP could dial back the tone and tenor of the praise he slathers all over the president. Do you remember how former Defense Secretary James Mattis praised the men and women who served under him, but didn’t offer a single word of praise for POTUS as he was announcing his resignation from the Pentagon?

Is that what Trump critics want from the vice president?

Let’s get real. It ain’t going to happen. The vice president took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, just as the president did. However, there is no way on Earth that the U.S. government’s No. 2 man is going to turn his fire on No. 1.

New ‘grownups’ emerge in Trump administration

I was mistaken when I wondered whether former Defense Secretary James Mattis would be the “last” grownup who could serve in the Donald Trump administration.

Mattis quit as defense chief, citing Trump’s impulsiveness and the profound differences the president and the defense secretary had on their view of the world. He planned to stay until the end of February; but then Trump showed him out at the end of 2018, declaring that he “essentially” fired Mattis.

More of grownups have emerged. They are FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

These three counter terrorism experts have contradicted the president on the threats posed to the world by the Islamic State and the North Koreans.

And yet the president insulted all of them collectively. He insulted the agencies they run. The president hurled insults at the professional men and women who work day and night protecting us from forces that seek to do us harm.

Wray, Haspel and Coats need to stay put. They need to protect us not just against foreign forces and enemies of the state, but also against the ignoramus who masquerades as the president of the United States.

Trump has denigrated Wray, Haspel and Coats in their assessment of the threats posed to this country. The president said ISIS has been defeated. He said North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat. He is wrong on both counts. The three intelligence experts said so, but Trump responded by calling them “naïve” and said they need to be “educated.”

No, they do not. The president of the United States has demonstrated yet again that he is unfit to hold the office to which he was elected.

The clown show is getting even more bizarre

That astonishing sideshow that commenced today in the Cabinet Room of the White House left me fairly speechless.

Why? Because there is too much on which to comment. Donald Trump’s non-stop riff covering the government shutdown, The Wall, the military, James Mattis’ resignation/firing, and God knows what else has left many of us out here grasping for something on which to analyze.

I’ll go with two items that jumped out at me.

Trump said, “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” Well, Mr. President, you had your chance back in the 1960s. While many of us were answering the call to duty during the Vietnam War, young Donald Trump received (cough, cough!) medical deferments associated with, um, bone spurs.

I had flat feet in 1968, which I always thought was a disqualifier. The U.S. Army induction center in Portland, Ore., didn’t accept that idea. So . . .  off I went.

The future president got five deferments. The New York Times recently revealed that the circumstances of those deferments were at best questionable, that the doctor who “diagnosed” the bone spurs allegedly did so as a favor to young Donald’s father, Fred. Thus, I won’t buy into his goofy notion about how good a general he would have been.

Then he said this about James Mattis, the now-former secretary of defense. “What did I get out of” his service? “Not much,” Trump said.

OK. Let’s see. The oath that Mattis took was to protect the country, to serve the country, to defend the Constitution. He did not swear an oath to serve the president. He did not declare his adherence to the individual who nominated him to run the Pentagon.

Then the president said he “essentially” fired the defense secretary.

Right there is yet another demonstration from Donald Trump that this individual does not understand the true meaning of public service. He has shown one more time how patently unfit he is to serve as commander in chief of the finest military apparatus the world has ever seen.

Trump doesn’t ‘know’ his key anti-ISIS diplomat? Huh?

Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal this nothing event!

— Donald Trump

Let’s consider this statement for a moment, OK?

It came from the president’s Twitter fingers. He doesn’t “know” the man who has resigned as the administration’s top diplomat who works with forces that seek to destroy the Islamic State.

Brett McGurk quit to protest the manner in which the president announced the planned withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Syria. Trump declared that ISIS is “defeated.” So he’s leaving the fight to, I guess, the Russians and the Turks.

Defense Secretary James Mattis also quit to protest the president’s decision and the manner in which he arrived at it.

But for the president to say — again, via Twitter — that he doesn’t know the man charged with working to destroy the pre-eminent terrorist organization speaks volumes about the president’s astonishing inattention.

Think of it. Donald Trump declares his intention to destroy the Islamic State. He campaigned for the presidency saying he knows “more about ISIS than the generals, believe me.” He said ISIS’s destruction would be among his major foreign policy priorities.

And he doesn’t “know” the guy charged with leading the diplomatic effort in conjunction with our allies?

Astonishing.

Brett McGurk’s resignation is far more than a “nothing event.”

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.

GOP losing patience, finally, with POTUS?

The beginning of the end of the Trump presidency came and went a long time ago. I have never wavered from my oft-stated convictions that (a) Trump will not finish out his term, and (b), the end will be triggered by a presidential meltdown that forces the Vichy Republicans in Washington to mount an insurrection — if only to save their own asses, not the country. This week was a big step toward that endgame, and surely one of the most remarkable weeks in American history.

So writes Frank Rich, a writer for New York Magazine and a former columnist for the New York Times.

Those “Vichy Republicans,” and they include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and lame-duck House Speaker Paul Ryan, took a shiv in the back from Donald J. Trump.

They thought they had a deal to keep the government running. The Senate voted unanimously to send a spending bill to the House — but with no money to build that damn wall along our southern border.

The House got its hands on it. Right wing radio talkers got the ear of the president and told him he was betraying that shrinking base of his base by not demanding money for the wall. Trump called Ryan to the White House and told he had changed his mind, that he wouldn’t sign the bill.

The government has been shut down. Yes, it’s a partial shutdown. However, it still affects hundreds of thousands of federal employees . . . at Christmas!

Is this the moment that the GOP finally — finally! — will stand up to this goofball president?

Meanwhile, the president’s chaos pattern escalated with the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who quit over severe disagreements about the way the president develops policy statements. By that I refer to the Twitter torrents that announce policies such as, oh, the withdrawal of about 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. There was no consultation with allies, with the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, the DNI. Trump did it all by himself.

That did it for Mattis. He has quit and will walk away with his reputation intact.

Meanwhile, the federal government will stagger along. The president will continue to operate in a chaotic atmosphere.

How much longer will Trump’s supposed GOP allies tolerate it?

I will leave you with this from Rich’s commentary: The Mattis resignation is huge. It’s not that he was the last “adult in the room” but that as a retired military man and a secretary of Defense with access to both foreign intelligence and the inner workings of the White House, he knows treason when he sees it.

Wow!