Tag Archives: James Mattis

These officers need to be heard

It’s not every day that a general-grade officer takes the commander in chief to task for decisions he makes that put the nation’s security in peril.

Yet, that is what has happened with two superb military officers. They both have combat experience. They both have commanded many thousands of men and women. They both are true-blue American heroes.

Retired Admiral William McRaven, the former special operations commanding officer, has penned a New York Times essay in which he declares that Donald Trump is putting our democracy “in jeopardy.” He cannot fathom that the president sidles up to dictators and trashes our allies and our alliances that have been vital to keeping the world safe from tyrants. McRaven, under whose command our military was able to kill Osama bin Laden, has laid it on the line with regard to Donald Trump.

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who served as defense secretary in the Trump administration, resigned because the president doesn’t know what he is doing with regard to the military and his handling of foreign policy. Trump selected Mattis to lead the Pentagon, calling him at the time of his hiring a first-rate commanding officer; now he refers to Mattis as an “overrated general.”

They aren’t alone in expressing their dismay and disgust at the way the president conducts foreign and military policy. Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the former head of Central Command who led troops during the Persian Gulf War — and served with valor and heroism during the Vietnam War — has been a fervent critic of the president.

These are serious men with serious views about the commander in chief. They are patriots. They served heroically. They faced our enemies on the battlefield. These men deserve to be heard. 

Gen. Mattis comes clean: ‘I had to leave the administration’

James Mattis is showing his class, his devotion to country and his dedication to public service. How? By revealing that Donald Trump’s shamble-driven management style forced him to resign as secretary of defense.

He quit because of policy differences with the commander in chief. Trump, quite unsurprisingly, dismissed the differences he had with Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, a combat veteran and — to my way of thinking — one of the few actual grownups who has served in the Trump administration.

Mattis became frustrated with Trump’s policy pronouncements by Twitter. He couldn’t function while there was no clear line of communication between his staff and the White House.

So, he quit.

I, along with other Americans, was struck by tone of Mattis’s statement announcing his resignation. He took great pains to salute the men and women who served under his command; he paid tribute to his Pentagon staff and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He didn’t say a word of praise for the president of the United States.

Gosh! Can you imagine that?

Atlantic magazine has published a story telling how Mattis told those close to him about his decision to leave the administration. See the story here.

The bottom line for James Mattis is that he just “couldn’t take it any more.” Who knew?

DNI is the latest to jump the sinking ship?

Imagine my (non)surprise to hear that Dan Coats is “stepping down” from his job as director of national intelligence in the Donald J. Trump administration.

The president has made damn few appointments that I could endorse. Coats was one of them. Coats, a former Indiana U.S. senator House member, is an establishment Republican with valuable political contacts/friendships/alliances in Washington, D.C. He served as a key bridge between the renegade president and the political pros who run things on Capitol Hill.

He also is a serious policy hound who knows how to walk through the maze of government mumbo-jumbo.

Coats also had some run-ins with the president, who you’ll remember challenged the intelligence community’s assertion that Russia hacked into our electoral system in 2016. They performed with evil intent to help Trump get elected. Trump, of course, sided with Russian strongman Vlad Putin and denigrated the intelligence network’s diligence on the matter.

Coats was at the center of that dispute.

I hate that the administration is losing a seasoned pro like DNI Dan Coats. Trump says he’ll nominate U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas — a staunch Trump supporter on Capitol Hill — to succeed Coats.

Trump called Ratcliffe a “highly respected” member of Congress, a former U.S. attorney. The president also reportedly was impressed by the way Ratcliffe grilled former special counsel Robert Mueller III during Mueller’s marathon testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees — of which Ratcliffe is a member … of both panels.

Coats, to my way of thinking, ranks alongside former Defense Secretary James Mattis as among the more stellar Trump appointments. Mattis bolted after quarreling with the president. Now it’s Coats who is leaving, reportedly for the same reasons.

Hmm. What’s the common denominator? Oh, gosh! It must be the president of the United States.

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.