There’s been some reporting over the past 24 hours about Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and whether the president is looking past the serious grownup he has among his closest Cabinet officials.
Donald Trump announced the ending of “war games” with South Korean armed forces; he declared the United States was nixing the Iran nuclear deal; the president also announced his desire to form a sixth military branch, which he has called a “space force.”
These initiatives all have something in common. The president announced all of them without consulting Secretary Mattis.
Is this the beginning of the end of Mad Dog’s tenure as head of the Pentagon? Oh, man, I hope it ain’t so.
Of all the individuals Trump has selected for the Cabinet, Mattis is the one who — in my mind — has acted like the grownup. He is a serious-minded retired four-star U.S. Marine Corps general. His combat experience makes him a level-headed deterrent to the chicken hawks — such as national security adviser John Bolton — who seem all too eager to send U.S. forces into harm’s way.
When the president tweeted his decision to ban transgender Americans from enlisting in the armed forces, Mattis held the line, saying that he wouldn’t do a thing to change military policy without it going through the proper administrative channels.
Salon.com reports: The president often leaves Mattis “out of the loop” and “doesn’t listen to him,” according to NBC News, undermining this vital role in national security. Trump allegedly believes that Mattis “looks down on him” and “slow walks his policy directives,” sources told the outlet.
Mattis might “look down” on Trump? Really? So what if he does?
I can understand why Mattis, who has served his country with honor and distinction, might take a dim view of Donald Trump’s world view and his utter lack of understanding of what public service is supposed to mean.
For someone who supposedly has a soft spot in his heart for the generals with whom he has surrounded himself, Trump well might be doing all he can to get his premier Cabinet appointment to hit the road.
If that happens, the nation will be the poorer for it.