With the recent exits of former national security advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from the Trump administration, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis was supposed to be the one ‘sane’ voice in Trump’s ear advocating for a foreign policy which wasn’t hell-bent on destroying the diplomatic gains the Obama administration made with Iran.
Reportedly, however, Trump doesn’t give a shit what Mattis thinks anymore. NBC News reports that Mattis has been on the other side of pretty much every Trump decision since about December, including but not limited to: moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; withdrawing from the Iran deal; banning transgender people from serving in the military; pretty much everything involving North Korea; and, most importantly, Space Force.
“He’s never been one of the go-tos in the gang that’s very close to the president,” a ‘senior White House official’ told NBC News. “But the president has a lot of respect for him.” (The Pentagon and the White House both essentially dismissed the entire story, with Pentagon spokesperson Dana White calling it “pure silliness.”)
Here’s a nice little anecdote that sums up Mattis’ recent relationship with Trump: According to NBC News, he reportedly opposed Trump’s decision to send the National Guard to the border. After Trump asked for his opinion, though, the president said thanks, but no thanks:
Mattis was against Trump deploying the National Guard to the border. When Trump raised the issue with him, Mattis told the president he didn’t think it was a good idea but that such a move wasn’t under his control as defense secretary, according to one current and one former official.
“[Mattis] didn’t feel like the mission was well defined,” said a senior White House official.
Trump signed a proclamation in April authorizing the deployment of state National Guard forces to protect the border.
Part of the reason Trump reportedly doesn’t like Mattis anymore, somewhat hilariously, is because Mattis just keeps ignoring Trump whenever he tells him to do something stupid:
The current and former officials said Trump has become tired of what he views as Mattis ignoring or slow-rolling his policy decisions.
In spring 2017 Trump asked Mattis to change the Obama-era policy that allowed transgender individuals to serve openly in the military. Trump asked Mattis about it for “a few weeks or maybe even a couple months,” but Mattis did not respond with action.
The friction escalated in January when Trump ordered Mattis to end the practice of allowing the family members of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea to accompany them during their deployments. But Mattis, with the assistance of chief of staff John Kelly, put off implementing the directive, say one defense official and one former administration official, angering Trump.
Trump repeatedly said he wanted to sign an order changing the policy on military dependents in South Korea, but Mattis and other officials, including Kelly, tried to stall him, according to three former officials. “It was kind of like a game of tag. There were plenty of other people, in addition to Mattis, who slow-walked that,” the former official said. The order was never implemented.
Instead of Mattis and chief of staff John Kelly, who reportedly has his own problems with Trump, the president is reportedly choosing to rely either on his gut or his gut plus the wise words of National Security Advisor John Bolton—whose hiring Mattis also reportedly opposed, and also is a war criminal—and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Great news for people who love the idea of another American adventure in the Middle East.
For all of Mattis’ supposed opposition to some of Trump’s dumbest moves, however, it’s worth remembering that he—like born-again Resister Rex Tillerson and other members of the Bipartisan Caucus for Endless War—would very much prefer that our idiot president be given unlimited war powers by Congress. It’s all broken, folks.