Good, solid WSJ article this morning about how Jim Mattis is fitting in as Secretary of Defense “despite policy differences”, which is WSJ-headline-speak for “there’s a little tension between Trump and Mattis because Mattis wants to appoint people in DOD who aren’t/weren’t necessarily Trump fans, but who, regardless, would be the best people for the job.” Of course they go on to say that Trump seems to listen more closely to what Mattis has to say than he does to what his other political appointments do. The writers say that “the defense chief seems to have had the most success in prodding Mr. Trump away from some of his positions.” OK. Makes sense. He didn’t appoint Mad Dog to be his military butt boy, he appointed him to do a job that badly needs doing and that Trump doesn’t even begin to understand.*
A reasonable, balanced story, nevertheless. Except maybe for this graf:
To a degree, Mr. Mattis’s divergence with the White House reflects his lack of political experience. He is a retired Marine four-star general, and military officers, American officials note, don’t always have much experience with the political aspects of their jobs.
I don’t think the writers have much military experience, even if one is based in Baghdad. Because once you get past a certain level in the American military, EVERYTHING is political. I suspect that’s partly because of the mandatory lobotomy undergone by all candidates for the rank of major, but it’s also because once you reach that level, unless you are actively deployed (and maybe not then), everything is political because everything can affect your future advancement.
Anyone who thinks Jim Mattis doesn’t understand politics is badly mistaken. He didn’t want to be president because he didn’t want to deal with the politics, not because he didn’t understand them. And as a Cabinet secretary, he apparently believes it is better to speak bluntly and realistically rather than cozy up with what would be a more political approach. Again, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand politics; it means he hasn’t got the time or the patience for that kind of bullshit.
I’m no military expert, but I’ll bet that’s the response you’d get from any Marine.
* This is part of the genius of Donald Trump. Most think it shows weakness. It doesn’t. Trump knows what he knows, and knows what he doesn’t know, and he knows that Jim Mattis knows more about the military in his little finger than Trump knows in his entire body. And he’s showing great intelligence and savvy by choosing the right man for the job, pointing him at the problem, and staying mostly out of his way. He did the same thing with McMasters, whom he probably should have appointed NSA in the first place, but every administration (including the “sainted” Obama’s) has its bumps and potholes.