|Mattis and Der Trumpenführer in happier times.|
The so-called adults in the room who have tried to contain the ignorance, impulsiveness and detrimental actions of Der Trumpenführer are rapidly exiting their Cabinet and White House positions only to be replaced with extreme ideologues or those lacking relevant experience and only too happy to play "yes men" to Trump. The latest to exist is Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former general, who in essence resigned in protest over Trump's blunders and actions harmful to America's long term interest. The resignation came a day after Trump's abrupt move to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, a move that can only thrill Trump's Kemlin puppeteer, Vladimir Putin. Driving home I heard Trump minion Stephen Miller - who seems to be channeling Josef Goebbels when it comes to lying and moral bankruptcy in general - being interviewed and trying to waive off Mattis' condemnation of Trump. Only in the alternate universe of Fox News could anyone read Mattis' resignation as anything but a protest against Trump's harmful policies. A piece in Politico (that contains an embedded copy of Mattis' letter) looks at this latest White House crisis. Here are highlights:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned on Thursday while delivering a stunning rebuke to
PresidentDonald Trump, expressing differences on issues including the president's treatment of U.S. allies and the need for a "resolute" approach to Russia.
The highly public end to Mattis' two years as Pentagon leader came a day after Trump announced an abrupt pullout of U.S. forces from Syria, a move that shocked allies in the region and knocked military commanders off guard. It also followed reports that Trump is poised to order a similarly swift withdrawal from Afghanistan.
And his departure unnerved lawmakers who had looked to the retired four-star Marine general as a rare force for stability in Trump's administration — someone who had repeatedly counseled the president against taking precipitous actions in hot spots like Syria, Iran, and the Korean peninsula.
"I’m shaken by the news because of the patriot that Secretary Mattis is," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. "I think that everybody in the country should read his letter of resignation.
"This is scary," tweeted Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. He added: "As we’ve seen with the President’s haphazard approach to Syria, our national defense is too important to be subjected to the President’s erratic whims."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded Mattis's staunch support for "post-World War alliances that have been carefully built by both parties."
"We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter," he said in a statement, adding he is "particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other key aspects of America’s global leadership.
“It is regrettable that the president must now choose a new Secretary of Defense," McConnell continued. "But I urge him to select a leader who shares Secretary Mattis’s understanding of these vital principles and his total commitment to America’s servicemembers.”
Another Republican, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, tweeted in response to Trump's announcement: "That’s what happens when you ignore sound military advice."
The letter was a departure for Mattis, who had always been careful not to criticize [Trump]
the presidentpublicly. But it had been clear for some time that Mattis, once a darling of Trump's Cabinet, had become a dissident on a host of issues, including the president's desire for a Space Force, the proposed ban on transgender troops and the deployment of thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexican border.
But Trump's Syria pullout, combined with fears of Trump will also overrule his advisers on Afghanistan, were just too much, a former Pentagon official told POLITICO, “Those are the last straws."
In his letter Thursday, Mattis made clear that the two had steadily parted company. On China and Russia, he told Trump: "I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are are increasingly in tension with ours."
He also alluded to Trump's shabby treatment in public of longtime American allies.
Trump critics have long seen Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general and a professed nonpartisan, as a moderating force and steady hand within a chaotic administration. His overwhelming Senate confirmation included support from even senators who have since opposed nearly all of Trump's nominees.
As the Pentagon's top civilian, Mattis pushed for largely a continuation of strategies the military was already pursuing in its campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the war in Afghanistan. He opposed withdrawing from the nuclear pact with Iran.
Just who will step in to replace Mattis is unclear, though some speculation has centered on retired Army Gen. Jack Keane and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
A Democratic-controlled House is likely to be more demanding of both military and civilian Pentagon leaders and take a more skeptical eye toward historically high defense budgets and key policies, such as overhauling each leg of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and continuing military assistance for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen's civil war.