With the announcement that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would be departing at year’s end, the generals who were once lauded as the “adults in the room” are reduced to one. General H.R. McMasters’ tenure as National Security Advisor was brief and tenuous. Often at odds with Trump, McMasters was unceremoniously replaced with firebrand John Bolton. Kelly’s departure is sure to bring about a replacement more in line with Trump’s ideology. The more comfortable Trump feels in office the more he is willing let go the experts and surround himself with more of the “yes men” he desires to reach his policy objectives. Curiously, James Mattis has been under fire recently for his comments echoing Trump’s statements on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Unwilling to publicly cross the President, many have taken Mattis professionalism for capitulation. So to those criticizing the current Secretary of Defense, I would ask as to who is exactly a better man for the job than James Mattis. Moreover, if there was a better “adult in the room” as Mattis has been called then would Trump ever nominate such a man? For James Mattis, the fight to keep his job is not about loyalty to Trump but loyalty to the nation. For what happens when there are no longer “adults in the room” when it matters most to this nation.
Serving at the Pleasure of the President
Lest one think the intention of this article is meant to be astinging rebuke of Trump’s Presidency, I must equally offer the opinion thatTrump’s unorthodox approach has brought about its own share of successes. Chinawas without question gouging the American public via trade and robbing Americaof its technology wherever possible. That China is now at the table negotiatingis a far cry better than robbery with impunity. North Korea is still asdangerous as ever and yet, after a meeting with Trump the North and South havemade more progress than in recent memory. European allies should pay more tosupport their own defense via NATO and the United States is right to know whocomes and goes across its own border.
That being said, there is great risk and peril in this unorthodox approach should things go wrong. Moreover, thanks to the stream of leaks coming out of the White House we know that Trump has been persuaded out of some of his worst decisions such as prematurely withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan. The question is who is doing the persuading in these key moments? When one of these high risk ventures comes to Trump’s mind is it the man known as the “warrior monk” you want speaking truth to power or a yes man like John Bolton? James Mattis understands he serves at the pleasure of the President and it is telling that the renowned leader with zero interest in politics is willing to play the game to remain in place.
Fear What Comes Next
I do personally believe the worst people imagine of Trump is true,but for those who do I ask why they celebrate the departure of men like JohnKelly and the rumored replacement of a man like James Mattis. For over 30years, each one of these men has dedicated themselves to service to nation.They were derided by an ignorant public for taking positions with theadministration that someone was going to have to take at some point. Now,Mattis is being derided for doing what it takes remain as one of the last“adults” in the room.
Imagine the worst scenario as a replacement Secretary of Defense and it may very well be so. The Senate must indeed confirm, but they have as of yet to prove they are willing to deny Trump’s wishes. James Mattis is the last of the heralded Generals and he is going out of his way to avoid giving Trump the green light to let him go. From Tillerson to McMasters and now Kelly, the exit of a prominent cabinet official has always been preceded by rumors of disloyalty. Hard to blame a man like Mattis for refusing to give an unorthodox President the reason to remove the last of the “adults” from the room.