After months of rumors that Defense Secretary James Mattis may be the next high profile departure from the Trump Administration, President Trump himself added fuel to the fire over the weekend, calling the former Marine General “kind of a Democrat,” and suggesting that Mattis may soon be moving on.
In an interview that was broadcast on Sunday on “60 Minutes,” President trump addressed questions regarding a slew of departures from his administration over the past two years, stating plainly that reports of a White House “in chaos” are, as the president so often puts it, fake news.
“I’m changing things around and I’m entitled to.” The president explained. “I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal. I think I have a great Cabinet. There are some people that I’m not happy with. I have some people that I’m not thrilled with, and there are some people that I’m beyond thrilled with.”
These remarks, which followed the departure of American Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, last week, weren’t any different from the usual rhetoric to come from Trump and his staff following the parting of ways with high profile officials. To a certain extent, some of these departures are considered par for the course in the first years of a presidency. However, the usual turnover rate for the sake of a unified administrative vision has, to some degree, been overshadowed by controversies surrounding people like former national security adviser Micheal Flynn, who will be sentenced in December following a federal indictment over his actions during the Trump administration’s transition into the White House.
Since the beginning, however, James Mattis — a storied Marine General with the nickname “Mad Dog” — has been seen as a stabilizing force in the President’s cabinet, calling for cooperation with Congress regarding new offensive actions taken by the U.S. military in Syria and doing a bit of strategic foot-dragging when it comes to policies the president has pushed for in the military like banning transgender troops from service. In the minds of many, Mattis represents reason in a fiercely political Washington. Now, however, it seems more likely than ever that he’ll soon be shown the door, in favor of a Secretary of Defense that likely won’t offer the same sort of push-back when it comes to the President’s agendas.
“I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” the President said when asked if Mattis would be leaving. “But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington.”
Calling Mattis “sort of a Democrat” may rub some Americans the wrong way — especially among a sect of Marines with conservative-leaning views that have long championed the idea of Mattis entering the political arena himself. Prior to his retirement, Mattis found himself in a similar political footing with the very party Trump now suggests he’s a part of — butting heads with President Barrack Obama over his strategy in Iran and being characterized in the media as a war hawk thanks to public appearances wherein the general spoke of killing terrorists with a form of revelry some in the media had difficulty stomaching.
Just a few years later, it seems Mattis’ no-nonsense and arguably apolitical style of telling the President what he believes is the right course of action regardless of political pressures may mean the popular figure has no political party left to affiliate with. Democrats see his record in the Marines coupled with his remarks about killing terrorists and service to the Trump administration as evidence enough that Mattis has no place within their ranks. And now the President, seen as the figurehead of the Republican party, also seems keen to ostracize Mattis from the ranks of the GOP as well.
For now, Mattis has offered no response to the President’s remarks, nor has the Pentagon offered any indication that Mattis plans to leave.
“Secretary Mattis is laser-focused on doing his job — ensuring the US military remains the most lethal force on the planet,” the Defense Department said in a release on Sunday.