Listen, Jim Mattis is done with Donald Trump, ok?
On Thursday evening, in what might very fairly be described as one of the most grievous blows yet to the administration, Mattis resigned, telling Trump that the President has the right to a Pentagon chief “whose views are better aligned with yours.”
If you read the actual letter (embedded in full below), it is abundantly clear that Mattis believes the President is undermining key relationships to the possible detriment of national security.
“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies,” Mattis writes, adding that if you ask him, “that’s why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.”
He goes on to reiterate that his “views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.”
The bit about being “clear-eyed” on “malign actors” is obviously an allusion to Trump’s inexplicable pandering to the Kremlin. That Mattis openly touts his experience and track record is effectively Jim juxtaposing himself with the President. Something like this: “This is who I am, now who exactly are you again?
Mattis delivers the bad news to Trump as follows:
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019.
So, a couple of things there. First of all, that is the Secretary of Defense implicitly suggesting that the President of the United States is jeopardizing the peace and security of the Western world by undermining alliances. There’s just no other way to interpret it.
Second, Mattis resigned. He is not “retiring”. Trump attempted to get out ahead of this news. About 20 minutes before the letter was released, he tweeted the following:
General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years. During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!
As you can see, that’s a lie. Mattis resigned. Period. That’s just all there is to this. The letter says just that.
“Mattis and Trump met in the Oval this afternoon at 3:30 over their disagreements,” WaPo’s Josh Dawsey says, noting that “no others [were] present.”
It was “Mattis’s decision to leave,” a White House aide told Dawsey.
“I have a lot of respect for General Mattis and after what happened yesterday the resignation is sadly understandable”, Senator Amy Klobuchar lamented, referencing the decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.
Senator Warner was even more direct. “This is scary”, he said, minutes after the news hit. “Secretary Mattis has been an island of stability amidst the chaos of the Trump administration [and] 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.”
This resignation is effectively a protest of Trump’s foreign policy and it doesn’t take much in the way of reading between the lines to see that Mattis believes Trump is a threat to global security.
Of course given the sentiments expressed by Jim in the letter, it would be nice if he would have just toughed it out in the interest of protecting the world from Trump.
But apparently he, like John Kelly, couldn’t take it anymore.
And just like that, the last adult in the room is gone.