The Trump Cabinet: Who Is James Mattis?

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During the Cincinnati stop of President-elect Donald Trump’s “thank you tour” on Thursday, he made the unofficial announcement that he will be selecting General James Mattis, a widely respected 40-year veteran of the Marines, to serve as his secretary of defense. An official announcement is expected to come Monday. Mattis, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first general to serve as defense secretary since George Marshall in 1950.

The blunt 66-year-old, nicknamed “Mad Dog” and “Warrior Monk,” most recently served as the head of the U.S. Central Command under President Barack Obama. He retired from that post in 2013, about five months before his service was through, which some speculated was the result of his disagreements with Obama on the president’s policy in the Middle East, specifically his nuclear pact with Iran. Mattis has spoken frequently about Iran and the danger it poses. He once said Iran is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East.”

Mattis’ most recent rebuke of Obama’s “policy of disengagement in the Middle East” came at a Congressional hearing in 2015, when he told lawmakers the U.S. must “come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values.” And though he has expressed his disapproval of the Iran deal, he is not in favor of withdrawing from the commitment, and thinks the best path forward is cooperating with American allies.

Mattis is a widely respected general who was courted by both the Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns to speak at their respective political conventions. He declined both offers. Mattis is perhaps best known for his work in the Middle East following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He led the first forces into Afghanistan, and established the first U.S. base in the country.

Mattis also led the sacking of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 and the retaking of Fallujah in 2004. In a statement, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said Mattis is “without a doubt one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops.”

As a former general, Mattis does face obstacles in getting confirmed. Former members of the military must spend at least seven years out of service before being allowed to serve as defense secretary, according to federal law. Congress must pass a waiver allowing him to skirt that stipulation. And though the former general is widely regarded in Congress, at least one lawmaker opposes his confirmation.

In a statement on Thursday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said she would oppose a waiver. “Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy,” she said, while adding she deeply respects Mattis’ service.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at ASiegel@LawStreetMedia.com.



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