President Donald Trump remains perpetually conscious of his public image. This weekend, days after first announcing that Defense Secretary James Mattis would be resigning, he decided to push him out two months early and have current Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan assume the role of acting Defense Secretary on January 1. The New York Times says that Trump was specifically driven to make the move after taking in negative news coverage of his administration sparked by Mattis’ resignation letter, even though he’d apparently already read it.
That’s the level of pettiness we’re at here. He ran right over and ignored substantive considerations preferring to worry about his public image.
One Trump aide told The Times that “although Mr. Trump had already seen the resignation letter when he praised Mr. Mattis, the president did not understand just how forceful a rejection of his strategy Mr. Mattis had issued.”
In the letter, the retired general paints Trump as an out-of-control egomaniac, although he didn’t use those words. He asserted, though, that he was not on board with the president’s routine chaotic rejection of allies and embrace of longtime aggressors and enemies. He made clear that his resignation was not just for personal reasons.
That entire concept flies in the face of Trump’s modus operandi, however. The president prefers half hearted stabs at managing his public relations for his benefit above following in line with Mattis’ suggestions — or anyone’s suggestions, really. The Times reported just recently on the president’s increasing sentiment that he doesn’t need advisers at all, having already made it to three chiefs of staff, three national security advisers, and beyond all in the space of roughly two years.
Concurrently, he has carried on with a foreign policy hinging as much on shock and awe on anything else. He has been warm and welcoming to totalitarian leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Kong Un, the latter of whom he’s said he fell in love with. Although North Korea has continued with their nuclear program essentially without a hitch through all of the president’s claims to be making headway, Trump has readily made concessions to the regime like withdrawing from joint military exercises with South Korea.
Mattis reportedly specifically tried to convince the president of the need for the United States to have a substantive military presence consistently confronting the North Koreans — but it didn’t work.
The last straw for the retired general was reportedly the president’s abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from Syria where they were fighting the Islamic State terror group, which rattled the American defense community but the Kremlin lauded.
Trump has denounced those who’ve dared point out that the Islamic State is still very much a threat as pushing “fake news.”
Ultimately, it’s no wonder Mattis was fed up, even though it’s hardly like he’s an actual Democrat. Trump continues his campaign of pettiness to the point of reportedly having taken a liking to Shanahan because he tells him what he wants to hear, specifically that he’s “correct to complain about the expense of defense systems,” according to The Times.
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