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Hullabaloo


Monday, June 25, 2018

 
Mad Dog in the dog house

by digby





This isn't good:


Defense Secretary James Mattis learned in May from a colleague that President Donald Trump had made the decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, and scrambled to get his boss on the phone before a formal announcement was made. It wouldn't be the last time he was caught off guard by a presidential announcement.

A month later, Mattis was informed that Trump had ordered a pause in U.S. military exercises with South Korea only after the president had already promised the concession to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Last week, Trump again blindsided and overruled his defense secretary by publicly directing the Pentagon to create a sixth military branch overseeing operations in space.

The way these recent presidential decisions on major national security issues have played out, as detailed by current and former White House and defense officials, underscores a significant change in Mattis's role in recent months. The president is relying less and less on the advice of one of the longest-serving members of his cabinet, the officials said.

"They don't really see eye to eye," said a former senior White House official who has closely observed the relationship.

It's a stark contrast to Trump's early enthusiasm for the retired four-star Marine general he proudly referred to as "Mad Dog." And while the two men had disagreements from the start — on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, for instance — Trump still kept Mattis in the loop on major decisions and heeded his counsel.

"He's never been one of the go-tos in the gang that's very close to the president," a senior White House official said. "But the president has a lot of respect for him."

In recent months, however, the president has cooled on Mattis, in part because he's come to believe his defense secretary looks down on him and slow-walks his policy directives, according to current and former administration officials.

The dynamic was exacerbated with Trump's announcement in March that he had chosen John Bolton as national security adviser, a move Mattis opposed, and Mike Pompeo's confirmation as secretary of state soon after.

The president is now more inclined to rely on his own instincts or the advice of Pompeo and Bolton, three people familiar with the matter said.

Mattis is considered to be one of the last sane advisers around Trump.


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