Donald Trump has been building his cabinet since winning the nation’s presidential election early last week and the internet has been astir about each confirmed and potential appointment. Thus far, five appointees have been announced by the Trump camp, but among veterans, one possible candidate for Secretary of Defense is a crowd favorite.
Retired Marine General James Mattis is among eight people slated to meet with President Elect Trump on Saturday. Mattis, according to Bloomberg, is among two finalists for the coveted Defense Secretary role. Trump is also scheduled to meet with former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney to discuss the possibility of serving as Secretary of State.
James Mattis is widely regarded as a hero among Marines and served as a regimental, brigade and division commander in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2011, Mattis was appointed the head of U.S. Central Command, in that capacity he oversaw the wars in both theaters as well as a region that included Syria, Iran and Yemen.
Mattis enlisted into the Marine Corps in 1969, before earning a bachelor’s degree in history and commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1972. Mattis was considered an intellectual among his senior ranking peers later in his career, boasting a personal library of thousansds of books and regularly emphasizing the importance of reading to his troops.
Mattis’ popularity among veterans and civilians alike prompted a veteran backed 2012 campaign to write his name in on the presidential ballot and another push from nameless financiers and influential donors in the GOP to have Mattis take on Donald Trump in the GOP’s 2016 primaries or even as an independent candidate in the general election. Despite significant efforts to lure Mattis into the presidential race, he ultimately chose not to pursue the candidacy, a decision that left many in the party disappointed. Thousands of people went so far as to create and sign a petition on Change.org to “draft” the retired general into the election.
“The thoughtfulness and patriotism — and for that matter, the modesty — Jim showed as he reflected on this decision make me more convinced than ever that he would have made a truly admirable president, and also a good candidate,” William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, wrote of his decision not to run at the time.
Mattis has a history of being highly quotable, if not always delicate, when speaking in public about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He made waves in the media in 2005 for statements he made during a panel discussion in San Diego; “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” The Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, General Michael Hagee, defended Mattis in the press for his statements, but said he “counseled” the general behind closed doors on the matter. Mattis later agreed that he should have “chosen his words more carefully.”
Another retired General, Jack Keane, is also being considered for the position of Secretary of Defense. Keane served in the US Army for thirty-seven years, achieving the rank of four star general and holding such important offices as Chief Operating Officer of the Army and ultimately Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. While holding that position, Keane worked hand in hand with policy and lawmakers in congress, testifying before them on eighteen separate occasions on topics ranging from environmental law to military health care. Since retiring, Keane has served as a director at METLIFE and the military contractor, General Dynamics.
Other possible candidates for Defense Secretary said to be under consideration by the President Elect are Former George W. Bush National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Clinton CIA director Jim Woolsey.
While the Trump camp continues to vet possible candidates for each of the remaining cabinet positions, an appointment of such a revered military strategist would certainly endear much of the military and veteran population of the United States to his presidency, and could send a powerful message to nations like Russia that have been publicly posturing against the Western allies in NATO in recent months.
Trump will be meeting with potential cabinet appointees all weekend at his private golf course home in New Jersey and is expected to make further announcements in the coming weeks.
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