The setting is Singapore, early June 2017, at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security summit in Asia.  U.S. Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis has just spoken about the threat posed to the world by North Korea, as well as the potential positive benefit of the United States-China relationship on a host of issues. 

Then he is asked during a question and answer session if the American-led global political order is in the process of being dismantled.  His answer, per Defense News, was “like it or not, we are part of the world,” while insisting that the United States will “still be there.”  Mattis also asked for patience from America’s regional allies, and stated,

Bear with us, once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing.”

For this author, within the last portion of that response — bear with us, the Americans will do the right thing — a dim but discernible glow appeared out of the darkness, like a lighthouse in heavy fog just barely perceptible to the crew of a fishing boat returning from months at sea.  The thought hit me like a Mattis-fist in the face: ‘holy crap, he might primary the President in 2020!’