Why Mattis' verdict on Trump is devastating

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued a statement calling President Trump the first president in his lifetime that "does not try to unite the American people" as nationwide protests continue over the death of George Floyd.

Posted: Jun 4, 2020 7:20 AM
Updated: Jun 4, 2020 7:20 AM

A dam has broken. Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis -- who President Donald Trump has compared to one of his heroes, General George Patton -- on Wednesday issued a blistering statement saying, "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people -- does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort."

Mattis' statement came after police on Monday attacked peaceful protesters outside the White House with rubber bullets and a noxious gas so Trump could have a photo op with a bible outside St. John's Church near the White House.

There are three reasons that Mattis' statement is so important. First, Mattis spent two years working closely with Trump as his first secretary of defense and so he is well-positioned to make the charge that the President has deliberately pursued a policy of division while in office. This is not a charge made by some armchair critic, but by one of the most senior members of Trump's cabinet who spent untold hours working directly with him.

Second, Mattis is largely revered by the US military and in national security circles for his stellar military record which includes commanding the longest aerial assault in history from an US warship at sea to a landing zone in Afghanistan during the war against the Taliban in 2001. Then Mattis led the US Marines into Baghdad to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003, and he later commanded CENTCOM that oversaw all American wars in the Middle East during the Obama administration.

Third, Mattis has previously gone out of his way not to criticize Trump. He wrote in his 2019 autobiography "Call Sign Chaos," "I'm old fashioned: I don't write about sitting Presidents." And when he was on his book tour promoting his book during multiple interviews, Mattis would not be drawn about his real views about Trump.

At a book party in Washington, DC, for Mattis that I attended, Mary Louise Kelly, the co-anchor of NPR's "All Things Considered," asked Mattis what it would take for him to criticize Trump publicly. Could there ever come a time when he felt he had to speak out if he felt that the country was truly imperiled? Mattis became animated saying he would never do that.

Obviously Mattis does now feel that the country is imperiled, and he has spoken out in a clear and unambiguous manner that Trump is a threat to the Constitution saying in Wednesday's statement, "When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens -- much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief."

Trump, who revels in the ceremonial aspects of being Commander in Chief, now has an emerging bloc of senior retired generals forming against him. Trump will, of course, perform his usual tricks of denigrating them, but he should be aware that if this bloc starts to organize itself to oppose him as he seeks re-election, the President will find it hard to paint these senior generals as a bunch of weak "deep state" types since so many of them performed heroically in the long post-9/11 wars.

Predictably, only hours after Mattis released his statement, Trump struck back with tweets calling him "the world's most overrated general" and saying he didn't like his leadership style.

Mattis joins a growing anti-Trump chorus of revered retired senior military officers that includes former US Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who wrote in The Atlantic Tuesday: "It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel ... violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president's visit outside St. John's Church. I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump's leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent."

Retired four star Marine General John Allen, who runs the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine Wednesday evening, "To even the casual observer, Monday was awful for the United States and its democracy. The President's speech was calculated to project his abject and arbitrary power, but he failed to project any of the higher emotions or leadership desperately needed in every quarter of this nation during this dire moment."

Trump has now been on the receiving end of multiple blistering critiques by many of the top retired US military generals and admirals. Leading retired four-star officer, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, told ABC News in 2018 that he found Trump to be both immoral and dishonest.

Adm. William McRaven, the architect of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, wrote in The Washington Post, in 2018, "Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation."

Retired three-star Gen. Mark Hertling, a CNN analyst, has also been quite critical of Trump on a number of issues -- for instance, when Trump attacked Adm. McRaven for not finding Osama bin Laden sooner, Hertling described this as a "disgusting" attack.

Even Trump's current Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, a former officer in the US Army, is distancing himself from Trump, saying publicly on Wednesday that he does not agree with an idea the President has suggested of using the federal military against American protestors who are exerting their First Amendment rights.

Esper has now made the cardinal Trumpian sin of telling the truth in public about the Great Leader, so we should not be surprised if he is eventually booted from Trumpworld to be replaced with someone more compliant.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 847659

Reported Deaths: 16172
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1163752005
Mobile743371381
Madison53434738
Shelby38413371
Baldwin38171589
Tuscaloosa36131643
Montgomery34571782
Lee25664264
Calhoun22622519
Morgan22527408
Etowah20059520
Marshall18821318
Houston17769426
St. Clair16946359
Limestone16192220
Cullman16140305
Elmore15948295
Lauderdale15055307
Talladega14244302
DeKalb13061271
Walker12138380
Blount10765193
Autauga10545157
Jackson10204195
Coffee9435192
Colbert9363210
Dale9038192
Tallapoosa7283202
Russell710165
Chilton7078170
Covington6967197
Escambia6962144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5795142
Marion5435130
Dallas5302210
Pike5128109
Clarke485686
Lawrence4845130
Winston4785110
Geneva4650136
Bibb435495
Barbour370180
Butler3444101
Marengo342793
Monroe338366
Randolph337767
Pickens334790
Fayette331485
Henry321066
Cherokee319964
Hale318889
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay252069
Macon245767
Conecuh193562
Coosa185847
Wilcox178338
Lowndes178268
Bullock152745
Perry141840
Sumter139741
Greene130345
Choctaw94328
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 70°
Columbus
Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 68°
Oxford
Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: °
Starkville
Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 68°
Rain coming in this weekend as a cold front moves through the area bringing cooler temperatures on into the start of next week.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather