A Democratic lawmaker who served under retired Gen. James Mattis in the Marines says President-elect Donald Trump is misjudging his pick to be Defense secretary — and he says that’s a good thing.
In a Wednesday op-ed for USA Today endorsing the Pentagon chief selection, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) argued Mattis is more than the bravado and bluster Trump finds attractive.
“The good news for our country is that Trump has Mattis all wrong,” Moulton wrote. “Before Trump realizes this himself, Democrats would be wise to have this debate and then grant an exemption to confirm him as our next secretary of Defense.”
Mattis retired three years ago, so Congress would need to pass a waiver to a law that requires the secretary of Defense be out of uniform for at least seven years before being confirmed for the job.
Two Democrats thus far, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Hochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees MORE (N.Y.) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), have expressly said they will not vote for a waiver. Other Democrats have not ruled out passing a waiver, but have said the issue deserves careful consideration.
Trump has seemed enamored by Mattis’s tough talk and particularly his nickname, “Mad Dog,” saying at Tuesday night’s “thank you” rally in North Carolina that “Mad Dog plays no games, right?”
In his op-ed, Moulton relayed the first time he heard Mattis speak, on the eve of invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“Standing atop his Humvee, he told us how he planned to duct tape Saddam Hussein to the front of the truck when we got to Baghdad and drive around the city — and we eager young Marines roared with approval,” Moulton said.
But Moulton also recalled Mattis’s now-famous letter to his Marines before the invasion that implored them to “engage your brain before you engage your weapon” and reminded them to treat all noncombatants with respect.
“He reminded us of the fundamental rights and values for which America stands, and he has never accepted compromising those values even in the brutal pursuit of killing our enemies,” Moulton wrote.
Moulton also highlighted Mattis’s comments to Trump that torture does not work and his lack of support for tearing up the Iran nuclear deal.
“When you get to know Mattis, you quickly learn that he is one of the most thoughtful strategic thinkers we have,” Moulton wrote. “Amidst a cabinet that is shaping up to be nearly as unqualified as our new president, including a secretary of Education who has never attended a public school and a Treasury secretary who made millions off foreclosures at the height of the financial crisis, Mattis stands out as a remarkably qualified leader, and I know he is someone who will actually stand up to President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE.”