When Trump landed in the White House observers found consolation in the fact that the place was under the heavy had of a reliable crew, "the generals." Of these, James "Mad Dog" Mattis, Trump's defense secretary was seen as the most powerful and most able to restrain this president's mood swings and brain farts. Now Mattis may have fallen from Trump's grace. From NBC News:
In recent months, 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.Trump's estrangement from Mattis drew these comments from The American Conservative:
One defense official said there is no indication Trump is unhappy with Mattis, just that he is not in the inner decision-making circle anymore. The official said Mattis does not contradict the president publicly or in the media and does not draw the president's ire.
Mattis is regrettably successful at keeping U.S. forces engaged in unnecessary wars, but he has no luck when it comes to persuading the president not to make colossal foreign policy errors. The Secretary of Defense is just influential enough to stop Trump from withdrawing troops from a pointless war in Afghanistan, but not nearly influential enough to prevent U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Unfortunately, supporting the war on Yemen is one policy where Trump and Mattis seem to be fully in agreement, and so the administration continues that completely indefensible support for the Saudis and their allies.
It is not really surprising that Mattis’ influence has diminished in recent months. Since Tillerson and McMaster left, Mattis has no natural allies inside the administration. Meanwhile, their replacements are much more aligned with the president and have done a good job flattering him. The hiring of Bolton over his objections was a sign that Mattis was losing ground. He disagrees so often with Trump that it was just a matter of time before the president stopped listening to him. It is possible that Mattis will hang on as long as he doesn’t contradict Trump publicly, but it seems likely that he will become increasingly irrelevant within the administration as time goes by.