In the last few days it has come to pass that twice US Secretary of Defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis has shown himself to be the only adult in the room in the Trump administration. His first such exhibition of adulthood came during the bizarre spectacle of Trump’s first full televised cabinet meeting. Trump openly demanded verbal obeisance from those assembled, promptly delivered by all but one in the room, with some of them embarrassingly effusive, such as Reince Priebus declaring it to be a “blessing” to serve Trump. Ugh. Even SecState Tillerson chimed in with a relatively perfunctory bit of praise for Trump. Only Mad Dog Mattis refused to go along, making a statement praising US military personnel around the world without a single word about Trump.
And then we have the under reported event yesterday that I saw on Juan Cole’s blog that Mattis signed a $12 billion dollar deal for F-15s with Qatar. Now I am not in general a big fan of these Middle East arms deals with anybody, but in this case this blatantly goes against Trump’s absolutely stupid and probably corrupt (Saudis paid $270,000 in hotel bills at Trump’s hotel in Washington since Trump took office) support for the Saudi move to blockade Qatar and pressure it into going along with Saudi aggression in Yemen and more generally against Iran. Both Tillerson and Mattis made verbal statements last week arguing for a more balanced approach there, only to have Trump double down on supporting this very stupid policy. Tillerson is not able to cut deals independently supporting Qatar, but Mad Dog Mattis has just done so.
Maybe Trump will fire him, but I kind of think that maybe even he is not quite that stupid in the current circumstances. So there we have it, having to thank somebody nicknamed “Mad Dog” twice in a few days for being the much=needed adult in the room.