by Zachary Halaschak · March 14, 2019
President Trump once gushed to the press and others about former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ job performance, highlighting the general’s punchy nickname, “Mad Dog.”
On Wednesday, Trump referred to Mattis not by name, but simply as “our previous person.”
The White House Cabinet was once built on a bedrock of generals. Now those military leaders have all since resigned or been forced out. Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster retired in May of last year, and former chief of staff John Kelly’s resignation became public in December, with Mattis submitting his letter of resignation shortly after.
Taking questions from reporters on Wednesday about whether or not acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would be nominated to the role permanently, Trump didn’t directly answer, but said that he approved of Shanahan’s job performance. In the response, Trump knocked Mattis, pointing to the diminishing influence of the Islamic State in Syria.
“He’s doing a great job. Shanahan is doing a fantastic job,” Trump said. “Look what we’ve done in respect to the caliphate in Syria. I was told by our previous person that it was going to take two years to knock it out, and I did it in three weeks once we started.”
Mattis resigned on principle in December after failing to convince Trump not to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The resignation came a day after Trump’s surprise announcement he would order the withdrawal of all ground troops, though he has since reversed course and said he would leave a few hundred in place as originally planned.
About the time Mattis was appointed in 2016, Trump seemed to enjoy bringing up the general and his nickname, “Mad Dog.” He called him “a true general’s general” and lauded his talents, saying, “The guy never loses a battle, never loses.”
Trump seemed to like the “Mad Dog” label, a moniker that Mattis, also known as a “warrior monk” and “Chaos,” reportedly does not like. During the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Trump falsely claimed that his office gave Mattis the nickname.
“I said, ‘We’re going to give you a new nickname, because Chaos is not a good nickname,’ so we changed his name, called him ‘Mad Dog,’ but it wasn’t working too well,” Trump told the crowd before recounting how he learns “more sometimes from soldiers what’s going on than I do from generals.”
During his time in office, Mattis tried to restrain Trump on multiple issues, leading to Trump reportedly referring to him as “Moderate Dog” behind his back.
Washington Examiner · by Zachary Halaschak · March 14, 2019