Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller applauded the pick of retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense, saying that Mattis, despite the perception, is actually very measured and avoids picking unnecessary fights.
But Neller, speaking Saturday at the Reagan National Security Forum in California, also quickly added that any fights Mattis does get himself into, he wins decisively, Military.com reports.
Not only that, but even though Mattis sports the nickname “Mad Dog,” he’s instead calm, cool and collected when he makes decisions.
“He’s a very measured guy,” noted Neller, who served under Mattis twice. “He listens and he’s decisive. I’m confident that when he makes the calls to members of Congress and testifies at Senate confirmation hearings, he will be judged to be exceptionally qualified to serve as the next defense secretary.”
Former Army general Barry McCaffrey has also stated that Mattis isn’t a “Mad Dog” in any real sense of the word and instead will function as a counterbalance to Trump.
“We’ll have a steady, knowledgeable hand at defence to counter the president-elect’s lack of experience and impulsiveness,” McCaffrey told CBC News.
As just one example of this dynamic playing out so far, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap pointed to Mattis’ objections to waterboarding, which have prompted Trump to rethink some of his views.
But unlike other cabinet appointments, Mattis isn’t an automatic shoo-in because Congress will need to step in and issue a waiver to override the National Security Act of 1947, which stipulates that the position of secretary of defense is reserved for those long out of the military. The exact number is seven years, but Mattis only retired in 2013, making him well short.
So far, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has said she will not support a waiver for Mattis, though GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, is ecstatic about the Mattis pick and has offered to take up the task of moving the waiver through Congress.
At least eight Democrats would have to sign on to the waiver for it to pass Congress, assuming that all Senate Republicans are also in agreement with the pick.
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