Trump cares more about what Fox News commentators think about foreign policy than his own defense secretary, a retired four-star general.
Trump often brags about how much he loves his generals — but he routinely ignores key strategic advice from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, and listens to fringe advisers instead.
"The president is relying less and less on the advice of one of the longest-serving members of his cabinet," NBC News reports. "Mattis appears to be on the sidelines."
Trump's chaotic cabinet has already made history for its record rate of turnover. A possible Mattis dismissal would only add to the impression of an administration careening out of control. It would also undercut Trump's public insistence that he trusts his military advisers.
In the last few months, Trump has blindsided Mattis on a whole host of major foreign policy and defense decisions. Against Mattis' advice, and without even telling Mattis in advance, Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, order a pause on U.S. military exercises with South Korea in an effort to appease North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and direct the Pentagon to create a sixth military branch overseeing operations in space.
Since taking the job, Mattis has disagreed with Trump on a number of other controversial proposals.
Mattis thought Trump's move to deploy National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border in April was not "well defined," a senior White House official told NBC. Eight governors, including some Republicans, have since withdrawn their National Guard troops from the border to protest Trump's inhumane treatment of migrant families.
Mattis also opposed Trump's ban on transgender service members in the military, leaving the Paris climate change accord, exiting the Iran nuclear deal, and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
But clearly, Mattis has been unable to thwart most of Trump's radical agenda.
The arrival of Fox News commentator John Bolton as Trump's national security adviser has only seemed to isolate Mattis.
Mattis had previously been allied with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and the two men often reportedly worked in concert to temper Trump's erratic behavior.
It was after a failed briefing that Mattis and Tillerson held for Trump in 2017, where he seemed completely unable to keep up with the information being presented, that Tillerson famously described Trump behind his back as a "fucking moron."
That year, Mattis also reportedly entered into a private pact with John Kelly, who was then secretary of Homeland Security and is now Trump’s chief of staff, to effectively babysit their boss — to "keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House” in the early days of Trump’s presidency.
Increasingly, Trump no longer listens to either of his babysitters.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.