Trump is trying to save face after Gen. Mattis humiliated him for all the world to see.
In December, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis quit on Trump and released a fiery letter shredding Trump's disastrous and reckless policies. It was utterly humiliating for Trump, even if it took him several days to realize it.
But now he has — and he's trying to save face by claiming it was his idea to send Mattis packing.
"As you know, President Obama fired him," Trump said during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, "and essentially so did I."
Trump also complained that Mattis had done a "not too good" job in Afghanistan and asked, "What's he done for me?"
That's a far different tune than the one Trump was singing on Dec. 20, when Mattis announced his resignation.
"General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years," Trump tweeted at the time. He added that "tremendous progress has been made" and offered his thanks to Mattis for his service.
But that was before Trump learned — apparently from watching TV, where he learns everything — that Mattis' resignation letter was extremely harsh and unflattering. Mattis slammed Trump for disrespecting our allies while bowing to countries like China and Russia, who "want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model."
Mattis said it is his belief that "we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours" — and made it clear that Trump does not share that belief.
"Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects," Mattis wrote, "I believe it is right for me to step down from my position."
It was clear to everyone but Trump that Mattis had delivered a brutal assessment of Trump. When Trump figured it out, days later, he announced that he would not be keeping Mattis around until February after all, instead replacing him temporarily with Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan as of Jan. 1.
So, Trump "essentially fired" Mattis — after Mattis very specifically quit.
This isn't the first time Trump has belatedly claimed that being abandoned by people who no longer support him was somehow his idea. In August 2017, several of the CEOs who served on Trump's Manufacturing Advisory Council quit in protest after Trump defended rioting white supremacists and Nazis in Charlottesville as "very fine people." Meanwhile, Trump’s primary business advisory group of CEOs, the Strategic and Policy Forum, decided to disband altogether.
"Given the comments of the last several days," one executive said, "no one could continue to be seen as supporting this kind of divisiveness."
So Trump pretended, days later, that it was his idea to dissolve his advisory boards, slamming the "grandstanders" for fleeing him.
It wasn't believable then, and Trump's words about Mattis aren't believable now. Mattis made a fool out of Trump, and now that Trump has figured it out, he's trying to pretend otherwise.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.