Trump taps Mattis, Carson for Cabinet posts
Donald Trump continued to assemble his Cabinet this week, nominating candidates who are conservative, unconventional, and in some cases short on government experience. As anticipated, the president-elect tapped retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis for secretary of defense. “They say he is the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have,” Trump said. Mattis, 66, spent 44 years in the Marines and most recently served as chief of U.S. Central Command. He has called Iran the “most enduring threat” to Middle East peace but opposes scrapping the nuclear deal with Tehran. Trump also selected retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Carson, 65, will manage a $47 billion budget, but has no background in housing, government, or administration. He recently said that “having me as a federal bureaucrat would be a fish out of water.”
Trump plans to name retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to head Homeland Security, and tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, an ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump’s transition team has also expanded the list of candidates for secretary of state. Along with Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, Trump is said to be considering Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis.
What the columnists said
Liberals are hysterical over Trump’s fondness for retired generals, said Mark Moyar in NationalReview.com. They fear it heralds “a wholesale militarization of American society,” with perpetual invasions and “elementary schools teaching infantry tactics.” The outrage is selective—“one heard little hand-wringing” when President Obama appointed Gen. James Jones national security adviser. And consider this: Going back to George Washington, 12 presidents have been retired generals, and “none sought to create paramilitary youth organizations or wage a new war each spring.”
Mattis is an especially good choice, said Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times. A famously fierce commander, he’s also a “thoughtful, cautious” scholar who can quote Marcus Aurelius— and he speaks his mind. Mattis called Trump’s cavalier dismissal of NATO “kooky,” and privately convinced the president-elect that torturing terror suspects is ineffective. “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better,” Mattis said. Trump needs Cabinet officers willing to “push back when he’s wrong. Mattis has already done that.”
The Carson nomination “goes well beyond baffling,” said The Washington Postin an editorial. He “has no relevant expertise whatsoever,” beyond the fact that he grew up poor in Detroit. We do know that Carson believes government assistance encourages “dependency” and that he has derided fair-housing programs as “social engineering.” Hopefully, “thorough, searching” Senate confirmation hearings will shed more light on Carson’s views about housing policy. While “certainly not brain surgery,” the topic “does present complexities that would challenge a nominee far more experienced than he.”