James Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general who served as defense secretary for the first two years of the Trump administration, resigned last week in a strongly-worded letter, and the president reacted by forcing Mattis to step away earlier than his announced retirement date of February.
With Mattis appearing to have resigned because of disagreements with Trump, the possibility exists that the former secretary will emerge down the road as a frequent Trump critic. And one Republican thinks this could result in a political run of his own.
“Can you imagine if the Democrats were able to convince Mattis to be their VP nominee in ’20?,” asked a “prominent Republican strategist,” as quoted on Twitter by Washington Post reporter Robert Costa. Costa added that the unnamed strategist had confided this to him “uneasily.”
Mattis, in his resignation letter posted by CNN, wrote to the president that “because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.” The resignation came the day after the president made public his plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and he declared ISIS defeated.
While Trump praised Mattis following his resignation, the president reportedly became agitated at the criticism in the letter and announced late last week that Mattis would leave his post immediately, with Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan stepping in immediately as acting secretary beginning on January 1.
How plausible is it that Mattis will end up on a Democratic presidential ticket? Probably not very. Mattis, a career military man, has never expressed any public wish to run for political office. It’s unclear what his political views are on matters aside from national security and defense, and there’s no indication that he’s a Democrat.
Furthermore, there’s a long list of people who are actually in Democratic politics who would likely have more interest in serving as president or vice president, and merely having broken with Trump is not likely to be enough to earn Democratic votes. And the Democratic Party is unlikely to take the advice of a Republican strategist, named or unnamed, on who to choose for their presidential ticket, especially not two years before the election.
It’s probably more likely that Mattis will take the route of past Trump critics like James Comey and Jeff Flake, with TV interviews, writing a book, and possibly Congressional testimony, in lieu of an actual political run.
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