Reagan Forum: Mattis Nomination Supported by National Security Power Brokers
Photo: Defense Dept.SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to nominate retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be the next secretary of defense drew widespread applause at a gathering of national security leaders Dec. 3.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent Trump critic, gave a wholehearted endorsement during a panel discussion at the Reagan National Defense Forum held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
“It was an outstanding choice,” Graham said. “He’s one of the most sophisticated thinkers in the defense world I’ve ever met.”
Graham is a strong voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which must approve Mattis’ selection before he can take office.
Mattis is a combat veteran known for making colorful remarks. Nicknamed “Mad Dog,” he once said about Islamic extremists that “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” The retired general is also known for being a well-read military scholar.
Graham described Mattis as a “warrior monk” and “a Marine’s Marine.”
The retired general reportedly fell out of favor with the Barack Obama administration for advocating a more aggressive approach towards Iran during his tenure as commander of U.S. Central Command. Graham argued that the selection of Mattis to run the Pentagon was a sign of a major impending shift in U.S. policy toward the Middle East.
“Picking him is a signal, I think, by President-elect Trump that we’re going to have a different relationship with the Arab world and Iran,” Graham said. “He’s had a clear-eyed view about what the Iranians are up to.”
“I cannot tell you how important it is that this pick be approved if you believe Iran needs to be brought into the fold,” he added.
Trump has tapped retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser. His subsequent decision to select a former general for the top civilian post at the Pentagon has drawn criticism from some observers who view it as potentially undermining civilian control of the military.
For Mattis to take the helm, Congress would have to pass a waiver of existing federal law which bars retired generals and admirals from becoming secretary of defense within seven years of retirement.
After delivering the keynote address at the Reagan Forum, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs, was asked by National Defense whether he had any concerns about the selection of Mattis to take over the Pentagon.
When he delivered a one-word reply, “No,” the room full of high-ranking defense officials, members of industry and other influential national security voices burst into applause.