Adults in the room

Let’s read the Mattis letter.

Dear Mister Prez, privileged to serve, proud of the progress, troops continue to provide.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies…

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.

That last sentence is a stinger, a double stinger. One, Mattis is underlining the fact that Trump does not think we should treat allies with respect, and that he (Trump) puts his thought into practice by very conspicuously treating allies with disrespect and outright rudeness. He’s also underlining the fact that Trump does not think we should be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours, and, again, acts accordingly. Two, Mattis is underlining the fact that he has over four decades of experience and knowledge on these issues, which as we all know Trump emphatically does not.

We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

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.

Note how those two sentences interact. We need to follow a sane course, and you don’t agree with that view, so you need someone crazy enough to join you on that path to authoritarian doom. Byeeeeee!

Jim Acosta reports that Trump is in a tantrum about the letter.

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta said Friday that a source has told him that President Donald Trump is furious about Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation letter, tendered in the wake of the president’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

But Trump is even more incensed about news coverage indicating he needs adult supervision, Acosta told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“He hates that letter,” Acosta said, citing a source close to the White House who “advises the president occasionally.” But he added that Trump is even more upset by the “conventional wisdom” that Mattis and some others in his administration “were sort of the adults in the room … to keep the president from going overboard, to be a check on his impulses.”

Trump is “irritated by this notion here in Washington that he is sometimes in need of adult daycare,” Acosta added.

Well, good, I guess; I want him to feel bad. But better would be if he didn’t need adults in the room.

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