Mattis And Kelly Made A Secret Pact To Babysit Trump

DoD photo

You know you’re living in unusual times when the sanest person in the executive branch of the U.S. government is nicknamed “Chaos.”

That’s the primary takeaway from an Associated Press curtain-raiser on retired Marine Gen. John Kelly’s ascension to the rank of White House chief of staff. While the executive role traditionally considered gatekeeper to the commander-in-chief and the constitutional authority he wields, the AP hints at a different dynamic in the Oval Office:

[Secretary of Defense James] Mattis and Kelly also agreed in the earliest weeks of Trump’s presidency that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The official insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the administration’s internal dynamics.

“Orders rapidly emerging from the White House” is a delightful euphemism for the president's tendency to rule by decree tweet, a habit that has roiled a Department of Defense scrambling to interpret whether Trump’s unpredictable digital broadsides are, say, a signal of imminent attack on North Korea or something slightly more innocuous. Republican lawmakers who spoke to the AP are praying that Kelly, a retired four-star general known for his disciplinarian streak, will “forcefully clean the place up.”

Axing foul-mouthed White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci less than two weeks into the job is certainly a good start for Kelly in terms of ending the turmoil that’s plagued the executive branch since Trump’s inauguration, but the AP story indicates that Mattis and Kelly — who, it's worth noting, recommended each other for Secretary of Defense in the weeks after Election Day — have been actively working to reign in Trump’s more quixotic impulses since his inaugural. Together with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford — another Marine general and reportedly one of Kelly’s closest friends — they form a troika of Marine Corps discipline around an Oval Office brimming with chaos.

This is far from, you know, a military coup: Trump’s prerogative has been to surround himself with the most generals since the end of World War II. And though observers of the imperial executive may cringe at the idea of an elected commander-in-chief vesting an unelected Cabinet official with constitutional decision-making authority as Trump did with Mattis and Afghan troop levels, a filter of generals seems like a more palatable option to realpolitik by tweet.

That said, there’s one more element of the AP story that really stands out: the date. Aug. 1 marks 5,777 days since the start of the War in Afghanistan, but more importantly, it marks the 31st anniversary of the publication of The Baby-Sitters Club — and something tells me it’s Mattis’s secret favorite.


Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less