President Donald J. Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrive to speak at a reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on the Beirut Barracks in the East Room of the White House on Oct. 25, 2018.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post/Getty Images file
In a recent appearance on MSNC’s “Morning Joe,” Mattis said he will follow traditions and norms by not speaking about what he personally observed regarding Trump’s behavior as commander in chief. Specifically, Mattis said he will “hold his tongue about politics.” I would argue that given what we know about the Trump administration — which just this week included explosive reports of an exfiltrated Kremlin spy and the drama surrounding the breakdown of secret Taliban peace talks — this may be the first time in his long, distinguished career that Mattis is letting his country down.
Moreover, I much admire Mattis’ inclination to be circumspect, as have many of his predecessors in the service. However, there is a danger in abiding by traditions that no longer apply to the dire circumstances that now confront our nation. Indeed, Mattis owes it to his country to speak out about Trump’s unfitness for presidential duty.
I hope those close to Mattis will implore him to take on one last battle. But this is not a battle that can be won with the weapons and strategies of the 18th or 19th or 20th centuries. To borrow from a phrase now almost ubiquitous in our current climate of omnipresent danger: “General Mattis, you have seen something. Now Americans need you to say something.”
Allegiance to tradition is important. Allegiance to a safe and secure America is more important.