Much of Mattis’ hearing focused on areas where Trump and Mattis might diverge in views. John McCain asked Mattis about Trump’s friend Vladimir Putin. Trump has repeatedly spoken favorably about Putin and for months denied Russia’s role in a hacking and misinformation campaign designed to influence the election. McCain said: “I’ve watched three presidents commit themselves to new relationships with Vladimir Putin. All three have been an abysmal failure.” McCain asked Mattis what he would do.
“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with (in) Mr. Putin,” Mattis said. “We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps, the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps, working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.” Mattis identified Russian aggression, terrorism and Chinese actions in the South China Sea as the biggest security issues since WWII.
“I think deterrence is critical right now, sir, absolutely, and that requires a strong military,” Mattis said, arguing that the US military is not robust enough right now.
He answered similar questions about Moscow from the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
“I’m all for engagement, but we also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to,” Mattis said. “There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia.”
The topic of NATO was also raised by multiple senators. On the campaign trail, Trump indicated he may reconsider aspects of the US alliance with NATO, alarming lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Mattis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO, voiced unequivocal support for the alliance and said he had said as much to Trump.
“NATO, from my perspective ... is the most successful military alliance certainly in modern world history, probably ever,” Mattis said. “I have had discussions with him on this issue. He has shown himself open, even to the point of asking more questions and going deeper into the issue about why I feel so strongly.”
Some the Democrats in the House indicated during the confirmation hearing that they backed Mattis as defense secretary precisely as a check on Trump’s use of military force. Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal said: “Let me say very bluntly: If there were ever a case for a waiver of that principle, it is you at this moment in our history.” “Your appreciation for the costs of war in blood, treasure and lives, and the impact on veterans afterward, will enable you to be a check on rash and potentially ill-considered use of military force by a President-elect who perhaps lacks that same appreciation.”
Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren seemed pleased when she asked Mattis under what circumstances he would be forceful in expressing his views, even when they diverged with the President.
“On every circumstance, Senator,” Mattis said.
Here are some of the more famous quotes of Mattis:
“Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it’s a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents.”
“I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
“Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”
“Demonstrate to the world there is ‘No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’ than a U.S. Marine.”
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”
It is refreshing that Mattis seems to be the tough, experienced, soldier who understands and appreciates the importance of diplomacy and strength. He is the real deal. Sarah Palin is not! Ooraah!