The Cable

As Expected, ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis is Trump’s Secretary of Defense Pick

Trump's pick for secretary of defense will require a congressional exemption to serve.


President-elect Donald Trump announced during a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio Thursday night that he plans to nominate retired Marine Corps general James Mattis as his defense secretary.

“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense,” Trump told the crowd, using one of Mattis’ nicknames. “But we’re not announcing it until Monday so don’t tell anybody.” Later, he added, “they say he’s the closest thing to Gen. George Patton that we have and it’s about time.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump often invoked Patton as the kind of general he felt the nation needed to fight the Islamic State.

On some matters, such as Iran, Mattis flies with the hawks. Still, salty language aside, he’s widely seen as having an informed, nuanced view of the world, and some hope that he can temper Trump, who was apparently surprised that Mattis opposes the use of waterboarding during interrogations.

But Mattis still faces several hurdles in Congress before he is given rein at the Pentagon. Because he retired from active military service just three years ago, as Foreign Policy noted in a report this week, he requires a congressional exemption to serve as secretary of defense. It would be the first such exemption issued by Congress since President Harry Truman’s administration.

This article has been updated. Paul McLeary contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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