Mat­tis de­serves to be hon­ored by Leg­is­la­ture

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Tri-City Forum - By The (Ta­coma) News Tri­bune

Be­fore he gets too far out the door, it’s worth re­flect­ing on the legacy of erst­while De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis, the last of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s gen­er­als to de­part af­ter do­ing his best to mit­i­gate two years of chaos in the White House.

By re­sign­ing the day af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump’s rash de­ci­sion to pull all troops out of Syria, Mat­tis showed the back­bone that helped sus­tain him as a Marine com­man­der on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He should be rec­og­nized not only for his ser­vice to pres­i­dent, coun­try and the U.S. mil­i­tary, but for bring­ing honor to his home state of Washington.

It would be a nice dis­play of bi­par­ti­san­ship for state leg­is­la­tors to adopt a joint res­o­lu­tion com­mend­ing Mat­tis’ ser­vice when they re­turn to Olympia this month.

Born in Pull­man, raised in Richland and re­cip­i­ent of a his­tory de­gree at Cen­tral Washington Uni­ver­sity, the re­tired fourstar gen­eral holds fast to his Washington roots. Be­fore Trump picked him to run the Pen­tagon, Mat­tis served on the board of the Tri-Cities Food Bank and re­ported for jury duty in Ben­ton County.

This globe-trot­ting na­tive son doesn’t spurn many in­vi­ta­tions to come home and speak to fel­low Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, such as at last year’s Tri-Ci­tian of the Year awards ban­quet.

Mat­tis never spoke ill of the com­man­der in chief, of course. He main­tained the same pro­fes­sional tone that char­ac­ter­ized his Dec. 20 res­ig­na­tion let­ter, when he told Trump he was en­ti­tled to a de­fense sec­re­tary “whose views are bet­ter aligned with yours.”

But any­one who heard Mat­tis speak in these set­tings would con­clude he was at odds with Trump’s nar­cis­sis­tic brand of na­tion­al­ism. It’s no sur­prise that Mat­tis would find the pres­i­dent’s habit of pok­ing his fin­ger in the eyes of

‘‘

IF WE CAN SOME­HOW COME BACK TO­GETHER WITH UNITY, THERE’S NOTH­ING THAT CAN STOP US.

Jim Mat­tis

al­lies so of­fen­sive, and so be­yond rem­edy, that his con­science left him lit­tle choice but to step down.

In Oc­to­ber 2016, weeks be­fore Trump was elected and later named his de­fense sec­re­tary, Mat­tis de­liv­ered a speech at the an­nual Washington Pol­icy Cen­ter din­ner in Spokane, where he was given the Cham­pion of Free­dom award. He praised the Mar­shall Plan, the United Na­tions, NATO and other in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions as bul­warks of Amer­ica’s suc­cess and se­cu­rity dat­ing to World War II.

“The Great­est Gen­er­a­tion com­mit­ted us to en­gag­ing in the world, not re­treat­ing from it,” he said. “They raised us well and I will tell you that here in East­ern Washington, we stood the test.”

This week, Trump has dis­tanced him­self from Mat­tis, whom he once proudly called one of “my gen­er­als,” and has shown de­cid­edly less class than the for­mer Pen­tagon chief. “What’s he done for

me?” Trump said with typ­i­cal solip­sism dur­ing his first cab­i­net meet­ing of the year Wed­nes­day. “How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good.”

Trump’s prob­lem in choos­ing Mat­tis in the first place was that that he thought he’d hold the leash on a “Mad Dog,” a nick­name that Mat­tis re­port­edly didn’t fancy.

What the Cab­i­net got in­stead was a well-read, in­de­pen­dent-minded gen­eral some­times re­ferred to as “the War­rior Monk,” known for car­ry­ing copies of the Med­i­ta­tions of Mar­cus Aure­lius.

Mat­tis has now ex­ited stage left, at age 68, with a long war against Is­lamic ter­ror­ism left un­fin­ished, a di­vided U.S. gov­ern­ment in his rearview mir­ror and a fed­eral shut­down with no end in sight. But some of his part­ing words to that Spokane au­di­ence be­fore the 2016 elec­tion are as per­ti­nent now as they were then:

“If we can re­dis­cover the fun­da­men­tal friend­li­ness be­tween our­selves as Amer­i­cans — who can dis­agree and ar­gue and still have a beer, or a root beer to­gether af­ter­wards — if we can some­how come back to­gether with unity, there’s noth­ing that can stop us.”

SU­SAN WALSH AP

Out­go­ing De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis is quot­ing Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lincoln in a farewell mes­sage to de­fense em­ploy­ees, urg­ing them to stay fo­cused on their mis­sion.

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