The Slatest

Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis Reportedly Demoted to “Moderate Dog,” Could Be “Gone Dog” After the Midterms

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in a meeting at the Pentagon.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford at the Pentagon
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “is now expected to be dismissed or to resign after the midterm elections,” Politico reported Thursday. The former Marine general has been a, ahem, lodestar for Trump skeptics who see him as using his credibility with the president to run a more traditional hawkish foreign policy.

Especially early in his administration, Trump relished in referring to Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog,” which dates back to his time in Iraq. Mattis told a Senate committee the name was coined by the media and he doesn’t actually like it or think is it particularly accurate. (He has also been called the “Warrior Monk” and “Chaos,” apparently the nickname he prefers). Since then, Politico reported, Trump has cooled on Mattis and realized they don’t see eye-to-eye on every policy issue. Most damningly, Politico reports, “the president has taken to referring to him behind closed doors as ‘Moderate Dog.’ ”

Bob Woodward’s Fear features several moments of Mattis-Trump divergence, including the defense secretary supposedly telling people Trump acted like a “fifth or sixth grader.” Mattis also, Woodward reports, completely ignored Trump’s request that U.S. troops assassinate Bashar al-Assad, “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured,” Woodward says Mattis told an aide after a call from Trump.

In another particularly amusing anecdote from Fear, Woodward reports that then–press secretary Sean Spicer would often ask Mattis to appear on Sunday morning TV shows, which frustrated Mattis who, jokingly or not, told the Navy Reserve officer, ” I’ve killed people for a living. If you call me again, I’m going to f—ing send you to Afghanistan. Are we clear?”

Mattis denied the book’s claims in a statement, which Trump gleefully pointed to as reason to ask, “Woodward is a Democratic operative?”

Politico said that Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham are seen as potential replacements for Mattis. While neither of them would ever be called “Mad Dog,” it remains to be seen if they would ever threaten to send a pesky White House press secretary to Afghanistan.