The problem with having a president who is a pathological liar is that it’s difficult to keep your team onboard with the messaging.
Some just haven’t been updated properly on the latest version of the “truth” that Trump just made up. Others, perhaps still used to the pre-Trump ways of doing things, still find it hard to restrict their automatic impulse to rely on facts when asked questions.
Then there are some who may actually tell the truth because of their conscience or deeply rooted convictions that ultimately telling falsehoods will lead to a negative outcome.
It’s not certain which of these categories Secretary of Defense James Mattis falls into, but his deviation from Trump’s company line about Russia is fairly definitive.
While Trump’s policies towards Russia vary wildly from moment to moment, depending on how much outside pressure he feels to over his appearance to be following orders from the Kremlin to a T, the president went on another fact-free rant this morning at an impromptu press conference where he placed the blame on Russia’s annexation of Crimea squarely on the shoulders of his predecessor Barack Obama.
“President Obama lost Crimea just so you understand. This was before I got there,” Trump said. “President Obama lost Crimea.”
Most people would have phrased that differently, something like “Russia invaded Crimea and stole the territory from Ukraine, so it’s Vladimir Putin’s responsibility and that’s why Russia was kicked out of the G8, making it the G7.”
However, Trump blames Obama and advocates absolving the Kremlin of their sins and allowing them back into the international community.
Defense Secretary Mattis was brave, or foolhardy, enough to directly contradict his boss in a speech at the Naval War College where he condemns Russia for its invasion and annexation of Crimea, pointing out that it’s the “first nation since World War II” that has redrawn its borders “by force” by seizing territory that formerly belonged to Ukraine and Georgia.
Mattis also pointed out Putin’s aim of undermining the Western Alliance that has brought relative peace. prosperity, and stability to Europe since the end of World War II, leaving unspoken how much of the President’s behavior and policies have fostered that aim.
“Putin seeks to shatter NATO,” Mattis says. “He aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority… his actions are designed not to challenge our arms, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals.”
Substitute Trump’s name for Putin’s in that statement and it’s no less true, as his tantrums at the recent G7 conference and his implementation of punitive tariffs on our former allies attest to.
So far there has been no reaction from the president to Mattis’ comments, but it may increase the ranking of the Defense Secretary in the running betting pools on who will be the next senior Trump administration official to be pushed out of office.
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