The Corner

White House

Mattis’s Extraordinary Letter

(Reuters/Eric Thayer)

Resignations in principle have become rare events in American government. The last one took place in 1980, when Secretary of State Cyrus Vance left the Carter Administration after getting iced out of the decision to attempt a rescue of the hostages in Iran. And even Vance didn’t leave while making as sharp a critique of the administration as the one Mattis has leveled.

Mattis’s disagreement with the president over Syria may have precipitated his resignation, but Mattis says that the difference runs much deeper. Mattis writes that he believes in respecting allies, being clear-eyed about enemies and competitors, and fostering an international order that is conducive to American security, prosperity, and values. He then — in his very next sentence — suggests that he is at odds with Trump on each of these questions and more.

We are therefore to infer that in Mattis’s view, Trump does not respect our allies, is not clear-eyed about our enemies and competitors, and is undermining our security, prosperity, and values. It is the kind of critique one could easily imagine a presidential candidate running against Trump making in 2020. I can’t really think of an American historical case that’s at all analogous. The closest one that comes to mind was the resignation of a Secretary of State 158 years ago, also in December.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
Books

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More