He said he resigned. Donald Trump said that he fired this guy’s sorry ass – he was a wimp and a fool and knew nothing about the military and certainly nothing about winning. Donald Trump said that he had been misled. This guy wasn’t a “mad dog” at all. He didn’t have that killer instinct. He was useless. That was three years ago, and at the time, David Von Drehle, pointed out the actual issues at play here:
In palmier days, the president liked to refer to his secretary of defense by the nickname “Mad Dog,” because that spoke to his boyish view of what a soldier ought to be – for that matter, what a man ought to be. Aggressive. Instinctive. Untamed. Dangerous.
But retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis has another nickname that goes more deeply to his character and more fully explains why he is one of the most admired military men of his generation. He is “the Warrior Monk.”
To understand what that means is to understand why his break with President Trump and departure from the Cabinet was inevitable, and yet deeply wounding to the limping and hounded commander in chief.
Mattis was the better man:
Mattis is the last of the men Trump once called “my generals” to leave the administration. But there are generals and there are generals, and then there’s Mattis. Marines I know who served under his command in the initial phases of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars speak of him with respect bordering on reverence. His mastery of speed and aggression in combat – his “Mad Dog” qualities – are the least of the reasons why.
I think their esteem is rooted in the extreme seriousness with which Mattis approaches every task. I don’t mean humorlessness; the general has said that “a sense of humor is like body armor around your body. It’s armor around your spirit and it keeps your spirit from going grim.”
What I mean is that Mattis believes that his work is deeply important. It is his responsibility to be prepared and to be knowledgeable, to plan thoroughly, to foresee pitfalls and consequences, to build a harmonious team and to share his vision and aims with every team member with such clarity that all are able to act decisively on their own to further the mission. Any mistakes or omissions on his part as a leader can result in the unnecessary deaths of his Marines, and he conducts himself accordingly.
This is a man that Trump would never understand:
He reads voraciously, especially in the areas of military history and the art of leadership. His strategy for unseating the Taliban in Afghanistan, perhaps the most audacious amphibious operation in Marine Corps history, was informed by his knowledge of British operations in World War II Burma and the fine details of Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. For the invasion of Iraq, he reviewed the career of Alexander the Great. He applied the dialectical method of philosopher G. W. F. Hegel to better see through the fog of war. “By reading, you learn through others’ experiences – generally a better way to do business,” Mattis has observed, “especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.”
And so he had to leave Trump’s world. The issue was Syria and the Kurds. We stand by our allies. The issue was thinking things through before any particular rash action. The issue was understanding history and nuance before stomping in to “fix” things. And thus the issue was Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is gone. The issue is still Donald Trump. Others carry on his work:
The military’s top officer on Wednesday pushed back against GOP lawmakers who said the Pentagon’s efforts to combat racism and promote diversity have made the armed forces too “woke.”
Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley gave a fiery defense of open-mindedness in the ranks during a House Armed Services hearing, saying he’s offended at the accusation that those efforts have undercut the military’s mission and cohesiveness.
He decided that he’d remind these Republicans that open-mindedness is rather useful. They ought to try it:
Milley, who was testifying alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a hearing on the defense budget, was responding to a pair of Republican lawmakers arguing the Pentagon had embraced critical race theory, such as its inclusion in some courses at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military of being ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there,” Milley said.
The idea, as he sees it, is to know as much as possible about the situation, about any situation, before acting, before doing something stupid. It’s not that hard a concept. Know what’s going on. Know everything that’s going on:
The four-star general told lawmakers that service members should be “open-minded and be widely read” because service members “come from the American people” and said he wanted to better understand racism as well as the climate that led to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
“I want to understand white rage – and I’m white,” Milley told lawmakers “What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?”
“I’ve read Mao Tse Tung. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” Milley continued. “So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?”
He was angry. They had made him angry:
Milley’s riff followed several testy exchanges on the Pentagon’s diversity and anti-extremism efforts.
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), a former Army Green Beret, raised the incorporation of critical race theory at West Point, including a course that includes the theory in its syllabus.
“This isn’t something that we’re raising,” Waltz said during the hearing. “This came to me from cadets, from families, from soldiers with their alarm and their concern at how divisive this type of teaching is that is rooted in Marxism, that classifies people along class lines, an entire race of people as oppressor and oppressed.”
Yes, it does. West Point is a university. That’s a place to examine and discuss such things. And there was this:
Earlier in the hearing, Austin tangled with another Florida Republican, Rep. Matt Gaetz, who objected to Austin’s order for a military-wide stand down, where units took a day out of their normal duties to discuss extremism in the military.
Gaetz claimed opposition to the stand down is “the No. 1 issue” raised in his conversations with troops.
“Thanks for your anecdotal input,” Austin shot back. “But I would say that I have gotten 10 times that amount of input, 50 times that amount of input, on the other side that has said, ‘Hey, we’re glad to have had the ability to have a conversation with ourselves and with our leadership.’“
Gaetz, however, was in full Trump mode. You generals know nothing about the military, nothing at all:
Gaetz suggested that Austin’s inner circle may be telling the Pentagon chief what he wants to hear rather than giving an honest assessment of military morale.
“It may be that you’re receiving that input in the ratios you describe because it was your directive,” Gaetz said. “It may be that people are concerned about criticizing your decision.”
Trump claimed to know more about the military than all the military guys put together. Gaetz is getting there,
Gaetz also accused Austin’s senior adviser on diversity issues, Bishop Garrison, of being a “critical race theorist” and cited past tweets. The defense secretary responded that Gaetz’s questioning was the first time he’d heard Garrison described as a subscriber to critical race theory.
“We do not teach critical race theory. We don’t embrace critical race theory, and I think that’s a spurious conversation” Austin told Gaetz. “We are focused on extremist behaviors and not ideology, not people’s thoughts, not people’s political orientation.”
Matt Gaetz wasn’t buying that. Austin and Milley were woke wimps, girly-men who listened to Black people and Marxists, instead of shooting them down in the streets of America – or something. But like Trump, he does hate the military. They’re all such fools!
But it’s the same in civilian life. Reuters’ James Oliphant and Gabriella Borter report this:
The school board of Virginia’s wealthy Loudoun County had planned to hold a routine meeting to close out the school year. Instead, it was pandemonium.
Many of the hundreds of parents who flooded the auditorium in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night were there to accuse the schools of teaching their kids that racism in America is structural and systemic – which the board denies. Some signs read, “Education not indoctrination” and “You don’t end racism by teaching it.”
To clarify, that last sign was claiming that teaching about racism is in itself racist. Teaching about racism is a direct attack on White people, and these White people were not going to allow that:
The evening grew so heated that the board walked out of the room, leaving sheriff’s deputies to disperse the crowd.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Wayde Byard, the Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman for more than two decades, after deputies took two attendees out of the room in handcuffs.
But this was just a version of the day’s congressional hearing:
Loudoun has been roiled for months by accusations that it has embraced critical race theory, a school of thought that maintains that racism is ingrained in U.S. law and institutions and that legacies of slavery and segregation have created an uneven playing field for Black Americans.
The school system says it is simply training teachers, the majority of whom are white, to be “culturally responsive” to serve the county’s increasingly diverse student population.
But there will be none of that in Loudoun County, or anywhere else for that matter:
As Americans tackle racial and social injustice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd last year, several Republican-led states including Florida, Georgia and Texas have enacted new rules to limit teaching about the role of racism in the United States.
The idea that a once-obscure academic doctrine is infiltrating public schools has become a rallying cry for conservatives. From school boards and parent activists to governors and lawmakers, they say tenets of the theory – popularly known as CRT – are being used to indoctrinate children that America is a racist country. Fueled by right-wing media, the conflict has mushroomed into a national debate over how – and which version of – U.S. history is taught in schools.
Racism played no role in American history! Yes, it did! No, it didn’t!
This is going to make it hard on teachers:
Critics argue there is no evidence CRT is being taught in most – if any – public schools. Instead, they say, it has become a handy red flag to wave at any efforts to promote racial equity and better outcomes for non-white students.
Several teachers and education experts say they worry that rules banning CRT or placing limits on how to talk about racism generally could have a chilling effect on efforts to teach Black history, including the legacy of slavery and race relations.
Vanessa Skipper, an English teacher and vice president of the Brevard County teachers’ union in Florida, said the state ban “set a dangerous precedent for teachers.”
“It’s our job to present the factual parts of history, which are messy and dark, and allow the students to come to their own conclusions and think critically,” Skipper said.
But maybe that’s not their job:
For an example of what some states are doing, look to Georgia, where the state Board of Education earlier this month passed a non-binding resolution forbidding the teaching of concepts “that the country is racist, one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.”
Cobb County, an affluent, predominately white suburb northeast of Atlanta, soon followed with its own resolution banning the teaching of CRT.
In Loudoun, which has seen a massive influx of immigrants in the last decade into what was once rural, white-dominated northern Virginia, parent groups are trying to recall six of nine school board members for supporting diversity and equity efforts in public and on social media.
Those efforts include teacher and staff training materials “related to addressing opportunity and achievement gaps, systemic oppression, and implicit bias.”
“It’s anti-white,” said Scott Mineo, a parent who launched an advocacy group, Parents Against Critical Theory. “It takes a negative position against the United States.”
Really? And then there’s Florida:
When Florida’s Board of Education, whose seven members were appointed by Republican governors, this month announced its ban on teaching CRT, it said the theory “distorts” historical events like the Civil War.
Asked by Reuters to elaborate, Governor Ron DeSantis’ office pointed to what it called examples of “race essentialism” being taught in school districts nationwide, even if it may not be called “critical race theory”. His office did not define either term.
“We do not want this divisive ideology in Florida classrooms,” said spokesperson Christina Pushaw.
After all, one must not distort anything about the Civil War. That was never about slavery. Not really. And that view will assure Republican victories soon:
Republican Party officials and strategists say they increasingly view the controversy as central to their efforts to paint the Democratic Party as having been taken over by its left wing.
Focusing on the issue could help Republicans win back college-educated suburban voters in next year’s elections that will decide control of the U.S. Congress, particularly women they have lost to Democrats in recent cycles, said Ford O’Connell, a Republican operative in southwest Florida.
“This is the issue that will get suburbanites with you,” O’Connell said. He cited an Economist/YouGov poll conducted last week that showed that 76% of independent voters hold an unfavorable view of CRT.
College-educated suburban voters, particular those White stay-at-home housewives, fear the end of the White race, and fear all Black folks, so this will finally make them vote Republican, every one of them. They’re really deeply racist. Count on it.
Trump tried that approach. He lost. But this time might be different. Go after the teachers:
On Monday, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative advocacy group, released an online toolkit it said would help activists use public information requests to help identify whether CRT is being taught in their schools.
Meanwhile, public school teachers, as state employees, enjoy relatively little leeway in terms of what can they say in the classroom and lack full protections for freedom of speech, said Suzanne Eckes, a professor of education at Indiana University.
In Georgia’s Cobb County, a member of the school board who abstained from voting on the CRT resolution, Jaha Howard, said he is worried teachers are “going to have to operate under a banner of fear” and will hesitate to talk about race issues or dark parts of U.S. history.
“What supports white supremacy more than making rules to say you can’t talk about racism or white supremacy?” he said.
But the rules are in place:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation requiring state colleges and universities to annually survey their students, faculty and staff about their beliefs to ensure “viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom.”
The legislation doesn’t specify for what the survey results will be used, but at a press conference on Tuesday DeSantis said that schools found to be “indoctrinating” students aren’t “worth tax dollars” and are “not something we’re going to be supporting going forward.”
Teach the wrong thing and the state shuts down that school. Schools will keep a close eye on their teachers. One word about racism in their classroom and they’re gone. There’s no other choice:
The survey will assess the “extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” and determine whether students, faculty and staff “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” per the legislation.
DeSantis said Tuesday the bills would prevent state schools from becoming “hotbeds for stale ideology.”
He seems to have that backwards. state colleges and universities will annually survey their students, faculty and staff about their beliefs to ensure they’re the right beliefs. If they are not the right beliefs, there will be hell to pay.
And that’s how the whole American experiment ends. Jim Mattis hated his nickname. There are too many actual mad dogs.