- Retired Marine Corps Gen. and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has largely kept quiet on the Trump administration since he resigned in late 2018, except for a scathing op-ed in June.
- Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's book "Rage" offers new insight into Mattis' views of President Donald Trump and his presidency through quotes from him and those attributed to him by colleagues.
- Mattis' reported remarks paint a picture of a president who is unfit for the office and detrimental to American interests.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis, who served as President Donald Trump's defense secretary before resigning, has largely kept his thoughts on the commander-in-chief to himself, but Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's book "Rage" offers new insight into his views of the president and this administration.
The quotes, which came from Mattis or were attributed to him by his colleagues who spoke to Woodward, paint a picture of a man troubled by an immoral and misinformed president who he sees contributing to the deterioration and decline of America.
These are some of the most revealing quotes from Mattis on Trump and his presidency in Woodward's book:
- On dealing with Trump, Mattis said: ""I was often trying to impose reason over impulse. And you see where I wasn't able to, because the tweets would get out there."
- On the president's morality, Mattis reportedly said: "The president has no moral compass." (Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is said to have agreed, saying: "To him, a lie is not a lie. It's just what he thinks. He doesn't know the difference between the truth and a lie.")
- On receiving orders from Trump, he said: "I never cared much for what Trump said. I ran the Department of Defense. I kept him informed in my private meetings. I wouldn't do it in public, because he would have to play a role then. But I didn't get any guidance from him, generally, other than an occasional tweet."
- In response to Trump's weakening of alliances, Mattis said: "What we're doing is we're actually showing how to destroy America. That's what we're showing them. How to isolate us from all of our allies. How to take us down. And it's working very well. We are declaring war on one another inside America. It's actually working against us right now."
- On a president being tough and keeping the peace, Mattis said: "Not with the current occupant. He doesn't understand. He has no mental framework for these things. He hasn't read."
- On Trump's go-it-alone strategy and dismissal of alliances, Mattis said: "It was indefensible. It was jingoism. It was a misguided form of nationalism. It was not patriotism."
- On Trump's lasting impact on the country, Mattis said: "This degradation of the American experiment is real. This is tangible. Truth is no longer governing the White House statements. Nobody believes—even people who believe in him somehow believe in him without believing what he says."
- On his decision to resign, Mattis said: "I was basically directed to do something that I thought went beyond stupid to felony stupid, strategically jeopardizing our place in the world and everything else, that's when I quit."
'You're going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS'
Mattis resigned as secretary of defense in December 2018, writing in his resignation letter that his views were not "aligned" with the president. The final straw for Mattis was the president's decision to prematurely declare victory over ISIS, withdraw US troops from Syria, and leave the Kurds who'd done the bulk of the ground fighting to fend for themselves.
Mattis advised the president against taking such action, but Trump would not be persuaded. When he resigned, Mattis reportedly told the president: "You're going to have to get the next secretary of defense to lose to ISIS. I'm not going to do it."
After he left the Department of Defense, the president publicly criticized Mattis, but the retired general refused to speak out against the president.
He told The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg last October that "if you leave an administration, you owe some silence." He added that "there is a period in which I owe my silence. It's not eternal. It's not going to be forever."
While Mattis held his tongue publicly, he privately discussed the need to speak out, to take action, Woodward reports in "Rage."
"Maybe at some point we're going to have to stand up and speak out. There may be a time when we have to take collective action," he told former DNI director Coats. "He's dangerous. He's unfit," Mattis reportedly said.
Coats, Woodward writes, was hesitant, pointing out that other former military leaders had done the same and accomplished nothing. "I don't know," Mattis said. "But, we can't let the country keep going" on this course.
Mattis did finally speak out against the president and the administration in an op-ed after Trump forcefully cleared Lafayette Park in Washington, DC of protesters for a photo op at a nearby church in June.
"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us," Mattis wrote.
"We are," he continued, "witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."