President-elect Donald Trump has selected James Mattis, a legendary, tough-talking retired Marine Corps general who favors a robust military and criticized the Obama administration’s approach to war, to lead the Defense Department, according to reports.
Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said no formal decision has been made about the job or Mattis.
Mattis retired in 2013 after leading the military’s Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and Africa. He will require a waiver from Congress to become Defense secretary because the law prohibits veterans who have been retired for fewer than seven years from taking the job. That is expected to be a formality, given support for him from many in Congress, including Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., the influential chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
His selection by Trump was first reported by The Washington Post and later by CNN.
Mattis made headlines at a series of prominent commands with blunt talk that appealed to troops and left no doubt about his approach to war. After leading troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, he told an audience in San Diego in 2005 that he relished fighting.
“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot,” Mattis said. “It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
Those remarks earned him a rebuke from his superiors but didn’t stop his ascent to the military’s most prestigious and taxing posts. Known as the “Warrior Monk,” Mattis also cultivates a bookish reputation.
Mattis is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and has continued to speak out about military policy in retirement. In 2014, he criticized the Obama administration’s plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2016, a stand that it has abandoned in favor of leaving about 10,000 troops there to train local forces and fight terrorists.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Tom Vanden Brook