Democrats bemoan (as I do) the resignation of James Mattis. It made me wonder how many of them had voted not to confirm him. I knew that, although Democrats and their media allies had raised questions about Mattis, almost all of them voted for his confirmation in the end.
I guessed that around five hard core leftists voted against him.
It turns out that only one did: Kirsten Gillibrand.
Gillibrand apparently intends to run for president. With her vote against Mattis, she positioned herself to the left of Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris at least on that one issue.
It’s not clear, though, whether Gillibrand wants to position herself there.
Frankly, I don’t know where Gillibrand wants to position herself on the Democratic spectrum. In the House, where she represented a less than hard-left constituency, she was a moderate by Democrat standards. In the Senate, she has moved strongly to the left.
As a presidential candidate, now that she’s done her best to put her “Blue Dog” days behind, who knows?
She seems to be making it up as she goes along. She seems to be a phony.
Why did Gillibrand vote against Mattis? Her stated reason was that she believes in civilian control of the military, and that Mattis’ confirmation would contradict that principle because it required waiving a law that Defense secretaries must be out of the military for at least seven years.
If you can’t follow the logic, don’t worry. It makes no sense.
The notion that Mattis’ confirmation would jeopardize civilian control of the military was ludicrous. There was no reason to suppose that Mattis, who retired from the military in 2013, has a problem with civilian control.
Nor, as it turned out, did Mattis have such a problem. To the contrary, he resigned because he did not agree with the policies of the civilian who controls the military. What did Gillibrand expect in these circumstances, a military coup?
The seven-year rule was waived for General George Marshall with no adverse consequences, and there was no reason not to waive it for General Mattis. Even Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris were able to work that out.
Was Gillibrand genuinely concerned that Mattis wouldn’t bow to civilian authority or was she just differentiating herself from potential rivals within the Democratic party? If, for any reason, Mattis’ tenure as Secretary of Defense didn’t work out well, Gillibrand would be able to cite her vote against him. If it turned out okay, Democrats would be unlikely to make an issue out of her vote, since Mattis was unlikely to be a hero to the Democratic base.
But that was before Mattis came to be lionized as the (departed) adult in the Trump administration — the man who stood between a raging lunatic president and worldwide disaster. Now, Gillibrand’s vote against him must be mildly embarrassing. But in the context of Democratic primaries, it probably won’t be more than that.
In the context of the general election, should Gillibrand somehow get that far, it might be more. However, Trump can only get so far playing this card, given Mattis’ well-publicized differences with the president.
Gillibrand and Trump might be the only politicians in Washington who don’t think Mattis should be Secretary of Defense.