President-elect Donald Trump may be about to find out what it is like to couple a Marine general with an Army general on his national security team. His nomination of “Mad dog” James Mattis as Defense secretary is sparking questions about how well the retired Marine general will get along with Mike Flynn, the three-star Army general set to be national security adviser.
The brewing rivalry began with Flynn reportedly attempting to block Mattis’s nomination. Reportedly he did not want a general with higher a ranking than him in the Cabinet. Trump, who is renowned for creating these sort of “dog eat dog” situations to boost production, may have matched the wrong two men.
The Washington Post, more than anxious to see trouble simmering with Trump’s nominations, reports the power struggle has already begun. They say it will likely spill over to confirmation hearings scheduled for next week with the Democrats licking their political chops for disunity after their stunning elections losses.
The two men are on the same page in terms of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but that may be the end of the similarities. Their differences may become very public concerning the Russian factor. There is good reason to think Flynn has the upper hand in this matter with the incoming president.
General Flynn will be seeing the president for daily briefings while Mattis just once a week. Flynn has been on Trump’s campaign team from the beginning, Mattis has not. Flynn will begin his duties from day one of the new administration while Mattis may be bogged down in confirmation hearings until sometime in February.
Many observers to Trump’s nominations looked to Mattis as a counterweight to the aggressive Flynn. But lawmakers have made clear that they hope to draw out Mattis on some potential areas of disagreement with Trump’s team at his confirmation hearing, including Russia. The national security team could begin their duties in disarray because of the confirmation process. No doubt it is something many Democrats would enjoy seeing.
The ranking of the two men then becomes more strategic. Mattis outranks Flynn in prior-military service. Mattis last served as a four-star commander of U.S. Central Command, and Flynn last served as a three-star commander of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Although both are retired, they are mindful of their previous ranks.
Enter Ret. Marine General James Kelly, Trump’s pick for Homeland Security. He has known Mattis for four decades. That is an important relationship. But Flynn’s proximity to Trump in the West Wing will mean that Mattis will have to pick his battles, no matter who his friends are.
This is all speculation at this point, much of it being drummed up by the liberal media looking for any discord in the new administration.
Right now, all eyes are focused on the confirmation hearings of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions who has been picked to be U.S.Attorney General. Of all Trump’s nominees, Sessions appears to be the major target for Democrats.
The problem the Democrats will have with any of the confirmation candidates is daunting. Their former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada installed the “nuclear option” to quell Republican opposition to Obama’s nominees in 2013. To disqualify any of Trump’s selections, it now must defeat a majority vote of one senator. The Republicans have retained majority control the Senate in January, 2017 making a victory for Democrats a task that is considered mission impossible.