According to a report from Foreign Policy, Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis' influence over President Donald Trump is slipping away as the president has turned to other advisors because Mattis doesn't move quickly enough on the president's initiatives.
The report notes that "For much of his term as defense secretary, Mattis has been seen as one of the most influential voices in President Donald Trump’s orbit," but that, as of late, he has been sidelined on military matters as Trump has turned to non-veteran National Security Advisor John Bolton.
According to analysts and former officials, the retired Marine general has been losing arguments and has receded into the background, although Trump asked him to be an administration representative at the funeral of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The defense secretary recently was the subject of Trump's ire for not moving quickly enough on Trump's proposed "Space Force" causing the president to throw up his hands and assign the announcement to Vice President Mike Pence.
“[Mattis] was told repeatedly to get working on this Space Force and didn’t do it, and finally [Trump] basically says, ‘This is what you are going to do,’ and he sends in his vice president,” relayed a former senior defense official who left the department but is still in contact with his former colleagues
“That is not something that would’ve happened in month one or six of this administration,” the official added.
According to Mattis, he is not opposed to the Space Force, but feels “What I was against was rushing to do that before we could define the problem.”
The report states that Mattis began as one of Trump's most influential advisers but that his star faded as some of his allies -- National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson --in the White House left and were replaced by Bolton and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
“The entire first year of Mattis’s tenure, he was indisputably the most powerful member of the Cabinet and knew it, and everybody else knew it,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, of the American Enterprise Institute.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claims that times have changed at the White House, remarking, “You clearly have the impression that he doesn’t have the same relationship [with Trump] that he had before, and that his influence has been impacted as a result."
According to observers, there is no indication that Mattis will be forced out, but he does appear to have moved to the sidelines -- particularly when Trump shoots from the hip.
“Now it’s like Mattis is too clever by half … he always seems to disappear whenever Trump says something crazy,” AEI's Eaglen said. “It’s just crazy how he exits the scene whenever it’s convenient for him.”
Panetta added that it is important that the scholarly and restrained Mattis -- who reportedly cooled Trump down on attacking North Korea -- remains as a counterweight to some of the impulsive Trumps demands.
“I think where the important line will be is whether or not Jim Mattis, and for that matter the entire national security team, can prevent him from implementing some of those tweets in politics,” Panetta warned.
You can read the whole report here (subscription required).