Donald Trump liked to call former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis one of “my generals,” but now, the man nicknamed “Mad Dog” by the Marines who served under him is praising Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, and condemning Trump over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mattis made his comments about the relative performance of the two presidents while accepting a public service award from the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, a Grand Rapids-based non-partisan think tank dedicated to international relations.
Fittingly, it was an award named after the late Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Michigan Republican who was originally a staunch isolationist but who, following World War II, became a strong believer in the necessity of a leading role for our nation on the international stage.
It was in that context that General Mattis commented on the successful engagement with our global allies initiated by Trump’s predecessors, including George H. W. Bush’s mustering of a 100-nation alliance in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and his son, George W. Bush’s similar success in building a coalition of nations to invade Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
It wasn’t only past Republican presidents that Mattis lauded for their international leadership, however.
Mattis also credited President Barack Obama for his critical efforts to stop the spread of Ebola and preventing it from becoming a deadly pandemic of its own.
Without mentioning Donald Trump by name, the former Defense Secretary implicitly and indirectly slammed the disgraced ex-president for failing to achieve similar results when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And then along comes COVID, and the Americans don’t lead internationally,” Mattis said. “We’re going to have to get back to thinking strategically. We’re going to have to speak, and we’re going to have to lead.”
While the “Mad Dog” was relatively oblique in his direct criticism of Trump, his hosannas for President Biden’s performance on the international stage, as well as his efforts to right the mishandling of the COVID pandemic, were sure to sting the former guy even more than any direct criticism would.
“If you looked at our president’s time in Cornwall, Brussels and Geneva, you see Senator Vandenberg’s themes resonating right down to the various words that the president used to represent us there,” Mattis said. “If we would remind ourselves, we can solve many issues if we work together. And, by the way, we’re always stronger together.”
Mattis’s appreciation of a return to sanity in America’s foreign relations after four years of Trump’s disruptive and short-sighted “America first” doctrine and his paranoia over being taken advantage of by our allies was evident as he admitted that “we’ve got some making up to do” when it comes to mending fences with our international partners.
The former Defense Secretary’s comments likely inspired a rise in blood pressure for Trump who once petulantly referred to Mattis as “the world’s most overrated General” when the former Marine said something else that displeased him.
It just what you would expect the world’s most overrated excuse for a human being to say.
Original reporting by Steve Friess at Newsweek.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.