A move to persuade retired Marine General James Mattis to run for president as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump, should the billionaire frontrunner secure the Republican nomination, has hit a snag: The General, known as “Mad Dog” has said definitively that he is not interested.
Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the prominent conservatives who have been pushing for the former head of U.S. Central Command, reported on Friday that he had been contacted by Mattis with the news that he has decided not to run.
“I received an email from Jim Mattis yesterday saying that, after much consideration, he's decided not to pursue an independent bid for president. The thoughtfulness and patriotism--and for that matter, the modesty--Jim showed as he reflected on this decision make me more convinced than ever that he would have made a truly admirable president, and also a good candidate. But it's not to be. So we won't have a President Mattis,” Kristol wrote in an email.
The move to draft Mattis to run as an independent was always a bit Quixotic. The former general is beloved within the Marine Corps and widely respected without both as a soldier and a scholar. (One of his nicknames, other than “Mad Dog” is the “Warrior Monk.”) However, he has never been a politician, as some of his public remarks over the years attest.
He was (gently) scolded by the Pentagon in 2005 when, speaking about the war in Afghanistan, he suggested it was “fun” to shoot members of the Taliban.
“Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot,” Mattis said during a panel discussion in 2005. “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,” Mattis continued.” 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.”
Now a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, the 65-year-old Mattis sits on corporate boards and delivers paid speeches. During the Q&A session after a speech in Washington last week, he offered his boosters little hope. Asked about a presidential run, Mattis said, “No, I haven’t given any thought to it.”
One of the justifications for pushing a Mattis run was that he would give conservatives disillusioned by the nomination of Donald Trump a reason to go to the polls in November, alleviating some of the potential damage Trump’s unpopularity could do to Republicans in down-ballot races.
On Friday afternoon, there was evidence that the search for a Trump alternative would, in some quarters, go on.
“Mattis is a no, so who else is there?” was the headline on a Friday afternoon piece by Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin.