It’s no secret that the Republican establishment hates Donald Trump. Influential donors and intellectuals fear that nominating Trump will destroy the principled conservative movement they have worked decades to build. They consider the boisterous billionaire insufficiently committed to bedrock Republican ideals like welfare eugenics, child labor law reform, and neo-race science.
These conservatives are looking for a third party candidate to carry their banner in the fall should Trump win the nomination. They need someone with a strong resume, a life story that commands respect, and the sheer toughness necessary to go toe-to-toe with the Donald.
That’s why there’s now a clamor for Retired U.S. Marine Corps General James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
We pundits have long understood that military generals make the best Presidential candidates. They have leadership experience. They tend to be heroes. They are immune to attacks on their patriotism or allegations they don’t support the troops (since they are the troops). They have the courage a candidate needs to withstand a grueling campaign.
Most importantly, voters look up to generals. They see someone who has led men into battle as someone who can lead Congress into passing the bipartisan entitlement reform and retirement age hikes the people sorely want.
Every cycle we Beltway insiders wonder which ex-general will take off his combat boots, put on a pair of wingtips, and say to the American people, “all right, quit beggin’ me. I’ll be your President and fix Washington.” Sadly, it doesn’t happen very often. From Douglas MacArthur to Colin Powell to “Stormin'” Norman Schwartzkopf, too often military men selfishly think of themselves as “above” politics. And even when they do throw their hat in the ring, generals can still succumb to the call of duty, as Gen. Wesley Clark did in 2004 where he valiantly saved the Democratic Party by throwing himself on the grenade of Howard Dean and his disrespectful proto-Bernie Bro campaign.
Mattis is coy about his intentions. But imagine if he ran — and won.
One way to look at this is to see Washington, DC as a high school. You have your Defense Committee jocks, wonk nerds, prom queens, but where’s the alpha quarterback?
Someone like “Mad Dog” Mattis could be that. Mattis could come into the proverbial cafeteria, his long yet sturdy legs finally clad in civilian tailoring that betrays his calves’ powerful contours, shove all the food off the table, and say “there’s a new man in town.” A powerful figure like Mattis could ram legislation through bodies like the House and Senate. He’s a man used to making things fit when it seems like you have to shove them through with your whole weight, and that’s something the bespectacled softbodies of Congress aren’t used to.
Picture General Mattis’ square jaw as he barks orders at Dick Durbin and the gang. When they see Mattis’ sinewy forearms protruding through his suit jacket, the gridlock gang will realize that he has the power and charisma to make things happen, to make them have experiences they’ve never had before. His taught determination and writhing bipartisanship will be shoved down their throats with no mercy for the usual K Street blame games. “We need advanced appropriations funds for the Iron Dome not now, but yesterday! Do you hear me?” President Mattis would bark. And the lesser men would know that they’re serving a lion among housecats. They would taste his strength and beg for more. They wouldn’t be able to get enough.
I’ve talked to more elected officials in my day than I can even count, but even the most steadfast ones, your Lindsey Grahams, your Erskine Bowleses, they evade your questions as part of the grand political game from time to time. Someone like Mattis would take my questions head on, shocking me with the girth of his moral courage. He’d look me in the eye and say, “I see where you’re coming from Carl, but you’re about to open up and take the God’s honest.” And I would be practically begging for it!
Mattis’ reputation is one of an officer beloved by enlisted troops. Someone who’s used to getting down and dirty with the grunts is practically made for politics. In a year like 2016, something that would have once been a risk (Mattis’ famously dirty mouth) is actually an asset. Gems like “When you men get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she’s dating a p*ssy” and “Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact” may have once turned off voters, but in an age of vulgar Bernie Bro misogynoir and Trump viral racist LOLs, they’ll be right at home. I can see Mattis voters regaled in shirts with his funniest quotes about carpet-bombing “Hajjis” or how protesters are cuckolds convening on Washington to demand balanced budgets and a raised retirement age.
But he’s not without his cerebral side. Mattis is studied in the works of Sun Tzu, Marcus Aurelius, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. This is a man who is the physical and intellectual superior of his political opponents. Mattis would leave any snot-nosed numbers quant picking up his teeth, glasses, and premises after destroying him with logic and violence. Plus, as a lifelong bachelor, Mattis will be unburdened on the trail by the emotional demands of a family or family court obligations of an ex-wife.
As a man used to giving orders in the heat of battle, Mattis would be ready to make tough choices on Day One. Sitting in the Oval Office, he wouldn’t need more than five seconds to decide between using barrel bombs or miniature nukes to deal with Iran. He could solve thorny controversies with a Compromise Offensive, declaring that abortion will be legal, but only if it’s unsafe, and that public schools will be privatized, but those teachers must all be in same-sex marriages.
It may be a far shot, the idea of President Mattis cleaning up the Potomac with his unapologetic virility (leaving observers slack jawed and catching their breaths, maybe even smoking a cigarette to comprehend the life-changing experience they were just given). But 2016 is the year of the long shot.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at email@example.com or Tweet to @carl_diggler.
To try CAFE’s Morning Shot email, sign up here.