- Defence Secretary James Mattis has a famously tight-lipped manner, but he made a telling joke at a speech at the Virginia Military Institute on Tuesday.
- Mattis said he was “so happy to be out of Washington, DC right now” that he could “cry,” as rumours of his imminent departure swirled.
- Mattis always dismisses these rumours, but President Donald Trump’s White House has had a high rate of turnover, and Mattis hasn’t always seen eye to eye with the president.
Defence Secretary James Mattis has a famously tight-lipped manner, but he made a telling joke at a speech at the Virginia Military Institute on Tuesday.
During a wide-ranging and lighthearted speech, Mattis briefly touched on problems facing the US today.
“I would just tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that we all know our country’s having a tough time right now in a number of areas,” said Mattis.
“I stand here in your beautiful town, your beautiful school with mixed emotions. I’m so happy to be out of Washington, DC right now I could cry.”
Mattis’s joke came amid persistent reporting that indicates he’s set to be fired from President Donald Trump’s White House any day now.
A recent Politico report said Trump has cooled on the Pentagon chief he once praised, dropping the nickname “Mad Dog” for “Moderate Dog,” in what was reported to be a swipe at the defence secretary’s purported attempts to moderate or slow-walk White House initiatives.
But Mattis shot down those rumours and all others of its kind.
“Of course I don’t think about leaving. I love it here. I’m thinking about retiring here, getting a nice little place down on the Potomac,” he said, gesturing toward the river, which is not far from the Pentagon.
Trump’s White House has had a historically high rate of high turnover. Trump’s former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, survived several rounds of rumours alleging his imminent departure before finally leaving.
Mattis and Trump have appeared out of sync at pivotal times before, like when Trump announced a ban on transgender military service on Twitter and the Pentagon had no reply.
When Trump said he agreed to halt military drills with South Korea in a concession to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, both North Korea and China appeared to have heard the news before Mattis.
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