Petri: Jim Mattis's book is NOT about the president

Petri: Jim Mattis's book is NOT about the president

September 10th, 2019 by Alexandra Petri / The Washington Post Writers Group in Opinion Times Commentary

Photo by Richard Drew of The Associated Press/Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis signs copies of his book after he spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last Tuesday.

Photo by Richard Drew

I have started reading former defense secretary Jim Mattis's memoir — not about his time in the Trump administration, but about Leadership in General. This is approximately how it is going, if you were wondering. It is definitely not about the president!

I am not criticizing President Trump in this book, which is not about him! This book is just about how wonderful the Marines are as a laboratory for leadership, and how much I enjoyed my time there. None of the remarks in this book are directed to any particular person. These are just broad general strokes describing what good leadership is like. Again, this book is not about the president at all.

In the Marines, we would read books. Reading books was important to us. We felt that much more could be gained from reading books than from watching television. Books helped us not to be ignorant. I am not describing Trump in this book.

In my time in the Marine Corps, I read a lot of intelligence briefings that were full of good information. That, I think, is the thing to do. If given the options of reading an intelligence briefing and not reading an intelligence briefing, you bet you know which one I would select. I am not saying all leaders would select that option. Just the good ones. Again, I am not describing Trump in this book. It is too soon for you to know what I think of him.

This is a general book about leadership. Unrelatedly, Marines are disgusted and embarrassed by amateurs who have made no effort to master their professions. Marines spit on such people. "Pah!" say the Marines to such individuals. "You are a garbage of a failure, and I despise you! I weep for any country where you are in charge. You are not up to Marine standards, you pustule." I am not saying in this book what the Marines would say to the sitting president, because this book is not about him.

Unrelated to my time in the Trump administration, if you are having a midlife crisis in the Marines, TOO BAD. We will not make any effort to coddle you. If you, hypothetically, were a raw, exposed nerve, breaking down and constantly needing to be reassured about your manhood and position in the world, the Marines would have no time for that. You need to be able to look past your personal feelings and vendettas and lead. I am not talking about the sitting president in this book.

Let me tell you a story. Once, there was a team that worked for a bad leader. Not the president, but a different leader. They served him only because they feared him. He was driven by hatred and ambition. His sleep schedule was confusing. He rewarded behaviors that were counterproductive and led to bad results. Everyone who worked under him was either brainwashed or was full of a wild anger or had gotten snookered into it somehow. Any time we spent out from under his baleful eye was time we cherished. His eye cast blight and disease on the land, and his ideas generally were not sound. Although we obeyed him, we did so with severe misgivings.

Just kidding! That was a story from "The Lord of the Rings," which I have read, as, again, the Marines taught me to love to read. (This has no bearing on Trump.)

I've served a lot of good leaders and have been part of many things I was proud of and that helped the country, for which I am confident history will judge me favorably. To clarify, I am certainly talking about the Marines. I am not talking about my time serving the sitting president.

The Washington Post Writers Group

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com


Loading...