Defense Secretary General James Mattis is not only a nightmare on the battlefield, he knows how to fend off an adversary in the press conference room as well.
When MSNBC reporter Hallie Jackson got too cute by half by tying budget talks to the president’s request for a military parade, the Pentagon chief made it clear he wasn’t going to fall into the trap.
“Can you talk about where things are in the planning stages for the military parade the president is seeking and what any cost estimates you have at this point are?” an unidentified reporter asked.
“I think we’re all aware in this country of the President’s affection and respect for the military,” Mattis replied. “We’ve been putting together some options. We’ll send them up to the White House for a decision.”
As Commander-in-Chief, the president has the right to order a military parade, although there is valid disagreement over the appropriateness of doing such in a free country.
Then the MSNBC reporter followed up, feigning concern over the nation’s budget.
“I have a question about North Korea, a follow-up on Catherine’s question there,” Jackson asked. “You just laid out the argument for fully funding the military, why you think every dollar counts. So why divert time, energy, financial resources to the planning of a parade, as the President has asked?”
Mattis was again on the spot with the pointed response.
“Again, I think that what my responsibility is, to make certain I lay out the strategy and make the argument for the oversight of Congress to make a determination of fully funding us,” Mattis replied. “As far as the parade goes, again, the President’s respect, his fondness for the military, I think, is reflected in him asking for these options.”
Of course, White House adversaries will always suspect malicious motives of President Trump, and his request for a military parade has led to comparisons to Napoleon and Kim Jong-Un. But this may once again be nothing but a media distraction; an attempt to draw attention to the plight of the military, which needs funding for a lot more than a parade.