In an excerpt from his upcoming book that appears in the Wall Street Journal, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shares the two times then-president-elect Donald Trump surprised him: First in requesting he come to New Jersey to discuss the position at all (he had never met Trump and knew Congress would have to authorize a waiver for him to take the job, as it hadn't been 7 years since he had exited the military; that last happened in 1950). Second, in describing him as the "real deal" to reporters following their conversation, during which he aired views that he thought would have Trump looking elsewhere. Trump didn't, and Mattis writes in Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead that "when the president asks you to do something, you don’t play Hamlet on the wall, wringing your hands." You serve. And so he did.
As for his eventual exit, Mattis writes, "I did as well as I could for as long as I could. When my concrete solutions and strategic advice ... no longer resonated, it was time to resign, despite the limitless joy I felt serving alongside our troops in defense of our Constitution." Much of his piece revolves around his view on what America needs to do to thrive, and it comes down to unity and allies. "An oft-spoken admonition in the Marines is this: When you're going to a gunfight, bring all your friends with guns," he writes. "Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither. ... Returning to a strategic stance that includes the interests of as many nations as we can make common cause with, we can better deal with this imperfect world we occupy together. Absent this, we will occupy an increasingly lonely position, one that puts us at increasing risk in the world." (Read his full piece here; the book is out Sept. 3.)