Saturday, March 26, 2016

Disgruntled (Establishment) Republicans Float General as Possible Third-Party Candidate

Just a For-Your-Information post.

The Daily Beast blog-journal has published an article about a potential third-party candidate in the event that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the Democratic and Republican candidates, respectively.

I do not know if the Republicans who have been putting their heads together to come up with a third-party candidate are behind this, but I suspect they are. The story is written by John Noonan, who was a national security advisor to both Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. (Ah-hah!)

Noonan compares Mattis to Dwight Eisenhower, which is misleading because Eisenhower ran as a Republican, after being courted by both parties, and he won some primaries. Mattis would be nominated by a third party that does not yet exist. Much about the whole idea of running a third-party campaign seems very dubious, but it is intriguing to consider running a man from outside the political establishment who nevertheless has foreign policy experience, which Mattis does, having been head of the U.S. Central Command (which oversees operations in the Middle East) from 2010 to 2013. What makes Mattis sound appealing is that he is not only an outsider, but he has a reputation for being tough. He is said to have resigned from Central Command  because he was frustrated with the Obama administration's unwillingness to regard the government of Iran as an enemy against which Mattis believes we should be more aggressive.

Historically, third parties have not faired well. The United States tends toward being a two party system with all the other parties being minor also-rans. Occasionally they act as spoilers. The Republican Party lost its first presidential bid in 1856, then won in 1860 because there was a three-way split. The GOP is the last third party to make it into the big-two club. The death of one of the prior big parties seems to be a prerequisite for the success of a third party. The Republicans replaced the Whig Party, which died after the presidency of Millard Fillmore, who actually did pretty well subsequently as a third-party candidate in 1852 on the Know-Nothing ticket. (Here was an example of a party nominating a candidate who did not necessarily share their views; at the very same time that the anti-Catholic Know-Nothings were nominating him, Fillmore, unbeknownst to the convention, was in Rome having an audience with the Pope.)

There is no down ticket for an ad hoc third-party presidential candidate, so it is hard to tell what such a candidacy would do to the Republican majorities in Congress, which are in danger in any case. Probably, the best case scenario for Mattis's candidacy, if voters look at him and say, "Yeah, maybe," is that he might win one-third of the vote while each of the other major candidates do the same, and the Electoral College would probably reflect the same even distribution of electors between the three candidates. This would throw the election into the House of Representatives, which would be the current House, not the one to be seated after the New Year, and they might decide that Mattis is the best alternative to both Clinton and Trump.

According to the Daily Beast, Mattis has expressed no interest in running for president. (Draft Jim! I can hear it now.)

He is currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a member of the boards of directors at General Dynamics and Theranos, a biotech company. He is a lifelong bachelor (nicknamed the Warrior Monk). His medals include the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star. He is a Marine certified expert in riflery and pistolry. He once owned a library of 7,000 titles on philosophy and history. He is fond of quoting historical philosophers and military leaders, but he is also said to swear on occasion. (But Noonan suggests that Mattis comes off as tame compared to Donald Trump.)

Again, I emphasize, I think this is a dubious scheme, but Mattis certainly seems like the best man for itunless this third-party committee would consider running Ted Cruz for president as an even better idea, but they evidently won't. Nobody is saying anything about what Mattis's domestic policies would be. Maybe he has no fixed ideas on the subject, having devoted his life to the military. What does he think about Obamacare or energy policy or the nomination of the next justice to the Supreme Court? (On national security, how much of a priority does he think that hardening our energy grid against electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attacks should be?)

I am not ready to call for a third-party candidate because the nominating process is not yet complete. Let us finish one thing before we start another. Donald Trump has not won the nomination yet. No one should be counting their chickens before they have hatched. (Can I get anymore clich├ęs in here?)

Notable quote:
No one would have questioned Mattis if he'd slept eight hours each night in a private room, to be woken each morning by an aide who ironed his uniforms and heated his MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat). But there he was, in the middle of a freezing night, out on the lines with his Marines.”

—Capt. Nathaniel C. Fick, USMC, ret.
Here is a stripped-down resume, for what it is worth:

James N. Mattis was born in Pullman, WA, Sep 8, 1950.

He enlisted in the U.S. Marines as a raw recruit in 1969.
He earned a BA in history from Central Washington Univ., where he also took ROTC training, 1972. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the Marines, 1972.

He is a graduate of two Marine strategic warfare schools and the National War College.
As a colonel and then a general, he served in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Mattis conducted both combat operations against, and negotiations with, the enemy in Fallujah. He is, on one hand, a strong advocate of winning hearts and minds, but, on the other, he once was chided for expressing his opinion that shooting bad guys can be fun. That dichotomy is perhaps summed up by the motto he gave to the 1st Marine Division, when he commanded it: “No better friend, no worse enemy.”
He led the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, an educational organization for combat training, tactical development and leadership. He then led the U.S. Joint Forces Command and was also the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (2007-2009) within NATO. (He was the last American to hold this job.)

Mattis led the U.S. Central Command (2010-2013), retiring from this position and from the Marine Corps.

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