As the world watches Donald Trump’s ridiculous daily antics, this morning I got the opportunity to hear former Secretary of Defense General James Mattis speak. Mattis is a retired Marine general, and he is very well respected among most veterans of every stripe. I have never met Mattis myself, but I can tell from listening to him that he is a great leader. He balances strength and resolve with care and appreciation for his followers. I can easily tell why so many veterans– particularly Marines– really respect this man.
Donald Trump hired Mattis to be the Secretary of Defense in January 2017, and he lasted until December 2018. Mattis was probably one of the only people Trump appointed to his cabinet who was actually competent. In fact, Mattis was so competent and suited for the job that he realized he couldn’t do it properly with Trump as his boss. So, instead of sticking around and messing things up by following Trump’s orders, Mattis decided to resign. Although he responsibly gave Trump plenty of notice when he decided to resign, Trump responded to the general’s decision by ousting Mattis immediately, completely dismissing what Mattis did in the almost two years he served in his role as Secretary of Defense.
Mattis, God bless him, wasn’t at all crushed by Trump’s sudden dismissal. In fact, I’m sure he was relieved to be able to go sooner than he planned. It sucks to have to deal with supreme narcissists like Trump. They are completely unreasonable and have no regard for other people. If you aren’t completely with a narcissist’s agenda, you are completely against them, and they declare you an enemy. Narcissists are terrible bosses; they aren’t capable of delegating authority and they don’t work well in teams, because they don’t cooperate. Trump has a LOT of enemies, and I’m sure most of them have suffered greatly at his tiny orange hands. Good for General Mattis for handling Trump with so much wit and aplomb. I’m sure working with 45 was a daily trial, and I commend Mattis for doing his best and staying for almost two years. I consider him a true patriot and a hero.
As a veteran, Mattis has no doubt met a lot of people like Donald Trump. Obviously, General Mattis knows exactly how to deal with these people. It’s a skill I’m sure he’s had to hone over decades in a career that is rife with people who are in the business of war. Narcissists are attracted to positions of leadership. In fact, most leaders have some narcissistic traits because otherwise, they’d never survive the role. But while good leaders draw the line at being confident and having great self-respect, toxic narcissists like Trump and his ilk go beyond that line and use other people to push their agendas. It’s very damaging, and sometimes even dangerous, to be in close proximity to these types of people.
There are many, many narcissistic, power hungry types like Trump in the military. Bill went to war with one of them– a colonel who was slated to be a general. I remember getting phone calls from Iraq and listening as Bill compared his boss to his former wife. I knew things were seriously miserable for him when I heard that.
Bill’s ex wife put him through many years of hell, mainly because she refused to cooperate, collaborate, or compromise, and would not listen to reason. Even though she had never served in the Army, she used to try to tell Bill how things are run in the Army. She would unilaterally make major decisions about things like household finances and family planning, and took “my way or the highway” stances regarding her decisions. She would never include Bill in her plans, so he would be perpetually kept off balance. Here are just a few examples of crazy, self-defeating things she did:
- She traded in his car without his knowledge and bought two new ones.
- She once bought a house in very poor condition because she thought it looked like one she’d seen in a snow globe.
- She used Bill’s pay stubs to get a mortgage, which she let go into default after they divorced.
- She insisted on handling all of the finances, then royally fucked them up.
- She stopped using birth control without telling him, resulting in a “surprise” pregnancy when they could ill afford a new baby. She later claimed her birth control “failed”.
- She used the money for their mortgage to take a trip to the LDS temple.
- She bought new furniture, carpeting, and landscaping while Bill was away at Army training, even though his job was temporary.
Bill could never argue with his ex, because she was so domineering and controlling, and he was so kind, considerate, trusting, and empathetic. She’d wear him down with the usual narcissist’s bag of tricks– yelling, insulting, giving him the silent treatment, alienating the children and his parents, threatening, and even engaging in physical and sexual abuse. When I met Bill, his ex wife was happily taking all but $600 of his monthly pay and had him convinced that he totally deserved this wretched lifestyle. She made him believe that the failure of their marriage was entirely his fault, and that God would never forgive him for leaving his family, even though SHE had presented him with divorce papers and was shacking up with her current victim in the house she’d bought without Bill’s consent. Bill lived for TDY assignments, because it meant he’d get per diem pay, which he could save up to pay his bills. Fortunately, that job required a lot of travel.
Then Bill started dating me, and I helped him change his mind about letting his ex wife take all of his money. He stopped giving in to her ridiculous demands and took back his power. It’s taken a long time and a lot of effort, but Bill has almost completely recovered from his time with his ex wife. His finances are vastly improved, and he has work that he enjoys and at which he excels. Even one of his previously estranged daughters has started talking to him again. But it took many years to get to where we are.
When Bill told me his boss in Iraq reminded him of his time with his ex wife, I knew things were really bad in the war zone. Bill wasn’t that worried about being “at war”. Instead, most of his stress came from dealing with his narcissistic boss, who was doing his best to drive him crazy while they were in a war zone. He would do things like force Bill to hang out with him when he should have been resting, insult him in front of his peers, force him to practice golf when he had no interest in golf, and make personal, disparaging comments about Bill’s likes and dislikes. Naturally, I was furious about what his boss was doing, because war is hard enough when all you have to do is fight the enemy. It’s much worse when a so-called comrade and leader gets his kicks by being a complete asshole.
Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. Bill survived his time in Iraq, and we moved to Germany the first time. Bill’s war zone boss interfered with Bill’s career while we were in Germany, which forced us to move back to the States a year early. However, Bill did well enough in his first Germany job and subsequent positions that he was remembered after he retired from the Army. In 2014, when Bill left the Army, he was quickly hired to come back to Germany. As for Bill’s ex boss– he was very publicly fired from the Army in 2011. He never did pin on as general.
Although Trump is the king of malignant narcissists, he’s also very foolish and incompetent. This week has been particularly cringeworthy, as we’ve watched Trump crumble in the face of potential impeachment. He’s made some ridiculous and embarrassing mistakes in his dealings with other world leaders. And while there are still a lot of people who remain duped by him, I’ve seen some hopeful signs that some folks are finally waking up to reality. And people like Jim Mattis, who is probably one of the few people who don’t have a problem cutting Trump down to size, are voicing their contempt for the so-called “stable genius”. A lot of Trump supporters also support Mattis, so it’s good to hear someone on “their side” shining the sunlight of reality on who Trump is and why he’s so horrible for the world.
I have some hope that we will survive the madness of Trump’s presidency. I hope that people are jarred out of complacency and will vote. I just filled out my absentee ballot last night. It’s not for a major election, but watching the shitshow of the past few years has reminded me of how powerful and important voting is, even if I do it absentee in a state where voting against Republicans seems futile. This is a practice run for next year. I don’t know if we’ll still be in Germany in 2020, but I will likely be voting for everyone BUT Republicans. Unless, of course, General Mattis ever decides he wants to be president and runs as a Republican… I might consider voting for him. In fact, I will continue to vote for decent human beings over big names, unless the people behind the big names have truly done something great to deserve their big name. Trump never achieved anything without screwing someone else over… so I predict that someday, we’ll be calling him the world’s most overrated president. And given that so many already think he’s a complete disaster, I’d say being called an “overrated president” is really saying something. He’s overrated for being called the worst president, EVER.
General Mattis is absolutely right. It’s not really an insult to be compared to someone like Meryl Streep. Trump may think Mattis and Streep are “overrated”, but they have both proven their greatness. As Mattis said, “I earned my bone spurs in battle. Trump earned his in a doctor’s office.” On his very best day, Trump isn’t fit to scrub the shitstains out of Mattis’s shorts. And Mattis has proven that by the graceful and skillful way he’s handled himself post Trump.