On Friday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Michael Patrick Leahy spoke with special guest and his former Breitbart colleague, Iraq war veteran and current Army Reserve Sergeant Neil McCabe.
Now a Washington-based reporter for One America News Network, McCabe spoke to Michael about his diverse career history, his take on James Mattis’s resignation, the ‘suicide pact’ between the Military Generals at the White House, and who he thinks is a front runner to fill Mattis’s shoes at the Pentagon.
McCabe added the he believes retired Gen. Jack Keane is the front runner to replace Mattis as Secretary of Defense when he leaves on February 28.
You can read a transcript of the conversation here:
Leahy: Big news yesterday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigns, his resignation letter, I’m sure you read it. Basically said ‘I don’t agree with what you’re doing President Trump and therefor eyou deserve a Secretary of Defense who’s views are aligned with yours therefore I’m stepping down.’
McCabe: Well, I think the biggest secret that everyone knew in Washington was Mattis had to go. And depending how you felt about Trump or how you felt about Mattis, you could spin it either way but it was not working.
The President was drawn to Mattis, you know he had this nickname “Mad Dog” and Trump thought he was going to be this tough guy who was going to really sort of try to reform the Pentagon and be part of how Trump was going to sort of turn around American policy especially dealing with these over seas wars and conflicts. And it turns out Mattis wasn’t like that at all. And Mattis you know, maybe the number one thing Trump loved about Mattis was the nickname “Mad Dog”. And almost immediately Mattis started telling people, ‘I don’t like the name Mad Dog it doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s not like me.’
Mattis was really trying to be that third term for President Barack Obama in the Pentagon.
Which was surprising to a lot of people because Obama had fired Mattis and basically forced him into retirement because Mattis had a more aggressive posture towards Iran. And of course you know the Obama Administration was trying to sort of work in literally with alliance with Iran so that we would sort of be on that Iran axis as opposed to be on that sort of Israel axis that we had been on. And so many ways, Mattis would undercut the President and the White House messaging.
There were always leaks coming out of the Pentagon to embarrass the President or to contradict the President. You could just look at something like you know just in how a relationship works between you know, the Pentagon and the President. President came back from France and said he wanted to have a parade just like they had in France. It wasn’t because he was a fascist, it wasn’t because he wanted to blow money. He just saw how the French people responded to a military parade. And he said I love our military, the American people love our military, let’s have a parade in the United States also, maybe on Veterans Day.
And almost immediately the Pentagon would be leaking documents saying how much money it would cost, the hassles of getting permits. And so there was nothing coming out of the Pentagon that would have backed up Trump. And then so a little thing like the parade, or even transgender policy. You know the President says I don’t want transgenders in the military. Constitution says he is the Commander in Chief.
There’s not a lot of wiggle room there Mike, you’re the commander in chief, but I don’t know how else someone else is in charge there. And he says I don’t’ want transgenders set serving in the military. Mattis treats it literally as an illegal order that he does not have to obey.
And Mattis also tells people regardless of what the President says re-enlist any transgender personnel who wants to enlist. In fact encourage them to re-enlist now so that we have their contracts on the books. And you know there were other things you know dealing with North Korea or dealing with our NATO allies. In matters big and small Mike, Mattis was running his Pentagon as a third term Obama Administration. And Trump was looking for a ‘Trump Pentagon.’ I think that’s fair to say.
Leahy continued the discussion by questioning why Mattis thought he had the authority to undermine the President. McCabe explained that there are a group of Generals and Trump loved having Generals around which made him believe that if he had a General that they would do as he asked without any bureaucratic back draft. He confided that there was some kind of ‘suicide pact’ between the Kelly, Dunford, and Mattis Generals that if one was fired the others would quit and they would relay that to the reporters in every article.
Returning from the break, Leahy and McCabe continued the conversation…
Leahy: So, Neil you were saying that the Marine Generals out there who came to work for President Trump, McMaster, Mattis, and the other one was Dunford, was that the third?
McCabe: Joe Dunford the outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs.
Leahy: They sort of had, you described as a ‘suicide pact’ that they would, if one of them resigned they would all go. And they somehow did not consider themselves subordinate I guess to the President. That’s a bit shocking!
McCabe: I guess what I would call it Mike…is a regency. You know so that in a country where there’s a monarchy and there’s a child, you know the King dies and the Prince is a boy, they have a regency where the queen or other people are sort of appointed to run the kingdom until the boys come of age. And I think, what we have, what these three marines in particular were trying to do was have a regency. Where at least in their parts of military and the world, they would sort of run things, and they’d say nice things to the President. But basically treated the President like he was some kind of boy Prince and let the grown ups handle the government part.
And we saw that over and over again particularly in the Pentagon where it was in what April, May, the President said I want to get out of Syria. And the Pentagon said you’re not getting out of Syria. And then we were still in Syria. You know, it’s a (Chuckles) ‘Thanks for your input Mr. President, but we’re moving on with what we want to do.’ And you saw it certainly with General Kelly in the White House, you know where in a lot of ways he was running the White House the way he saw fit. He wasn’t managing the relationships the President cherished you know and so there was a point where the President would be pulling people aside and saying ‘Are you on my team or the Kelly team?’ Well, what kind of White House is that?
Leahy: How do these guys get to that level in the military and then come to not understand that we are a Constitutional Republic where the President is the Commander in Chief?
McCabe: Well I think the main thing is that, with the exception of the commandant of the US Coast Guard, all of the commanding Generals or Admirals of the different services have been promoted and nurtured by President Barack Obama. So in many ways, Trump is surrounded by people who for eight years were serving another guy. And you know they had their relationships with Obama and Obama’s people. They had a world view. When they would be promoted, for certainly the most senior ranks the White House would be involved in an Admiral or Generals promotion you would be interviewed to make sure you were in line with President Obama’s policies and world view. And now, who’s this guy? They really looked at Trump as some kind of stranger.
Leahy: So did President Trumps’ announcement that we were withdrawing 2000 troops from Syria. Did this push Mattis towards submitting his letter of resignation or did the President say ‘You’re out of here!’
McCabe answered the question with a metaphor likened to that of a personal relationship one has that isn’t going the right way but you are still stuck in it so you pick a fight to get out of it. He assumes that Trump may have used this strategy to get Mattis to quit.
McCabe clarified Dunford, Kelly and Mattis will be leaving the administration at the same time along with unchallenged rumors that Mattis will run as an Independent for President in the 2020 election. A lot of people believe that Mattis would win and the feeling was that Mattis would have to be de-militarized in order to win so it didn’t show as a ‘Military take over’. Leahy was shocked and stated that for someone living in the Heartland, this run would not go over well.
McCabe made special note that Mattis tried to bring in Michele Flournoy (who Mattis actually introduced to Trump when he came in) when Obama first came in who is a complete left wing activist and also add Anne Patterson who was Obama’s ambassador to Egypt and then as the number three at the Pentagon. These are two examples of high profile Obama people that Mattis tried to bring into the Pentagon. McCabe believes that Mattis’s replacement may be Jack Keane who was one who put together the intellectual framework that gave George W. Busch the option of changing the surge. Very well respected and on Fox News.
He stated, “I wouldn’t bet the ranch but I’d bet the big house on Jack Keane” which has been out there for awhile.
McCabe talked about One America News Network which is on Direct TV, Verizon Fios and other systems. One America News is five years old and is currently broadcast to thirty five million homes.
Leahy: Thank you so much for getting up so early. Although in Washington it’s only 6:15 but thank you. I know that there are plenty of other things you could be doing this morning. 5:15 central time. So tell us, now by the way Neil, for our audience. You and I were colleagues at Breitbart. We both wrote about politics and polling, had a lot of fun writing polls working with Pat Cadell, the great Pat Cadell.
McCabe: That’s right.
Leahy: What an interesting and fantastic, intelligent guy he is.
McCabe: Well you know a lot of people were saying that you know, they were surprised by the polls and polls had got them wrong. I think it’s fair to say that anybody whose following those Breitbart polls that you and I were working on with Pat Cadell, we weren’t surprised. I mean we saw what was moving on in the states and was touch and go and the popular vote was very close. But anybody following those Breitbart polls would have known that Trump was on his way to the White House.
Leahy: You also have a very interesting career. You have served for many years in the Army Reserve and I guess you’re a Sergeant, still a Sergeant in the Army Reserve?
McCabe: Yes I’m a staff Sergeant in the Army Reserve, public affairs. But probably the highlight of my Army career is the fifteen months I spent in Iraq as a combat historian. And I also spent some time at Fort Brag with the 18th Airborne corps. But I also spent eight years on active duty in the Coast Guard three of those at sea doing drug patrols in the Caribbean. It’s been an interesting journey Michael. (Chuckles)
Leahy: So, you really are a Veteran. And still involved in military, you know what’s going on. Now, when were you in Iraq Neil?
McCabe: So it was March of 2009 to May of 2010 and I was initially I was based in Basra. But I really traveled all over the place. I was sort of a hobo soldier. I would hitch rides on convoys and black hawks to different camps and do oral histories, you know the interviews with the soldiers. But I’d talk to Iraqi’s and other people who were there. So I probably did more than one hundred and fifty oral history interviews for the Center for Military History. It was a fascinating sort of intellectual enterprise as well sort of my part to keep the stories of these soldiers alive. I used to tell people, “If you dont’ talk to me you weren’t here.”
Leahy went on to ask McCabe how one get’s this kind of job. McCabe described his work history in public affairs community where you are trained as a journalist, writing for army magazines and newspapers. With a steady work history he was a prime candidate for the job where he attended a two week school where you would conduct mock battlefield interviews at Fort Chickamagua. He talked about how at times in Iraq he felt in fear for his life getting hit in Basra as it was considered too dangerous a place.
Leahy questioned him about whether or not he was in danger, and McCabe admitted that “there were times when those rockets were pretty close.”
Listen to the full segment:
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