The position of secretary of defense is among the most prestigious and consequential posts in any administration, and normally candidates vie for the opportunity to run the Pentagon. Not under Donald Trump. Since Jim Mattis resigned from the job last month and a tweaked commander in chief forced him out early, Trump has courted two people for the post and—you guessed it—both have declined.
Politico reports that both retired GOP Arizona senator Jon Kyl and Ret. Gen. Jack Keane, a frequent Trump advisor, have told the White House they aren’t interested in taking the job. Keane has actually turned down the position twice now—first in 2016 during the transition and then again shortly after Mattis resigned.
Gee, can’t imagine what’s scared people off. Perhaps it was that resignation letter where Mattis made the case for maintaining the nation’s core national security and international diplomacy tenets held since the end of WWII and then relayed that Trump deserved to have a defense secretary who agreed with his wish to scrap basically every one of them.
But Trump must be pretty desperate if he offered the post to Keane even after Keane openly derided Trump’s Syria decision on Twitter. “Syria withdrawal a strategic mistake. Bush won the war in Iraq w/ the Surge. Obama lost the peace by premature withdrawal. The result was ISIS,” Keane wrote on Dec. 19, the day before Mattis resigned. “POTUS destroyed ISIS safe haven in Syria & will lose the peace by withdrawing.”
Former Mattis deputy and Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan became acting defense secretary on Jan. 1, and Trump has suggested he could hold the post “for a long time.” That was probably more honest than Trump ever intended to be.