Defense Secretary James Mattis' unconventional choices for top Pentagon posts and his reluctance to aggressively push for dramatic increases in the defense budget have rankled Republicans on Capitol Hill who say he's burning through political capital he needs as he begins reshaping the Pentagon. [...]Republican lawmakers and senior congressional aides said in recent interviews they're running out of patience with the former four-star general's staffing decisions, which have disappointed Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee members hoping to see their ideological allies elevated to senior levels in the Defense Department. Others are grumbling about Mattis's refusal to advocate for a bigger increase in the defense budget, which defense hawks believe was gutted disastrously under President Barack Obama.
The headline on the Politico piece overnight was unexpected: "Hill Republicans say they're growing frustrated with Mattis." OK, I'll bite. What seems to be the trouble with Defense Secretary James Mattis from the perspective of congressional Republicans?
One top Republican staffer on Capitol Hill told Politico that Republicans have waited for years to fill key Pentagon posts "with Republicans," a desire the Pentagon chief isn't taking seriously. Another GOP aide says Mattis seems to forget "that we won the election."Oh. So Republicans are "growing frustrated" with the former four-star general because he's trying to govern in a mature, non-partisan, and responsible fashion, making decisions based more on merit and less on politics.The nerve of that guy.The Politico piece added that Mattis has "bristled at nominating people with political backgrounds," and further annoyed Republicans with efforts to hire qualified people who served in Democratic administrations -- in part because the White House opposes qualified Republicans who were "never Trump" voices during the 2016 campaign.Jeremy Bash, a former Pentagon spokesman under Secretary Leon Panetta, explained, "Independence is an important attribute in a SecDef. But when you get that, you get frustration from the political folks."There's no reason to think this will amount to anything dramatic -- there are no rumors of friction between the Defense secretary and Donald Trump, for example -- but to watch Republicans complain about Mattis acting responsibly speaks volumes about their perspective.There are all kinds of problems with several members of the president's cabinet, but the one that's rankling Republicans is the one who's demonstrating competence and independence. That says more about GOP officials on Capitol Hill than it does about Mattis.