Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and everyone else around knew he had big shoes to fill after the much-revered James Mattis was forced out by President Donald Trump. Not only has he not been in Pentagon for very long, but Congress did not know him like they knew Mattis.
That lack of familiarity is now showing its disadvantages when it comes to tough decisions, like with Syria.
Both Breitbart and The Washington Post reported when Shanahan had a meeting with a delegation of U.S. congressmen at the Munich Security Conference, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told him the current course of action with Syria was the “dumbest f-cking idea I’ve ever heard.”
Another senator said Shanahan had “just lost the Senate.”
Graham had been wanting to have America’s allies to leave couple hundred troops in Syria each to prevent ISIS from coming back to power. Once that proved successful, then he would lobby President Donald Trump to do the same.
“So I came in and sat down, and said I’m sorry I’m late, but I got a question, ‘Are you telling all of our allies that we’re going to go to zero [troops in Syria] by April 30th?” Graham said, according to Breitbart.
“Yes, that’s been our direction,” Shanahan replied, according to Graham. “And I said, ‘That’s the dumbest f-cking idea I’ve ever heard.’”
“Well, if the policy is going to be we’re leaving April 30, I am now your enemy not your friend … I’ll be your adversary,” Graham reportedly told Shanahan. “I’ve been busting my ass going all over the world trying to get Turkey to make this happen.’”
“[Shanahan] got a chorus of voices that basically said, ‘This is not going to work, there is a bipartisan resolve not to let this happen, and you need to send a message back to the president that there’s a combined, unified view this is not the way to go and he should change course,' ” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told the Post. “[Shanahan] basically said he got the message.”
Acting Pentagon Press Secretary Charlie Summers pushed back on the reports of a terrible meeting and said it went well.
The reportedly tense meeting comes after reports of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) criticizing Shanahan’s lack of Mattis-level humility. Inhofe later said his words were twisted by the media and meet with him at the security conference.
“I’d be happy to have him as the secretary of defense and would work with him very well. I think we’ve accomplished that,” Inhofe told reporters, according to Military Times.
While Mattis had to stave off Trump’s ire during his tenure as head of the DOD, it appears Shanahan’s problem is with the legislative branch.