Conservatives blanched when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced he was nominating former Obama administration diplomat Anne Patterson to be his undersecretary for policy. Patterson was President Obama’s ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2013, at a time when the administration was expressing support for the Muslim Brotherhood-tied regime that was later overthrown.
Whether or not she was a true believer in Obama’s misguided approach to Middle Eastern affairs, Patterson was the public face of the administration’s outreach to Islamist groups like the Brotherhood. She remains a figure of derision in Egypt to this day, where many supporters of the current president view her with the same level of animosity they have for the overthrown government she backed.
Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Tom Cotton urged Mattis to reconsider his selection, warning that Patterson represented everything wrong with Obama’s tolerance for – if not active encouragement of – Islamist governments and organizations.
Seeing a potential showdown within the Republican Party when Patterson’s confirmation hearings begin, the Trump administration told Mattis they would not fight particularly hard for his nominee. Especially since, in many ways, Patterson stands for everything President Trump has opposed since he started his campaign.
Mattis apparently got the message, withdrawing his selection on Wednesday.
We’re happy to see Patterson won’t have a place in Trump’s Pentagon, but this once again shows there’s an ideological rift between the president and his Defense secretary. How wide that rift is we don’t know, but Mattis was reportedly the one who lobbied against including Iraq on the travel ban list as well. That argument may have had less to do with ideology than practical military concerns, but it certainly shows you that Mattis isn’t afraid to stand his ground.
That’s not a bad thing…if that’s all it is. But if Mattis differs from Trump on key matters such as how to best fight Islamic terrorism, we can’t see how the president will be able to turn completely away from his predecessors mistakes. Trump was elected because he was one of the only Republican candidates willing to say, flat out, how dangerous and destructive Obama’s coddling of radical Islam had been for the country. His voters expect him to follow through with a foreign policy platform that corrects Obama’s errors.
Hiring Obama’s diplomats isn’t going to get that done.