Mattis On Moving Pentagon Money To Construction Of Wall: I Don't Comment On Current Policies


MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS:  Back now with former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis.  Little bit of news breaking just a little while ago, General. 
The Secretary of Defense Esper is notifying Congressional leaders that the Pentagon is going to move $3.6 billion from military construction projects to build 150 miles of President Trump’s wall. 
What do you think about that?
JAMES MATTIS, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Well, I’m not -- I don’t comment on the -- the current -- the current policies.  I don’t think someone should get out of office and then start talking from the outside, what I refer to as the cheap seats.
I will say that it’s a very political issue.  And I think that working with Congress in order to find a way to address this is the right thing to do.  I just hope we can find a solution that -- that gains support in the country.
MACCALLUM:  Understood.  You know, you talk about domestic tribalism being one of the biggest threats that America faces right now. 
A lot of people think that comes from President Trump and, you know, do you -- do you think that?  If not, where do you think it’s coming from?
MATTIS:  I think this is a problem that’s been growing for many years.  I understand that when you go into an election, you say I’m smart and you’re dumb, or I’m -- I’m -- I’ve got the better idea, and yours are no good.  Elections are raucous.  They’re -- they’re fights, this sort of thing.
But when an election was over in the -- in the past, I think we were more inclined to work together then and -- and fix the problems in the country. 
Today, we seem to be in a constant divide and conquer mode.  And so it goes back.  This is not about one man.  It’s not about one administration.  It’s not about one party.
This goes back awhile.  And the majority of Americans are going to have to decide the person they disagree with might actually be right once in a while and start listening to each other.
George Washington put it this way.  He said you listen, you learn from other people, you help them, and then you lead.  He had a very monotonous but very pragmatic way of going about. 
Listen, learn, help, and lead.  I think we need to get back to the father of our country’s –
 MACCALLUM:  I think -- well, when it comes to reading -- you do a lot of reading.  You have a 7,000-volume library.  You say you’ve read about 90 percent of them. 
And you got a question from a colleague at one point saying, you know, you keep telling everyone that they have to read all these books as -- as sort of, you know, the preliminary before they go into these missions.  But they don’t have time to read. 
And you said by reading, you learn through others -- others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work when the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
MATTIS:  Yes.  The Marine Corps assigns you a reading list, when you first come into the Marine Corps.  And then when you get promoted, Martha, they -- they give you a new list each time. 
You know, you finally get all the books done when you’re a captain, they promote you to major, you’ve got to start over.  Even generals, by the way, get a new list of books they have to read. 
And the Marine Corps is not there to listen to you whine about your midlife crisis.  You read the books or else.  You know, they’re not into a real vote count on it where you think that you can say no, I’m not going to do that. 
So you’ve got to read, because if you don’t read, I don’t think you can lead effectively, because you’re learning and your troops are learning always at your mistakes instead of you learning what you read in the books, say I’m not going to do that one, I’m going to do something else.
MACCALLUM:  Because you’re learning from the history of all these people who left this roadmap for you –
MATTIS:  Precisely (ph).
MACCALLUM:  -- through these books.  What are you reading right now?
MATTIS:  Right now, I’m reading a poetry book, actually, by a northwest poet, “Traveling Light.”
MACCALLUM:  A lot of people want you to run for president.  What do you say to that?
MATTIS:  Oh, I think we have a lot of great people in America.  And I think that 40-odd years of serving the country in the military and in the defense establishment, I’m eager to see the fresh ideas on people who handle a much broader array of issues than I have.
MACCALLUM:  So that’s a no.
MATTIS:  Well, that’s a no.
MACCALLUM:  A little hesitation.
MATTIS:  No, there’s not a hesitation. I’m just trying to think of (ph) how to say no even stronger.
MACCALLUM:  General Mattis, thank you very much.  Good to have you with us.  Great to -- great book.  Great read.  I recommend everybody to take a look.
Thank you very much sir.
MATTIS:  Thank you very much.
MACCALLUM:  Good to see you.  Thank you for your service.

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