Carolyn Kaster/AP

Trump Taps James Mattis for Defense Secretary

The president-elect called the retired Marine general “the closest thing we have to General George Patton of our time.”

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped James Mattis, a retired Marine general, as his secretary of defense.

Trump, speaking at a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday, said Mattis is “the closest thing we have to General George Patton of our time.”

Mattis, known by the nickname “Mad Dog,” led a Marine division at the start of the war in Iraq in 2003 and was in charge of U.S. Central Command from 2010 until 2013. He left command because of a disagreement with the Obama administration over his position on Iran, and since leaving the military he has continued to be an outspoken opponent to President Obama’s Middle East policy, especially on combating ISIS.

In a recent meeting after Trump’s election, he reportedly convinced the president-elect that waterboarding was not an effective interrogation technique, apparently changing Trump’s mind. With his nomination, Mattis may moderate Trump’s position on other issues, including on Russia and the Iran nuclear deal.

Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969. He also served in the Persian Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan.

In order to serve, Congress will have to pass legislation exempting Mattis from a statute requiring a seven-year waiting period for members of the military looking to serve in a civilian role. The last time a exemption was granted was when President Harry S Truman nominated General George Marshall in 1950.