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Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis

Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis

by Guy M. Snodgrass


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"This is the memoir America wishes Jim Mattis had written." The Washington Post

An insider's sometimes shocking account of how Defense Secretary James Mattis led the US military through global challenges while serving as a crucial check on the Trump Administration.

For nearly two years as Trump's Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis maintained a complicated relationship with the President. A lifelong Marine widely considered to be one of America's greatest generals, Mattis was committed to keeping America safe. Yet he served a President whose actions were frequently unpredictable and impulsive with far-reaching consequences.

Often described as the administration's "adult in the room," Mattis has said very little about his difficult role, and since his resignation has kept his views of the President and his policies private. Now, Mattis's former chief speechwriter and communications director, Guy M. Snodgrass, brings readers behind that curtain. Drawing on his seventeen months working with Mattis, Snodgrass reveals how one of the nation's greatest generals walked a political tightrope while leading the world's most powerful military.

Snodgrass gives us a fly-on-the-wall view as Mattis...
  •  Reacted when learning about major policy decisions via Twitter rather than from the White House.
  •  Minimized the damage done to our allies and diplomatic partners.
  •  Slow-rolled some of Trump's most controversial measures, with no intention of following through.

As the first book written by an insider with firsthand knowledge of key decisions and moments in history, Holding the Line is a must-read for those who care about the presidency and America's national security. It's filled with never-before-told stories that will both alarm and reassure, a testament to the quiet and steady efforts of General Mattis and the dedicated men and women he led at the Department of Defense.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593084373
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/29/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,087,990
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Guy "Bus" Snodgrass recently served as director of communications and chief speechwriter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. A former naval aviator and F/A-18 pilot, he served as a commanding officer of a fighter squadron based in Japan, a TOPGUN instructor, and a combat pilot over the skies of Iraq as part of his twenty-year navy career. Today he is the founder and CEO of Defense Analytics, a strategic consulting and advisory firm.

Read an Excerpt

Marines don’t know how to spell the word defeat. –General James Mattis
Thursday, December 20, 2018— The White House

Secretary of Defense James Norman Mattis exited the West Wing, climbing into the lead vehicle of his motorcade to speed back to the Pentagon. He would not be coming back.

He’d had enough. He was done.

His resignation—and its blunt manner—launched shock waves through a town that by now seemed impervious to the seismic blasts regularly exploding throughout the Trump admin­istration.

Officially, Mattis had gone to the Oval Office to reverse the president’s tweet-born announcement of a precipitous troop pull-out from Syria. He failed, and when that happened, he in­formed Trump he was leaving.

But that wasn’t the whole truth. There’s precious little whole truth in Washington. Mattis’s outrage over Syria, while real, was only a pretext to announce a decision he had made months be­fore to cut his losses and move on.

And why not? To survive in Washington, you need alliances. One by one, what administration allies Mattis once had vanished into the night: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Secu­rity Adviser H. R. McMaster, and now Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, had one foot out the door.

Trump later tweeted that Mattis was “retiring.” He wasn’t.

Arriving at the Pentagon, Mattis immediately distributed copies of his previously composed resignation letter to defense reporters. The letter minced few words. Its key section high­lighted the disparity between a president and his secretary of defense, saying:

“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an inter­national order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidar­ity of our alliances.

“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

James Mattis, the quintessential Marine, had learned some valuable and painful lessons while serving the Trump administra­tion. Prime among them was how to spell a new word: defeat.

And, to be honest about it, so had I.

Table of Contents

First Principles ix

Author's Note xi

Introduction xiii

1 Service Before Self 1

2 Warrior Monk 14

3 The Adults 30

4 Early Days 41

5 Loyalty 54

6 Trumped 68

7 Policy by Tweet 82

8 Wag the Dog 96

9 Good Cop, Bad Cop 107

10 Secretary of Reassurance 122

11 Winter of Discontent 138

12 Legacy 152

13 Leading Up 163

14 Great Powers 175

15 Last Adult Standing 188

16 Headwinds 199

17 New Team 216

18 Summer of Surprises 226

19 Bulletproof 242

20 China 254

21 Totally Controlled by Russia 268

22 Endgame 282

23 Hanging On 298

Epilogue 311

Acknowledgments 319

Recommended Reading (Top 15) 323

Notes 325

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