CBS News came out with yet another report this weekend saying that President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden, was close to withdrawing his name from consideration. This was one more report which was credited to a couple of “unnamed sources.” The reasons given were rather vague, citing the nominee’s awareness that questions had arisen over his lack of military experience and difficulties he might encounter separating himself from his financial holdings. We probably should have learned by now not to put too much stock in all of these reports coming from the aforementioned “unnamed sources” because as the Daily Caller reports, the story seem to fall apart rather quickly.
Philip Bilden, a former Army Reserve military officer, was reportedly going to withdraw his nomination, according to two sources speaking to CBS News. The Pentagon later issued a statement denying the claims.
“There have been press reports suggesting that Philip Bilden may drop out from his nomination to be Secretary of the Navy. Secretary Mattis spoke with Mr. Bilden today,” said Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis in a statement. “Mr. Bilden remains fully committed to serving as Secretary of the Navy pending Senate confirmation, and Secretary Mattis remains fully committed to helping him. Secretary Mattis remains confident that Mr. Bilden is the right leader to rebuild the readiness of our Navy and Marine Corps.”
So what happened here? Was CBS simply making this up as the president sometimes implies? Call me a starry eyed optimist but I somehow doubt it. More likely is a scenario where one or more people had either overheard a rumor which they reported as fact or were simply seeking to stir up trouble, continuing the popular media theme that we have a White House administration “in chaos.” Sometimes these stories have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies however. If Bilden is dropped from consideration it’s quite believable that Donald Trump is taking a close look at Joe Schmitz. He at least has the benefit of decades of naval experience along with some previous government work in the Bush 43 administration. (That is clouded a bit by a scandal that he was tangentially involved in, leading to his resignation, but he still might be a better choice.)
Whoever winds up taking the job, I do hope that they have some direct experience with the United States Navy. Ray Mabus has been an absolute disaster for the fleet. Much of the problem has more to do with his fixation on Barack Obama’s pet social justice projects, but his complete lack of military experience certainly didn’t help either. This is an important job, particularly in light of the fact that we seem to be on the verge of modernizing and rebuilding the fleet. This will be a huge, complicated and yes, expensive project which should not be handed off to amateurs.
Just as a side note in case anyone from the White House staff happens to be reading this, if both Bilden and Schmitz fall through I wanted to point out that I’m still available and willing to serve. I would just need a bit of time off in the mornings to keep up with my blogging, but other than that I’m tanned, rested and ready to go. If anyone wants to get the hashtag #Jazz4Navy going on social media, maybe we can make this happen.