We respect General Mattis’s military service and judgment and his desire to keep the military out of politics, but we think Dwight Eisenhower understood better that the Army’s mission cannot be completely detached from the domestic tranquility of the nation it serves. It may have been divisive for Eisenhower to send the 101st Airborne into Little Rock over the governor’s objections, but it was necessary.
As for the political fallout of Mattis’s broadsides against Donald Trump, the president now complains that the former secretary of defense is disloyal and incompetent and should never have been hired (and falsely says he fired him, when Mattis quit). Trump has said much the same about his own former secretary of state, attorney general, and White House chiefs of staff, among others. Even the best presidents take criticism from some disgruntled former advisers, but Trump has nobody to blame but himself for his own appointments, for his profligacy in hiring, firing, and insulting them, and for the justified reasons they have for criticizing him.
Finally, the Times is wrong about, well, adulthood. The publication of Cotton’s op-ed led the paper’s woke young staff to hit the fainting couches, shrieking that the mere appearance in their pages was a threat to their physical safety. Never mind that Cotton’s opinion is shared by broad swathes of the public and backed by two centuries of American law; the Times management was forced into an auto-da-fé of self-flagellation and confession of sin for publishing it. The campus culture of youthful tantrums, and adults too cowed to stand up to it, has now thoroughly infected major institutions such as the Times. How far it has fallen from 1863, when the Times itself defended its building from a lynch mob with three Gatling guns borrowed from the Union Army.