James Mattis: It is ‘Never’ Okay to Label Political Opponents as Enemies


Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis is condemning the idea of labelling political opponents as “enemies” to the country.

Mattis spoke to PBS’ Margaret Hoover on the latest media stage of his book tour, during which he was asked to explain “what does the word enemy mean to you?” The former secretary of defense answered that an enemy is “someone who would take apart our democracy. Someone who would destroy the democracy itself.”

He didn’t stop there, however:

“It’s not someone who has a different vision of where America needs to go. I don’t consider Americans who disagree with me to be enemy of the people or terrorists or something like that, they’re just someone to be argued with, I like a good hard argument about the issues and then let’s go off and have a beer, root beer together, Dr. Pepper and sit down and enjoy and find out about each other’s company and each other’s family and that sort of thing.”

Mattis concluded that it’s “never” okay to label political opponents as “enemies.”

“Fellow Americans may have different ideas. We’ve had that all through our history,” he said. “That’s what makes democracy work. Is learning how to compromise and carry forward…”

Mattis’ remarks are a clear contrast to President Donald Trump, who refers to his foes as the “enemy of the people” on a regular basis. Most of Trump’s “enemy” attacks are directed at critical media outlets, though Trump also drew attention recently after suggesting that Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell could be a “bigger enemy” than Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mattis has been very reluctant to slam Trump in any direct fashion, but he seemed to break with the president in several noticeable instances throughout his book tour. Mattis has shared details of how he resigned from the Trump administration after an intense disagreement, dodged on whether Trump is fit to be president, and he has condemned America’s divided political state.

In another portion of the interview, Mattis reiterated that he owes the president his temporary silence before he decides to speak out about anything. Asked when the time to speak will come, Mattis answered “I’ll know it when I see it,” but insisted that he won’t make “political assessments” about any specific president.

Watch above, via PBS.

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