Another General In Trump’s Cabinet

Three of the top four national security positions in Donald Trump's Cabinet will be filled by retired Generals. This isn't necessarily a good thing.


Donald Trump has named another retired General to his Cabinet, this time it’s retired Marine General John Kelly, who Trump has chosen to be the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security:

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security, turning to a blunt-spoken border security hawk who clashed with the Obama administration over women in combat and plans to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to people familiar with the decision.

Kelly, who retired in February as chief of U.S. Southern Command, would inherit a massive and often troubled department responsible for overseeing perhaps the most controversial part of Trump’s agenda: his proposed crackdown on illegal immigration. DHS is the third-largest Cabinet department, with more than 240,000 employees who do everything from fight terrorism to protect the president and enforce immigration laws.

Kelly, 66, is a widely respected military officer who served for more than 40 years, and he is not expected to face difficulty winning Senate confirmation. Trump’s team was drawn to him because of his Southwest border expertise, people familiar with the transition said. Like the president-elect, Kelly has sounded the alarm about drugs, terrorism and other cross-border threats he sees as emanating from Mexico and Central and South America.

Yet Kelly’s nomination could raise questions about what critics see as Trump’s tendency to surround himself with too many military figures. Trump has also selected retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis for defense secretary and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser, while retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus is under consideration for secretary of state.

Kelly, a Boston native, was chosen over an array of other candidates who also met with Trump after his surprise election victory last month. Those in contention included Frances Townsend, a top homeland security and counterterrorism official in the George W. Bush administration; Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Clarke and Kobach are vocal Trump backers, and Kobach is nationally known for his strong views on restricting illegal immigration.

Trump’s selection of Kelly for DHS was first reported by CBS News. The Washington Post reported last month that he was the leading candidate for the job.

In the end, people familiar with the transition said, the choice came down to Kelly and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. McCaul was considered an early favorite, but his chances were hurt by opposition from some conservatives who found him insufficiently tough on border security, the people said.

Known inside the Pentagon as a thoughtful man who continued serving his country even after his son was killed in combat, Kelly has talked in stark terms — much like Trump — about the threats America faces in the Middle East and beyond. In speeches, he has expressed frustration with what he calls the “bureaucrats” in Washington, and he described the military’s counterterrorism operations abroad as a war against a “savage” enemy who would gladly launch more deadly attacks.

“Given the opportunity to do another 9/11, our vicious enemy would do it today, tomorrow and everyday thereafter,” Kelly said in a 2013 Memorial Day address in Texas. “I don’t know why they hate us, and I frankly don’t care, but they do hate us and are driven irrationally to our destruction.”


As DHS secretary, Kelly would take on what is considered to be one of Washington’s most challenging jobs, in part because of the agency’s persistent management problems and employee morale that is among the federal government’s lowest.

Although DHS was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks primarily to coordinate the battle against terrorism, it is now perhaps equally known for its immigration role. Trump has pledged a crackdown on illegal immigration that would require an expensive and logistically difficult operation to remove millions of people from the country.

That work would be overseen by DHS components such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which Trump has proposed to beef up by tripling the number of agents. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, also part of DHS, is also likely to come under increased pressure in the Trump administration to better secure the Southwest border.

Perhaps Kelly’s most visible role would be to help oversee Trump’s signature campaign promise: a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants. Trump has said the construction would be easy, but experts say the structure would face numerous obstacles, such as environmental and engineering problems and fights with ranchers and others who would resist giving up their land.

If confirmed, Kelly would join fellow retired Generals Michael Flynn and John Mattis, who have been named as President-Elect Trump’s National Security Adviser and Secretary of Defense, in Trump’s candidate and would thus make that cabinet one made up of more retired Generals than we have seen in previous Cabinets for quite some time. Additionally, the possibility remains that David Petraeus could be named as Trump’s Secretary of State, meaning that there would be four retired Generals in the Cabinet in positions and that the Cabinet posts dealing with national security would all be manned by former Generals. There is, of course, a good argument to be made that someone who has made it to the top of the military likely has the kind of experience in administration needed to run a Cabinet-level department, especially one that in many ways is still trying to figure out its place in the Federal Government after just over a decade of existence. Much of the job of being a General, after all, involves administration and supervising those underneath you from senior assistants all the way down to the lowest-level employee. Additionally, it’s likely that during their respective military careers these men also gained the kind of knowledge and experience that would serve them well in the positions to which they are being named. For those reasons alone, it seems clear that all three of the retired Generals named by Trump so far, as well as Petraeus, would be qualified for the positions they were selected for. There are, however, other concerns beyond mere qualifications, and it’s possible that Trump’s overreliance on Generals to fill his top national security posts should raise some concerns about the direction of his policies.

As James Joyner notes in his piece on civilian control of the military that was published in The New York Timesthere are important reasons why our political system has generally resisted the idea of drawing from the pool of retired military officers to fill roles that are meant to be staffed by civilians. One concern is that selecting national security advisers almost exclusively from this group poses the danger of limiting the perspective that a new President receives in one of the most important policy areas that a President will ever deal with. This isn’t to suggest that all Generals think alike, of course, because we know that isn’t the case, but the fact that they all come from essentially the same background and experiences, it’s likely that the advice they give the President isn’t going to vary significantly from person to person. This is a problematic for any President, but especially in a case like Trump’s where we’re dealing with an incoming President whose experience in foreign policy is nonexistent and who is apparently skipping the national security and intelligence briefings that other incoming Presidents have relied upon to educate themselves on a vitally important issue prior to taking office. Another concern is that having a national security team made up almost exclusively of Generals means that Trump will be more likely to engage in military action in situations where a diplomatic solution would be a better option. While it’s often the case that current and former members of the military are often less likely to favor military action when the know the costs that it would incur in manpower and lives, it’s also possible that their perspective is so highly influenced by their time in the military that they really can’t think of other options to complex international problems. In those cases, we usually rely on the civilian Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, to bring a different perspective to the table. Given the fact that we’re dealing with an incoming POTUS who has no experience at all in this area, and who has in the past suggested things that would be illegal under international law or which seem exceedingly dangerous, we may not have that assurance in a Trump Administration. Because of that, it would be preferable for Trump to have at least some civilians at the table when he becomes the person responsible for the national security of the United States.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    It flatters Trump’s endlessly needy and fragile ego to have grown men of accomplishment treat him with respect. He’s a bully and bullies like to believe they’re secretly warriors.

  2. CSK says:

    What gives me pause is that sometimes retired military people run into problems when overseeing essentially civilian organizations. For one thing, they’re used to giving and order and having it obeyed instantly, without question, and civilian organizations, whether they’re college math departments, paint manufacturers, or software design firms, don’t work that way.

    There was the case of a retired military man who was appointed a city manager because the mayor and a few of his advisors thought the military guy would run a tight ship. Within a few months, all of the town manager’s employees had quit, because he tried to turn the office in Parris Island North.

  3. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Oh, yes indeed. And he likes the fact that he’s their boss. The alpha dog.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    Trump said he knew more about ISIS than the generals. I guess that’s why he wants them in his cabinet.

  5. Slugger says:

    I would like to hear Gen. Kelly’s analysis regarding the terrorist threat. Given that we are facing an implacable enemy who would do another 9/11 “today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter” what has stopped them? Clearly, terrorist attacks in the US are of the same magnitude as shark attacks. I wonder how he explains the last 14 years.
    My hypotheses:
    1. The threat of terrorism is hype ginned up to cow the American people.
    2. The state security forces that the general deems “bureaucrats” are actually doing a pretty good job.
    3. There is a combination of my #1 and 2.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    War council.
    Get ready for it.
    Remember, the buffoon asked repeatedly:

    Why can’t we use nukes?

  7. Tyrell says:

    As a child I heard a lot from relatives about Generals Eisenhower, Marshall, Patton, and MacArthur. I came to view generals as gods, invincible, and heroic. My favorites were Burnside, Lafayette, Custer, Sheridan, Jackson, Sherman, Stuart, Marshall, Gavin. Since then I have studied and learned of the flaws of many who were generals but should not have been, and some kept around too long. In their position, incompetence and hubris end up costing lives.
    Read: “The Generals”.

  8. Argon says:

    Eventually you’ll get someone like United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper and be totally screwed.

    I mean, there are a number of ex-Generals out there who seem like they’re a few tacos short in the combo platter…

  9. CSK says:


    Yes. He learned all about ISIS from “the shows,” as he calls them.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    That’s a good book. Interesting perspective.

  11. Gustopher says:

    The military overseeing domestic security makes me very, very nervous. Even an ex-general in this position makes me very nervous.

    I don’t want to go all slippery slope and say that this leads to fascism, but it is a very common feature of authoritarian regimes.

    And, it increases the militarization of our domestic law enforcement at a time when it is really already to militarized. Our various law enforcement agencies should not be an occupying force.

  12. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    While I see the problem with having an all-Generals national security establishment, in this case I think it’s a tossup. Consider where Trump is going to find “civilian” people to do these jobs who aren’t unhinged GOP RWNJs. Say what you will, at least Generals will know the answer to “why can’t we just use nukes” even if it is only “because I am not up for leading in a world where WWIV will be fought with rocks and sticks.”

  13. CSK says:
  14. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Perhaps Mattis and Kelly can act as foils against Flynn’s influence, not a bad thing.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: Read any book on WWI and your awe of military generals will be quickly dissipated…

  16. Terrye Cravens says:

    Trump said our military was “rubble” and here he is picking Generals. I think it makes him feel big and bad to have that kind of muscle around.

  17. CB says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    All things considered, that’s my hope too. Though I worry about things like altered ROE with Mattis and Immigration crackdowns with Kelly, neither pick seems to be the worst choice possible. Which is about all we can hope for now.

  18. Pch101 says:

    In theory, I understand the concern about having ex-military in civilian defense positions.

    In practice, they actually know something about war and what it can do to people, so they may be more prudent than civilians whose deepest insights into combat come from World of Warcraft and The Military Channel.

    It’s not as if Trump could be expected to hire smart civilians. Hell, he wants to hire a housing secretary whose knowledge of housing comes from living in one and an environment secretary who is at war with the environment.

    George W. Bush must be relieved. There will be a president in his lifetime who will make him look like a genius.

  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    Now for more News of the Weird, we have Sandy Hook truthers

    I’m wishing that I had lived in a world before the internet.

  20. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m a bit concerned about so many generals. Flynn, in particular, is alarming. But I like the Mattis appointment. And considering the names earlier being bruited about for DHS — Giuliani, Clarke, Arpaio — this one is almost sensible.

  21. Jim Brown 32 says:

    No one howls about Lawyers dominating the government. There was a generation of Americans born in this country–I think we’ve labeled them “The Greatest” — Almost all of them that went into Government had Military experience. Now we’ve had the exact opposite for 30 years. Its a factor in why foreign policy and use of the military stays jacked up. The country will survive not having a few extra candy-asses lawyers in charge of something. There are still more of them than there are Generals.

  22. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @CSK: That’s true of military people that served primarily served in organizations made up of mostly military. By the type a guy makes 3-stars and up….very few of those organizations are primarily military. The Pentagon and most 3-4 star commands have a good mix of Government Civilians and Contractors as well. You can’t treat those folks like you do Military.

    Part of the test of 1 and 2 star generals is can they lead organizations on the strength of character and personality–not rank. Consequently, you’ll meet a decent percentage of tyrant 1 & 2 star generals that haven’t learned yet or are incapable of learning. But the non-adapters are weeded out by the 3 and 4 star level. Its rare to meet someone that high that’s not a quality leader (although they may have personality quirks).

    Flynn is an exception. He’s an asshole that slipped through the cracks. I guess they had to reward him with some sort of title for his support–NS Advisor is a good place to minimize the damage. I have no doubt he gets marginalized as time goes along based on the strength of advise coming from the other generals. Flynn is out of his league.

  23. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @grumpy realist: The military learned alot of lessons from the failures of WWI and changed the way they developed their Officer Corps. Reading a book about WWI Generals to inform your opinion about todays Generals is as informative as reading a book about WWI combat tactics to form an opinion about todays combat tactics.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I’ll take “totally unclear on the concept” for $50, Alex.

    Tyrell was mentioning great generals from history. History dating back before the Civil War. I was pointing out another, later, period of history which had a whole bunch of generals who everyone has basically judged as being pretty incompetent for the situation.

    And your assumption that we have managed to “learn from history” and won’t get incompetent generals again down the road is….over-optimistic, in my opinion. The Vietnam war was fought by those same generals you claim have received so much training, and everyone pretty well agrees that Vietnam was not so great.

    Waist deep in the Big Muddy and the fool says to push on, indeed.

  25. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Yet Kelly’s nomination could raise questions about what critics see as Trump’s tendency to surround himself with too many military figures… it would be preferable for Trump to have at least some civilians at the table when he becomes the person responsible for the national security of the United States.


    When all you have is hammers, every problem looks like nails.

  26. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. For someone who is obviously smart, you check your intelligence at the door for certain subjects. We all do it–its part of being human.

    Generals execute the policy objectives given to them by President with constraints set by Congress. The Military is a tool. There have been several times in our history since the civil war where the military was used as the President’s “Easy Button” in lieu of the hard work of diplomacy. Vietnam was one of the most stunning of those misuses eclipsed only by the invasion of Iraq. Both those conflicts saw politicians ignore recommendations on the proper application or non-application of military forces. Many times, the amount of force needed to accomplish an objective carries politically unacceptable collateral damage… so the President and/or congress only authorizes operations up to the limit of acceptable collateral damage. This guarantees that the actual mission will never be accomplished. This is the position War-fighting Generals that you criticize are put in. The last President that understood how to use the military, G Bush the Elder, was himself a combat vet and knew reality from TV. Had GB the younger listened to the advice he was given–he would have squelched the NeoCon hawks. If he absolutely HAD to do the mission however, we should have went to Iraq 750,000 strong. That was politically unacceptable however so the mission went forward with 250,000 people. A bad mission with to few people. That wasn’t any Generals fault no matter how good a leader they are.

    The best work worker can’t help you if you insist on using a band saw for scroll work where a hammer and chisel are best tools to use for the job.

  27. KM says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Say what you will, at least Generals will know the answer to “why can’t we just use nukes” even if it is only “because I am not up for leading in a world where WWIV will be fought with rocks and sticks.”

    This is an excellent point. Additionally, should Trump loose his freaking mind and decide to nuke us all, the military would be *far* more likely to accept the inevitable defiance/ mutiny/ coup if someone with stars is the one saying “Hell no, don’t listen to the crazy man”.

  28. KM says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    No one howls about Lawyers dominating the government.

    I’m unclear as to why you are surprised people who’s profession is the Law would primarily make up the government – you know, the thing that makes and administers the Law? That’s like being surprised a hospital is primarily comprised of healthcare workers. Or are you one of those people who think the only kind of lawyer is the one who sues people and stalks courtrooms?

  29. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @KM: The law is a tool that governs the interactions of citizens. You’re making the assumption that because the specialists that understand how the tool works are experts–they are able to employ it properly so that it incentivizes the interactions we want and disincentives the interactions we don’t.

    Technology workers face a similar issue. You can design the best piece of technology that does exactly what its supposed to do–technically. However, when people interact with the tool you get unexpected/unwanted results.

    A better analogy would be if hospitals were composed exclusively of people who are experts in anatomy, biology, and physiology. They are not. Hospitals have other experts across a spectrum of disciplines that blend that technical expertise into an experience that considers human factors and outcomes.

    I think the best interest of good government would be if many specialties were represented. Staff lawyers can then craft legislation that reflect the outcomes desired by the Representative. The thinking that lawyers can craft smart policy positions in a 14T economy and a country of 300m people because–well they are lawyers– isn’t well thought out.

  30. al-Ameda says:

    …. and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser

    This toxic conspiracist might be one of our national security advisors

  31. CB says:


    Except the Generals might not even be in a position to object. The system is set up so the President can have missiles in the air within minutes.

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    The military learned a lot of lessons from the failures of WWI and changed the way they developed their Officer Corps. Reading a book about WWI Generals to inform your opinion about todays Generals is as informative as reading a book about WWI combat tactics to form an opinion about todays combat tactics.

    Actually, reading history is exactly how we come to a better assessment of current military leadership – in point of fact, that’s what cadets do at West Point and what officers do at the War College.

    WW1 did not somehow teach us how to develop officers for WW2, in fact we had a skeleton army going into WW2 with a few capable generals, but nothing like the team the Germans or the British had assembled. We had numerous incompetent generals in WW2. You could start with Lloyd Fredendall who managed to get his ass kicked by the weary, fleeing remnants of the beaten Afrika Korps at Kasserine. Or, say, Mark Clark, who played hapless Coyote to Kesselring’s Roadrunner all through Italy. Or the indecisive Eisenhower who was a great political general and a lousy field commander.

    Setting all that aside, blaming politicians for every failure since is nonsense. We had some remarkably bad generalship in both Korea and Vietnam. It was MacArthur, not Washington, who pushed to the Chinese border and brought on the Chinese invasion. It was Westmoreland who could never think beyond body count.

    We judge generals by how well they execute civilian orders. Those civilian orders are generally difficult – roll back the Japanese, beat the Viet Cong, land men on beaches in Normandy, crush the secessionists – and the great generals find a way. Generals are meant to find a way within the political framework. So, for example, it may have been a political mistake to focus on the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’ in WW2, but it was not politicians who let the Wehrmacht escape from Tunisia, and then again from Sicily, that was generals.

  33. grumpy realist says:

    @Jim Brown 32: And what in the HELL does that have to do with anything I wrote?!

    As far as I’ve gathered from that verbiage, it’s “we wudda won in Vietnam if we had listened to the generals.”

    Yes, and had McCain have been elected president we would all be dead right now in a nuclear war. I can do this prediction of history just as easily.

  34. KM says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    I think the best interest of good government would be if many specialties were represented.

    I agree but that’s not what your first post implied. Forgive me but the whole candy-ass thing implied you have an fairly negative opinion of lawyers and are complaining that they were running things. My point is they predominately run things *because* its their field – their personal morality and candy-assed-ness is irrelevant to the point.

    A better analogy would be if hospitals were composed exclusively of people who are experts in anatomy, biology, and physiology. They are not. Hospitals have other experts across a spectrum of disciplines that blend that technical expertise into an experience that considers human factors and outcomes.

    Those other experts still need to have some practical medical knowledge and experience – an IT department that doesn’t take things like HIPPA into consideration is a fired department. Billing needs to know the difference between oncology and the ER. Sanitation needs to get what’s a biohazard and how to handle it. Construction and maintenance need to observe infection control protocols and can’t just hang sheetrock anywhere without drapes.

    Meanwhile, it can be detrimental to have a “non-expert” trying to assert their influence under the aegis of diverse viewpoints . A surgeon needs discipline (and frankly, a minder) but will balk under a drill sergeant impressing his sense of order on a department. It’s nice to have a dev department that has a former pre-med but unless he can code, he’s fairly useless except as a sounding board. You could theoretically run a hospital just on bio experts and outsource everything else – it wouldn’t be efficient or cost-effective but it can be done.

    Your point is valid in that diverse worldviews and backgrounds make for more robust governmental function if they are all working towards the same focus. However, it is and will primarily remain the realm of law students since that’s kinda the point of their expertise. Unless the General can adapt to civilian POW and understand his job is to run the Law and not the Army, he’s as helpful as florist is to a phlebotomist mid blood draw.

  35. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @CB: “Not the worst person available” is probably as good as the choices will get.

  36. C. Clavin says:

    @Jim Brown 32:


    You are mis-appropriating a man’s name…and you call anyone else a candy-ass?

  37. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @C. Clavin: One thing is for certain–you more than adequately channel your namesake in these threads since HRC got waxed. Pull it together.

  38. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @KM: No analogy is a perfect match but I’ll grant some of your points are valid. My point is that legal aptitude is a separate skillset than aptitude in good governance.

    I am biased against the political class of lawyers— because they and their viewpoints are over-represented in Congress and the Senate. I would be biased against any one trade that dominated the government– because it makes the likelihood of governance that doesn’t work for people outside of that trade highly probable.

    Do you think we’d have the HB1B visa program as significant as it is if Congress was tech people? Here’s a thought…why aren’t we importing cheap lawyers that will work for a fraction of what the highly paid ones already here work for? That’ll never happen right? Wonder why?

  39. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @michael reynolds: Hmmm–you seem to assume that I’ve never read those histories at a Service Academy or a War College.

    What you missed in your research is that the doctrine changed during that period from centralized control and centralized execution to centralized control and decentralized execution. That gave US command and control a decisive advantage over the enemy decision cycle…the enemy had to get permission to deviate from their original plans. Our guys freelanced when they needed to.

    What’s also missed is that a premium was placed on leaders who were adaptable and flexible after WW1. We stopped training leaders to fight the last fight and instead gave them guidelines and a license to learn on the fly. This was probably the Country’s most valuable asset after our logistics and production capacity.

    Everything else you highlighted I agree with. When you have to expand your force to the size we did then–you’re going to get a higher proportion of incompetents. Its a numbers game. We put the top talent in the must win fights though…they delivered.

  40. KM says:

    @Jim Brown 32 :

    Here’s a thought…why aren’t we importing cheap lawyers that will work for a fraction of what the highly paid ones already here work for? That’ll never happen right? Wonder why?

    Because there’s enough toxic waste on our shores as it is? I kid, I kid…..

    Actually, I’d say it’s because tech skills are far more generic knowledge then legal skills. For instance, there’s only so many coding languages and platforms – as no one knows them all, you tend to specialize in a few or gain working knowledge of the most common. It’s designed to function cross language, national and cultural barriers; something like javascript works the same in English and Chinese operating systems with minor differences. Thus the foundational knowledge to be an effective worker is less accumulated information but rather fluid skills like logic. I can train a coder on a specific proprietary system in a few weeks – I can’t get a piss-poor paralegal with that kind of lead time. Compare to the often arcane knowledge of hundreds of laws, statutes and codes needed to be a basic practicing lawyer. Legal systems are not all the same so entire strategies common in one will be illegal in another. To pass the bar and be able to practice law in two separate countries is an achievement. Doctors are the same way and it accounts for why it takes twice as long to train a lawyer as it does an IT guy.

  41. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    If it’s possible to have too many generals advising the President, or too many Ivy League judges on the Supreme Court, why isn’t it possible to have too many lawyers in government? Sure, they serve a role, but particularly in Congress, I wonder sometimes if we’ve become too adverserial partially because so much of a lawyer’s training is about fighting every point, every technicality, and every context (citing some case history and not others, for example) to “beat” the other side, depending on a judge to weigh competing citations and and put it all together. But there is no “judge” in Congress, so someone can go to lawyerly extremes and doesn’t get called on the carpet for being stupid except in the press. But since we now live in a world of echo chambers “the press” doesn’t hold everyone accountable the same way, and people don’t see “their” side being unreasonable.

    I feel kind of the same way about lawyers in goverment as I do MBA’s in business–they may be great on execution, but they aren’t necessarily any better than anyone else–and in some ways are trained to be worse–when it comes to policy.

    I don’t know, just something that occurred to me a few years ago and I’m seeing little evidence to disabuse me of the notion. Maybe Hitchhiker’s was right 40 years ago 🙂

  42. grumpy realist says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Here’s a thought…why aren’t we importing cheap lawyers that will work for a fraction of what the highly paid ones already here work for? That’ll never happen right?

    Sigh. There is so much fail in this sentence.

    I suggest you do some research on how our legal system works. I also suggest you look at how lawyers become accredited here in the US to carry our the practice of law. I suggest you look up in a dictionary the term “state law.” Also look up the term “specialization.”

    You might as well ask why we don’t import monolingual professors of Chinese literature from China to get hired to teach classes on Chaucer. Heck, when I wanted to buy a house here in Illinois I went to someone who specialized in real estate. I didn’t go to someone with a reputation in labor law.

  43. KM says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    I feel kind of the same way about lawyers in goverment as I do MBA’s in business–they may be great on execution, but they aren’t necessarily any better than anyone else–and in some ways are trained to be worse–when it comes to policy.

    Other then generic lawyer (or possibly elitist) hate, this doesn’t really make a lot of sense. This logic doesn’t seem to apply anywhere else in the world. You don’t get sushi made by a mechanic with the thought that they aren’t necessarily any better than anyone else, you don’t have your kidney checked by a florist and you don’t leave your children at daycare with an professional bodybuilder. American culture has taken the egalitarian notion that “anyone can be in government” means “any idiot will do just as well as the people who trained for it” as well as “those high-falutin’ elites think they can do this better then me even thought I can’t manage a household budget, let alone a town”. Maybe they *can* but the majority *won’t*. There’s a reason for resumes – people look for those with training and experience rather then taking a chance on That Guy.

    A law degree doesn’t make one a good lawyer anymore then an MBA makes one a savvy business person. Being a General doesn’t make one a good manager; please, feel free to ask any serviceman about it if you don’t believe me. In fact, the impression is the higher up one gets, the less in touch they are. What Generals (and most ex-military) are good at is giving orders and being in charge of the present circumstances, not necessarily leading since that directive comes from the civilian government. The military exists solely to serve and protect the civilian world. It is an logical extension of America, not the other way around. It is a small percentage of the population but has an out-sized impact considering our current state of uniform worship.

    Instead of comparing professions, think of it this way: 3 of the Cabinet positions would be filled with out trans-people and would bring their worldview with them. Since cis-gendered people aren’t necessarily any better than anyone else and can be worse in some situations (socialization and gender norms!), they should be OK with this vast over-representation of the trans community, right?

  44. Davebo says:

    You don’t reach flag rank without being an extremely talented politician although the political waters of the military are somewhat different than the “swamp” in DC.

    This fact could be a positive or a negative.

  45. Davebo says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Here’s a thought…why aren’t we importing cheap lawyers that will work for a fraction of what the highly paid ones already here work for?

    Well a big part of the reason is that a legal education is very orally driven as opposed to a technical one. I know a person, an immigrant for whom English was her third language that got a fairly prestigious law degree, had a successful practice and eventually became a federal judge but she was certainly an exception to the rule.

  46. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @KM: Wow, you read a lot into that that I certainly didn’t mean. I think I touched some hot buttons of yours unintentionally, and don’t know what half your response is even directed at.

    I simply think our nation would be better served if it’s leadership (leadership and wisdom being an ability that isn’t dependent on profession) drew on more professional backgrounds than it seems to be these days. As Jim Brown 32 said: Legal aptitude is not the same thing as good governance. If you think it is, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    I said nothing about elites vs egalitarianism and think that a rejection of what is now called “elite” opinion (I prefer the term “informed”) is a serious mistake.

    Nor did I say anything about good lawyers vs bad lawyers, just that the training to be a lawyer may not be the most optimal training for being a politician or political leader . Lawyers are trained (correctly, as far as I’m concerned) to take the position of their client and defend it to the end (innocent until proven guilty in criminal matters, but it applies to civil as well) to the best of their ability. In other words, trained to be absolute partisans, and that’s ok because a judge will make the final decision. But is such naked partisanship the sort of leadership we need in Congress?

    You even (probably unintentionally) supported my point–being a General doesn’t automatically make you a good manager (another point I never made so I’m not sure why you seemed to think you had to counter it; in fact I support the premise of this article that too many ex-Generals is not necessarily a good thing), and if, as you say, a military background is about protecting civilians and taking leadership from civilians, doesn’t that imply that maybe a military background is detrimental to BEING the civilian leadership?

  47. dxq says:

    Speaking of Generals, Trump continues to blow off most intelligence briefings.

    Remind me how blowing off intelligence briefings turned out for that last republican president?

  48. Pch101 says:

    It should not be surprising that an interest in law is often associated with an interest in politics. They’re related subjects.

    It’s not that lawyers are groomed to become politicians, but that aspiring politicians make a point of getting their start by getting involved with the law. The legal professional is a logical stepping stone for becoming a full-time creator of laws.

    In a world with specialized professions, this should not be a shock. It’s difficult to switch gears from being a baker or a zoologist or house painter into politics. Being a politician at the national level is a full-time job; it’s not likely that someone is going to start in some completely unrelated career, only to chuck it away for a possible gig in government..

  49. KM says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:
    You did indeed touch a nerve so sorry about the rant. It just frustrates the daylights out of me that when someone complains about the abundance of law students in DC the answer always seems to be a variation “well, we need *real* people in government” (a populist bit of crap) when really the problem is the person, not the background. In other words, an asshat general is no different then an asshat baker – both will continue to be asshats above all. It takes a certain personality to run for politics and those types tend to gravitate towards professions like lawyers anyway. Tendency towards good governance comes from the individual, not from a field.

    Don’t get me wrong – not a fan of lawyers. But it drives me up the wall to here things like “they’re partisan” because of their “training”. It seems a very biased (for lack of a better term) view based on a cursory understanding of their job. Soldiers are trained to destroy the enemy and physically injure people – is that a mindset we need in Congress where peaceful cooperation is necessary? Do we say soldiers are “potential homicidal maniacs” because of their profession? We give the military a pass on that because their discipline is more highly valued then the fact they are (by training) able to be lethal at a moments notice. We applaud tireless dedication to a cause in a common soul but in a lawyer, fighting for their client right or wrong to till the end is bad?? We call it advocacy and it gets applause, call it partisanship and the boos start. Lawyers get a bad rap for literally doing their job – it’s a common populist complaint that there’s too many of them. I guess I read into your comment because the atmosphere in the country lately has predisposed me to seeing these little micro-aggressions, so to speak.

    Tl;dr – it doesn’t matter what profession they are since the running theme in all of them is asshattery. Personality matters more then profession and there’s all identical in that case.

  50. Grumpy Realist says:

    Everyone hates lawyers until one is needed. At least in transactional work, I think a lot of the hatred is because lawyers when drawing up stuff keep asking inconvenient questions about what to do in cases of failure and no one likes to think about it. It’s all gas and gaiters until something goes wrong and then everyone starts yelling.

  51. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Again, not disagreeing. Fighting for your client and partisan advocacy to the end IS good–in a lawyer. I even agree lawyers get a bad rap when they defend people the public and media has already convicted. I just think partisanship is out of control in our political class, and wondered if it had to do with too many lawyers.

    But the conversation inspired me to do some research, and apparently I’m even more wrong 🙂

  52. Matt says:

    @Sleeping Dog: That’s been a big thing for a while now on facebook, 4chan and other such sites. There’s a whole set of conspiracy theories about how Sandy hook and other mass shootings were faked.

    Various forms of the image discussed in the following link have appeared all over facebook and other social media sites.