It's 2:25PM EST, January 12, 2017. 8 days before the official start of the Trump administration. I'm watching C-SPAN3 for what was supposed to be a hearing featuring Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis (ret). The purpose is a pre-hearing in the House in advance of Senate confirmation hearings for his nomination to be Secretary of Defense. The United States military must be managed by a civilian. Civilian management of the military is a bedrock principle of the US and is a substantial reason the US has never seriously worried of military takeovers. Often though, retired military officers have been appointed to the office and for most of the past century a law has been in place that required any former members of the military be retired for a number of years before being eligible for the position. Currently, the retirement period is 7 years. General Mattis has been retired for less than 7 years. Accordingly, Congress has decided to consider a narrowly written law which would carve out a niche for General Mattis to serve now.
Since this is an unprecedented situation, Congress decided they wanted to have a hearing with the General to discuss his civilian experience and how he distinguishes the difference between civilian life and military service. Most importantly House committee wanted to hear General Mattis discuss his understanding and appreciation for why the Constitution mandates civilian management of the military.
For his part, General Mattis, who has testified before Congress in numerous capacities throughout his years of public service, was prepared and looking ahead to testifying. It seems though at the last moment, the Trump transition team and probably Trump himself, had the General stand down and not appear for the hearing. At this writing, there is no explanation for the sudden change.
What we are witnessing is a power play by the Trump admin's to be executive branch. Trump is declaring clearly that he will not be questioned or vetted at all much less in passing by anyone even by right. He is engaging in imperial behavior before taking the oath.
The Congressional committee is in near unanimity in their anger over Trump's meddling. What needs to happen and fast, is that Congress, ALL of it, House and Senate, Republican and Democratic, needs to recognize the threat posed to their constitutional authority by Trump and his handlers. Now, regardless of individual merits, they should reject the bill to waive the 7 year requirement for General James Mattis unless and until he is allowed to testify as requested.
The Congress must follow by rejecting each and every matter in which Trump interferes with their authority and make it clear that Congress is, as always, first among co-equal branches. It's unfortunate that this is where events are going already, and it's of grave concern that Congress has been so absent from engaging its responsibilities for so many years. My confidence that the people sitting in Congress now even KNOW what it means to do their jobs in a serious way is in severe question but if ever they were ready assert their primacy n American government, that time is NOW.