Did former CentCom chief change Trump's mind on torture?
President-elect Donald Trump's hourlong interview with the New York Times on Tuesday was chock-full of surprises. Aside from his backing away from investigating Hillary Clinton, Trump offered softened views on climate change and torture that were a far cry from his heated campaign rhetoric.
He credited his evolution on torture to James Mattis, a retired Marine general who served as the commander of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force from 2010 until he retired in 2013. Mattis is being considered for Trump's defense secretary, which has many Tampa-area men who served under him quite excited.
Trump told the Times that Mattis has him rethinking waterboarding, a type of torture by which he had previously declared, "I love it. I think it's great."
"But General Mattis found (waterboarding) to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say," Trump told the Times. "I thought he would say — you know he’s known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason. I thought he’d say ‘It’s phenomenal, don’t lose it.’ He actually said, ‘No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we’ll do better."
Here's Trump's full answer to his views on waterboarding.
So, I met with General Mattis, who is a very respected guy. In fact, I met with a number of other generals, they say he’s the finest there is. He is being seriously, seriously considered for secretary of defense, which is — I think it’s time maybe, it’s time for a general. Look at what’s going on. We don’t win, we can’t beat anybody, we don’t win anymore. At anything. We don’t win on the border, we don’t win with trade, we certainly don’t win with the military. General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy. And when he said that, I’m not saying it changed my mind. Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer. It certainly does not — it’s not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But General Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say. I thought he would say — you know he’s known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason. I thought he’d say ‘It’s phenomenal, don’t lose it.’ He actually said, ‘No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we’ll do better.’