Retired Army General Jack Keane confirmed this week that he received an offer from President-elect Donald Trump to serve as Secretary of Defense, but could not accept due to personal issues. The 73 year old retired four star general who fought in the Vietnam War, said while he was unable to accept the position because of issues revolving around the recent death of his wife, he was the one who suggested that one of the men that should be considered was James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who is currently the top contender for the position, according to those close to the transition. Keane, who served the country from 1966 to 2003, shared his thoughts on the position of Secretary of Defense and his positive outlook on the next President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Keane spoke with NPR this week and told them about the circumstances surrounding the declining of the offer and how the meeting went as a whole. The retired general said that due to issues surrounding the recent death of his wife of 51 years, Theresa, after she lost the battle against a 14 year struggle with Parkinson’s disease, he was unable to accept the position.
“I was asked to serve, but I’m not able to,” Keane told NPR. “I have some personal issues surrounding the death of my wife recently, and I explained all that to Mr. Trump, and he was very gracious and understanding, and quite supportive.”
Keane also expressed to NPR that while he could not take the position himself, he recommended two other candidates he felt were fit to lead the Defense Department. Trump asked him, “If not you, than who?”
“And I did give him a couple of recommendations,” Keane said. “I won’t hide them. One was General Jim Mattis, and the other is General Dave Petraeus.”
“If, indeed, they are looking for someone who is a military person to be secretary of defense, as – and I think that you know and our audience knows, that is quite an exception,” he continued, “We’ve only done that once before since there’s been an office of the secretary of defense. And that was General, George Marshall, you know, post-World War II.”
“Normally and quite appropriately, I think, we look for someone who is a civilian and not a military person, although they may have served. But they didn’t have a career of service, so to speak. And that is largely driven by the fact that we want a civilian to control the military and the military to respond to a civilian authority, which I have strong feelings about,” Keane added. “But that had nothing to do with, you know, my inability to serve.”
Keane added that the conversation he had with him while being offered the position was the first he had with the President-elect in years, but was impressed by his attitude and passion to learn.
“I really found him quite personable, engaging,” Keane said about Trump. “He asked very good questions on national security. He genuinely wants to learn something in an area he doesn’t – he’s not alone in that. Most president-elects, at this point, you know, really don’t have much background in national security. That certainly was the case for President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton, President Reagan.”
“But he – it comes across very clearly that he wants to do well,” he added.