Sen. John McCain calls Gen. Mattis one of the 'finest military officers of his generation'

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) just released a glowing endorsement of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense Secretary.

In a statement released Monday, McCain called the 66-year-old retired four-star general “one of the finest military officers of his generation” who, he hopes, “has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Related: When Gen. James Mattis talks, we listen — and so should you

The senator knows Mattis quite well, since he serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. While he was in charge of Central Command and leading troops in Iraq, Mattis testified to that committee regularly.

General James Mattis

General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

“I am pleased that the President-elect found General Jim Mattis as impressive as I have in the many years I have had the privilege of knowing him. General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops. He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable. And he has earned his knowledge and experience the old-fashioned way: in the crucible of our nation’s defense and the service of heroes,” McCain wrote in his statement.

“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and our national security. I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Mattis is seen as a top contender for the position at the Pentagon. He met with President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday to discuss whether he might be interested in coming out of retirement to oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.

Afterward, Trump praised Mattis on Twitter as “a true General’s General” who was “very impressive.”

If he were tapped to be defense secretary, Mattis would need a waiver from Congress to take the position, since it requires a military officer to have been off active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired in 2013.

Mattis currently splits his time between Stanford and Dartmouth as a distinguished fellow, conducting research and giving lectures on leadership and strategy.

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