WASHINGTON - US President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday night (Dec 1) that he will appoint retired Marine general James Mattis as defence secretary.
He announced the decision at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio - the first of a series of "thank you’’ rallies reminiscent of his aggressive campaign.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defence,” he told his largely blue-collar white working class support base packed into a 17,500-seat arena in Cincinnati.
“He’s our best. They say he’s the closest thing to (World War II-era) general George Patton that we have,” he said, disclosing the nomination ahead of time.
"Okay. So I gave up a little secret. My people over there are probably saying, ‘You weren’t supposed to do that, Mr Trump'."
66-year-old General Mattis, nicknamed 'Mad Dog" for his tough-talking nature, commanded a Marine battalion during the First Gulf War and a Marine division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2010, he was named head of the US Central Command, giving him authority over troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the post-election rally, unusual for a President-elect, Mr Trump also called for the country to come together, saying "we condemn bigotry and prejudice in all of its forms, we denounce all the hatred’’
"We are a very divided nation.. but we are going to bring our country together. We are going to find common ground’’ he told the crowd.
‘’I’m here today for one main reason, to say thank you to Ohio,’’ he said. ‘’History called and the people of this great state answered... and we’re going to make America great again, you watch,’’ Mr Trump said to wild cheers.
‘’We’re saving 1,100 jobs in the Carrier plant... and we will work to make America a better environment for workers and businessmen and we will crack down on all foreign trade abuses that undermine your companies’ ability to compete.’’
Rejecting globalism, Mr Trump said: ‘’We pledge allegiance to one flag, the American flag.
"We are going to compete in a world where it is a two-way road, not a one-way road. The advantage is going to come back to our country. From now on, it’s going to be America first. We’re going to defend the American worker.
"We have the House, we have the Senate, we have the Presidency,’’ he said. "People are constantly telling me and telling you to reduce our expectations. Those people are fools.’’
The election had proved that "the rules no longer apply’’, he said.
"Anything we want is possible. Now is not the time to downsize our dreams but to set our sights higher than ever before... to push for real and profound change.’’
He spoke, with few details however, about an action plan that would create new jobs, reduce taxes and reduce regulations.
‘’What happened today in Indiana, we’re going to do all over the country,’’ he said.
Earlier speaking at a Carrier gas furnace plant where Mr Trump’s personal intervention and promise of tax incentives saved more than 1,000 jobs from being transferred to Mexico, he addressed workers and said "companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. It’s not going to happen’’.
‘’We’re going to be lowering business tax from 35, hopefully down to 15 per cent,’’ he said, adding that regulations would also be slashed to help companies.
‘’Eighty per cent of the supply chain of air conditioning companies is located in Mexico. We’re not going to have that anymore. Nafta (the North American Free Trade Agreement) is a total and compete disaster, it’s a one-lane highway into Mexico.’’
The deal with Carrier is being touted by Republicans as an example of Mr Trump’s hands-on style and an early win for his promise to protect American jobs.
But media reports have pointed out that the deal is largely symbolic: A nearby plant owned by the Carrier parent, United Technologies Electronic Controls which employs 700, has also announced plans to move to Mexico and that plant was not part of the deal.
And across Indiana, there are more factories that are set to move jobs to Mexico or other offshore manufacturing bases.
Company officials have said in a statement that the state of Indiana, where vice-president elect Mike Pence is governor, offered it a US$7 million (S$10 million) package over multiple years, with conditions including job retention and capital investment.
Mr Pence roused the crowd in Cincinnati before Mr Trump appeared, saying: ‘’We will have a president who will suspend immigration from all countries and territories compromised by terror and we will have a commander in chief who will undermine and destroy Islamic state at its source.
‘’Make no mistake about it, Carrier chose to stay in Indiana because American chose to make Donald Trump the next president of the United States’’, and he repeated Mr Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
Roars of "’Build the wall! Build the wall!’’ rose from the crowd.