Get used to it. Many if not most Cabinet officials in the Trump administration will sound more impressive, saner and more eloquent than their boss. Sworn in Friday after a 98-to-1 confirmation vote, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis released a message to his department, which read in part:

It’s good to be back and I’m grateful to serve alongside you as Secretary of Defense.
Together with the Intelligence Community we are the sentinels and guardians of our nation. We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.
Every action we take will be designed to ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future. Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances. Further, we are devoted to gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, thereby earning the trust of Congress and the American people.

Mattis packed a lot into a short missive. First, he is one of them, he reminds them. Unlike President Trump who calls U.S. generals “my generals,” Mattis knows that the generals, admirals and their subordinates are America’s armed forces. Second, he linked arms very overtly with the intelligence community the president repeatedly denigrated. If Mattis is arguably the most respected and admired Cabinet member, he will use his stature to protect intelligence officials under siege. Third, unlike Trump, Mattis believes in the fundamental goodness of our people. They do not want to take what they can grab but rather want to serve “the common good.” Fourth, he rejected the idea that the country should look inward and tell the world it is on its own. He believes in “an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.” Such language and concepts are alien to Trump. Fifth, Mattis rejects Trump’s anti-alliance mentality and threats to undermine NATO. “Recognizing that no nation is secure without friends, we will work with the State Department to strengthen our alliances,” Mattis said. Does Trump understand we need allies and they benefit us? If so, he should say so now and then. Finally, Mattis understands that trust is earned, in his case by a commitment not to waste taxpayer money as he is rebuilding the military.

If you find it hard to understand how that man can serve under this president, you are not alone. We would suggest that Mattis serves his troops and the country. Trump was merely the hiring manager. Mattis has served under lots of presidents; they come and go. The troops, the country, our allies and the cause of freedom dwarf a single president. How Mattis will work with a president as deliberately ignorant as Trump remains to be seen. If he can get Trump to think more like Mattis, he’ll have earned the eternal gratitude of his country — and pulled off a minor miracle.