Why former Defense Secretary Ash Carter wouldn't work for Trump

Why Ash Carter wouldn't work for Trump

While he previously swore he would stay outside of politics, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter says he wouldn't work for President Trump. Carter describes the commander-in-chief and his administration in his new book "inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon" as "offensive, racist and divisive."

"It's not politics, it's personal conduct," Carter said on "CBS This Morning" on Monday.  Carter explained that he used to tell officers and soldiers in the military that they "needed to behave themselves" and would have fired an officer for acting as the president has.

"It's not just the president, it's the kind of behavior and personal conduct that you see everywhere in Washington today is not the kind of thing we tolerated in the military. I fired people for doing that and subordinates fired people for doing even less," Carter said. 

Carter, who first began working for the Department of Defense in 1981, said he would not work under Mr. Trump if asked because he "wouldn't know how to help him." The Obama-era Defense chief said Mr. Trump appears to not take the advice of his Cabinet secretaries. That lack of concern for expert opinion is exactly what led Carter's successor, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, to step down from the post in December, who cited vast differences in viewpoints with Mr. Trump as a sticking point. 

"Your first duty as a Cabinet secretary is to serve the president, to help him...I couldn't take a job knowing that what I know and what I brought to the job, I wouldn't be able to apply to helping him," he said. 

Meanwhile, Carter said the most urgent threats posed to the United States include China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and general terrorism. 

"The future is more concerning to me, it's a competitive world," he said. "All five of those are potential opponents are focused on us and we have to deal with all five of them and its a fast-moving world in technology, and so we need to make sure we stay competitive, because being the best, which we are, isn't a birthright, you got to keep earning it."

He noted, however, that he was "confident in our plans and capabilities with respect to all five of those today."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital