Tag Archives: Joint Chiefs of Staff

Too many generals around Trump? Maybe, but then again …

A former Joint Chiefs chairman says he is concerned that Donald J. Trump has surrounded himself with too many generals.

Retired Navy Admiral Mike Mullen — who served as Joint Chiefs chairman under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama — said that Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly, two former U.S. Marine Corps generals, lack “political experience.” The same can be said, according to Mullen, about former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who is an active-duty U.S. Army lieutenant general.

“Jim Mattis, and John Kelly and H.R. McMaster are not politicians, but they’re operating in this political world inside the White House,” Mullen said. “It is a tough, difficult, political environment.”

OK, I get Mullen’s concern.

I’m not sure he needs to be overly concerned. I look at the generals’ presence a little differently. These men all have combat experience, which means they understand the consequences of war. It’s been said that warriors quite often are the last individuals who want to go to war. They know too well the grief and misery it brings.

Admiral Mullen perhaps ought to be more concerned that the commander in chief is reluctant to listen the best advice he gets from those “best people” with whom he pledged to bring aboard his administrative team.

What kind of game is this, Mr. POTUS?

There he was, flanked on both sides by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a cadre of senior military officers and spouses, not to mention his own wife, the first lady of the United States.

So, what does Donald John Trump do? He tosses out a cryptic message about “the calm before the storm,” hinting that there might be possibly, maybe, perhaps something about to happen. A “storm” might be brewing.

But … where? What kind of storm? A military one? A political one?

A reporter asked the president what he meant. His answer? You’ll find out.

Huh? Eh? What the … ?

What is this clown doing? Why does he say these things? Why does he flap his yap so gratuitously, leaving the nation guessing on what he means, what he’s saying and wondering whether we’re about to go to war?

Is this what all those Trumpkins of this nation mean by “telling it like it is?” If so, then I’m left to wonder what the “it” means.

Weird, man. Weird.

But, Secretary Perry, are transgender warriors less brave?

Rick Perry says he is in total support of Donald John Trump’s decision to bar transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces.

Of course he is. He’s part of the Trump team now. The president forgave Perry for labeling Trump a “cancer on conservativism.” His reward was to appoint him secretary of energy.

Perry, though, weighed in on the president’s tweet that became a major policy reversal. Trump declared: “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow … transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

The president, though, didn’t talk to all of the generals. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford declared that all personnel would be treated with “respect,” and that no policy changes would be enacted until the order came from the defense secretary. It’s that thing called “chain of command” that has given Gen. Dunford pause.

As for Perry’s support of Trump’s decision, he said the government shouldn’t have to pay for surgeries in which personnel change their sexual identity. Reporters reminded him that studies showed the cost of such procedures amounts to about 10 percent of the money the government pays to provide medicine that cures erectile dysfunction.

Perry’s response? “I don’t check out the cost of Viagra.” Yuk, yuk …

Neither the president or his energy secretary, though, have yet to produce any evidence that transgender military personnel are less capable than any other of their comrades in arms. Nor have they have provided proof that they are less patriotic, less loyal or that they don’t love their country as much as anyone.

The president has used Twitter to make a policy pronouncement without considering for a moment what it means. I would have expected better from the secretary of energy — himself an Air Force veteran — if not the know-nothing commander in chief.

Policy by tweet: no way to run a government

Donald John Trump has compiled an endless list of broken campaign promises. I’ll take a glance briefly at just one of them.

He vowed to become more “presidential” once he took the oath of office. He hasn’t done so. He’s become even less presidential.

Consider his latest blockbuster tweet in which he declared that transgender service personnel no longer could serve their country. He is governing by Twitter. The tweet caught the Joint Chiefs of Staff, congressional committee leaders, the Department of Defense and military field commanders all by surprise.

The president fired off the tweet and then — bang! — ignited a firestorm.

This idiotic tweet has provided yet another glaring, glowing and ghastly example of how the commander in chief is not fit for the position he occupies.

Senate and House committee leaders have expressed dismay that the president would govern via this social medium.

Oh, and then we had Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford declare that no change would take place for now regarding transgender personnel until he gets some specific direction from Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Until then, Gen. Dunford said, all personnel will be “treated with respect.”

The president, who never wore the nation’s uniform, has disrespected a handful of patriotic Americans simply because they have sought to change their sexual identity.


As a brief aside, I’m now awaiting a comment from my congressman, Mac Thornberry, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. His Senate colleague, John McCain, already has spoken about the president’s latest Twitter tempest and the idiocy associated with the president’s insistence on using Twitter to make sweeping policy pronouncements.

Where are you on all this, Mac?

Hey, what about Bannon and the NSC?

It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the stories that pass through the light of intense publicity only to disappear into the darkness … as it relates to Donald John Trump’s administration.

Remember the story about Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart.com executive, alleged white nationalist, political adviser becoming a member of the principals committee on the National Security Council?

Bannon is still on the NSC. He’s still getting the regular briefings, sitting in a chair that should be filled by the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and the director of national intelligence. Trump demoted those two military and intelligence leaders in favor of partisan political animals such as Bannon.

He’s a political hack who serves on one of the most ostensibly non-political bodies in our massive federal government.

Why is this guy still there? Why is the new national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster sitting or standing still for this travesty?

Bannon doesn’t belong on the principals committee. He now serves as chief political adviser for the president. He fulfills an entirely different role, vastly separate from anything that the National Security Council does. The NSC’s role is to provide the president with keen, sharp and non-political analysis of national security threats. The national security adviser essentially is the chief administrative official of the NSC. From all that I’ve read and heard about Lt. Gen. McMaster, he appears to be a scholar with a superb military mind.

Bannon status as political hack in chief ought to disqualify him from such his posting as a member of the principals committee.

Yet this story stays hidden in the background.

What kind of advice does Bannon give the president when, say, a Middle East nation moves on another one? What kind of advice does he offer when North Korea lobs a missile into Seoul, South Korea? Or when Hamas starts firing ordnance from Gaza into neighborhoods in southern Israel?

Bannon offers no national security credibility. There he is, though. He’s perched among the other “principals” offering advice to the president of the United States.

This guy frightens the crap out of me.

McMaster: right man for national security adviser

Some of us thought Michael Flynn was a bad choice for national security adviser from the get-go.

He had called Islam a “cancer” and that Americans’ fear of Muslims was justified. Then the retired Army lieutenant general reportedly lied to the vice president about the nature of some talks he had with Russian government agents during the 2016 presidential campaign.

If you’ll forgive the chest-thumping, here’s what I wrote in early December.


He got the boot from the president.

Now we have another Army three-star, H.R. McMaster, coming in to be the national security adviser. He’s a renowned military scholar and deep thinker who says, among other things, that Russia is a pre-eminent threat and that our war against terror shouldn’t morph into a war against Islam.

I feel significantly better about this guy than I did about his immediate predecessor.

I believe Donald Trump has chosen well in filling this highly critical staff post.

Even critics of the president, such as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, speak highly of McMaster. Indeed, McCain speaks well of the president’s national security team. McCain added that he “could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now.”

The question I will continue to have is whether the new national security adviser will be able to provide unfettered, unfiltered and unambiguous advice to Trump — without the influence of senior political strategist Steve Bannon, who Trump has installed as a member of the National Security Council principals committee.

A lot of sharp military minds believe Bannon’s role on that panel is a huge mistake. One of them, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, said the NSC’s principals committee must be absolutely clear of politics; Bannon’s presence there, Mullen said, politicizes it egregiously.

McMaster reportedly received assurances from the president that he’ll be able to hire the staff he wants and will be allowed to proceed in the manner in which the adviser must proceed. He will have full and complete access to the president and will be able to give him the assessment he needs about national security threats.

The Flynn story is far from over.

However, the national security team now appears to have added a valuable new member to help protect Americans against our nation’s enemies.

Mullen is right about Bannon: He doesn’t belong on NSC

Michael Mullen knows a thing or three about national security.

He’s a retired Navy admiral who served as Joint Chiefs chairman under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Mullen also believes that Donald Trump’s chief political adviser — Steve Bannon — should not be on the principals committee of the National Security Council.

My reaction? No-o-o-o-o!

Mullen has written his feelings in an op-ed published by the New York Times.

Mullen made his point clear. Bannon is a political hand. He is not a national security expert. Indeed, Trump demoted the current Joint Chiefs chair and the director of national intelligence to make room for the former Brietbart.com editor, and a guy believed to harbor dangerous views about white supremacy.

“Every president has the right and the responsibility to shape the security council as he sees fit,” Mullen added. “But partisan politics has no place at that table. And neither does Mr. Bannon.”

The NSC is a place where experts share their knowledge about imminent national security threats and make recommendations to the president on how to deal with them.

What in the world does Bannon bring to that discussion? Nothing, as far as I can tell.

Steve Bannon … national security expert? C’mon!

I’m still trying to catch my breath over the news of how Donald J. Trump has revamped his — I mean our — National Security Council.

He has rolled back the emphasis of two key players: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.

These two individuals no longer will take part in what is called the “principals committee,” the panel that meets regularly with the president to assess national security threats and to deliver critical advice on how to handle those threats.

Who, though, is going to sit in? Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart.com — the right-wing website that has for some time spewed white nationalist rhetoric.

Steve “Bleeping” Bannon! This guy has taken a job as senior adviser to the president. He became the chairman of the campaign that resulted in Trump’s election.

His national security chops? His expertise on how to fight the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram? What knowledge does this guy bring to developing a strategy to rein in Kim Jong Un, or the ayatollahs who run Iran?

As near as I can tell, Bannon is unqualified to sit on the principals committee. He is no more suited to have access to the nation’s top security secrets than, oh, I am.

I keep wondering whether Bannon is going to advise the president in purely political terms about national security strategy. Aren’t these issues above and beyond partisan political concerns?

Trump’s unconventional presidency keeps taking strange and bizarre turns. The very idea that he would kick the Joint Chiefs chairman and the DNI to the curb — to make room for the likes of a political hack — is, as former national security adviser Susan Rice described it, “stone cold crazy.”

President demotes Joint Chiefs chairman … elevates Bannon

“I know more about ISIS than the generals. Believe me.”

Donald J. Trump on the 2016 presidential campaign trail

The president must actually believe what he said while campaigning for the office way back when.

How else does one explain his decision to scale back the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — his top military officer — while elevating the role of senior policy adviser Steve Bannon on the National Security Council?

This is yet another mind-boggling, head-scratching move from the president as he settles into the only public service job he’s ever sought, let alone occupied.

The NSC is the panel of experts on which the president relies to give him all the details on national security threats. The Islamic State, along with the myriad other foes around the world, comprise a potential and potent threat to our security.

What’s more, the director of national intelligence also has seen his role diminished under the Trump administration’s new way of doing things.

You might be wondering — as I have been wondering — what kind of unique expertise does Bannon bring to the discussion? Well, he served in the Navy once. That must count for something.

He earned his political spurs, though, while running the right-wing website Breitbart.com — the organization that has spewed some white nationalist rhetoric.

The NSC comprises something called the “Principals Committee.” It will include the following individuals, according to CNN:

“Regular members of the Principals Committee will include the secretary of state, the treasury secretary, the defense secretary, the attorney general, the secretary of Homeland Security, the assistant to the President and chief of staff, the assistant to the President and chief strategist, the national security adviser and the Homeland Security adviser.”

Sen. John McCain calls the Joint Chiefs chairman the individual who is supposedly “indispensable” to the president on these national security issues.

Yes, one would think. Not the president.

Then you have Susan Rice, national security adviser during the Obama administration, who calls Trump’s decision “stone cold crazy.”

Oh, brother!

POTUS pays glowing tribute to those ‘who do the work’

Barack Obama said it as well as it can possibly be said.

The president bid farewell this week to the men and women who serve and protect us. They wear the uniform of the “greatest military in the history of the world,” he said.

The president reminded them — and the rest of the nation — that he is the “front man.” As commander in chief of that awesome military establishment, he gets his share of the credit for the successes achieved in defense of the nation.

“You do the work,” he told the men and women who he served as commander in chief.

Americans heard a lot of rhetoric during the recent presidential campaign about a military establishment in decline. They heard from the president-elect, who declared he knows “more about ISIS than the general.” Americans were subjected to put-downs and insults of our military forces who fight every day against international terrorists.

That kind of characterization does them a profound disservice.

I was glad to hear the commander in chief say the things he said to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, to Vice President Joe Biden, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the service secretaries and to the warriors who take essentially the same oath taken by the president himself.

President Obama also stated correctly that the young Americans who answer the call to put themselves in harm’s way “are among the greatest generations.”

Let us never forget what they do.

Thank you as well, Mr. President, for your service to the country.