Tag Archives: NSC

It was the manner of the firing that rankles us, Mr. POTUS

Hey, I absolutely understand that a president of the United States needs to trust those who are closest to him and that the POTUS has the authority to hire and fire staffers at will.

Thus, when Donald John Trump, the nation’s current president, fied Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council staff after Vindman offered negative impeachment testimony to congressional questioners, I get it.

However, the manner of the dismissal and the spectacle that Trump and his senior White House staff made of it is what gets under my skin.

Lt. Col. Vindman is a war hero. He is a decorated Army officer who has shed blood on the battlefield in defense of his adopted country. He is a Ukraine native who came to this country as a toddler when his parents fled the Soviet Union.

How did the president let him go? By ordering him escorted out of the White House in broad daylight. He was shown the door and told, in effect, to “hit the road.” What’s more, so was Vindman’s twin brother, who had not a single thing to do with the Ukraine matter that got Vindman on the wrong side of the president. Yevgeny Vindman’s only “sin” is to be related to twin bro Alex.

Why couldn’t Trump have shown just a touch of discretion, of class, of empathy for a war hero? He could have issued a private directive, told Vindman to vacate his White House office. Then he could have issued a simple statement declaring that he had relieved Vindman of his duties based on, oh, “differences in policy.” Sure, those who had paid any attention to what Vindman said during the House impeachment hearings would know what he means … but that would be for us to determine.

That isn’t how Donald Trump rolls. He wants to make spectacles of others around him, not to mention of himself.

Lt. Col. Vindman is entitled to wear his uniform whenever he wishes

Simply astonishing.

That’s my first reaction to questions raised today during Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

Vindman sat before the panel in his Army dress blue uniform. It then fell to a Republican member of the committee, Chris Stewart of Utah, to ask why he wore what was “not the uniform of the day.”

Vindman works on the National Security Council. He is an active-duty Army officer. He wears a civilian suit to work … usually. He chose to wear his uniform today, I suppose, because he thought it would be proper for him to wear the attire he is entitled to wear as a commissioned officer.

I want to mention this because other NSC officials have testified before Congress in their military uniform. One is most notable, as Roll Call notes: Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, who sat before Congress during his testimony into the Iran-Contra matter of 1987. Did anyone raise a ruckus then? I do not recall it.

Moreover, other active-duty officers have worn their uniforms while at work in the federal government. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the former national security adviser to Donald Trump, being one of them.

Vindman  was in Congress today to testify about what he heard during that infamous phone call with Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that has prompted the impeachment inquiry against the president. He said some important things today and made some important assertions.

So, let’s not get sidetracked by something as ridiculous as whether an Army field-grade officer is entitled to wear his dress uniform.

Of course he is!

Did ‘Libya model’ remark endanger summit?

If the planned summit between Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un doesn’t occur as scheduled, perhaps the president can take the opportunity to escort John Bolton to the proverbial woodshed.

The president needs to talk sternly to the national security adviser.

Kim has suggested the meeting might not occur as planned. Trump said there’s a “substantial” chance it would be delayed.

Why? Well, Bolton popped off the other saying something about applying the “Libya model” to dealing with North Korea. What is that model, by the way? Well, the United States sought “regime change” in Libya; Libyans rioted and rebelled; they captured dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Then they took the fallen despot somewhere — and then killed him. Dead! He’s a goner for keeps!

That’s the “Libya model” as espoused by the national security adviser? Trump, though, was quick to distance himself from that unfortunate example, which he did in Bolton’s presence while speaking to reporters in the White House.

No doubt Kim heard what Bolton said. He gets the implication that Bolton’s message conveyed. I mean, Trump did once refer to Kim as a “smart cookie,” isn’t that right?

There are other complications coming into play. Kim’s view of “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula well might differ from what Trump and the South Koreans want.

Thus, the summit might be in some immediate and hopefully temporary jeopardy.

Back to Bolton.

Trump has hired a serious hot head to be his national security adviser. Bolton is unafraid to recommend a war footing. Trump has entrusted this champion of regime change with the role of providing crucial national security advice to the commander in chief.

I just implore Bolton to lay off the “Libya model” rhetoric.

‘Mad Dog’ can’t work with Bolton? Who knew?

Imagine my non-surprise to hear this tidbit on a drizzly Texas Panhandle day. It is that Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis told associates he isn’t sure he can work with John Bolton were he to be named national security adviser to the Donald J. Trump administration.

Who knew? Yes?

You see, Mattis is a grownup. He’s a retired Marine Corps general with combat experience. He knows war. He’s seen it up close. He’s been to hell and lived to talk about it … were he so inclined.

Bolton is more of a “chicken hawk.” He doesn’t have the kind of real-world experience that Mattis has piled up. Yet he stands ready to recommend war at almost any turn. The Hill reports that White House chief of staff John Kelly, another retired Marine general, also is unhappy with Bolton’s selection as national security adviser.

Well, now the president has appointed Bolton to be the national security adviser. The decision appears to have isolated Mattis, who had a kindred spirit in the national security adviser’s chair for about a year. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is stepping down as national security adviser and reportedly is retiring from the Army.

He and Mattis double-teamed as a reasonable tandem of advisers who were willing to advise Trump against acting rashly — even though they weren’t always able to persuade the president to follow their advice.

Gen. McMaster is now gone. Is “Mad Dog” Mattis the next grownup to be shown the door?

Chaos is king in the Trump White House.

Get ready for Mattis vs. Bolton

Donald Trump’s national security team just cannot get its legs under it. It cannot function as a cohesive team that imparts advice to a president who is willing to (a) listen to it and (b) follow it.

With that we now have a new national security adviser, uber-super hawk John Bolton who quite likely will clash openly with Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

I’m going to pull for Mad Dog to win this fight, although Bolton now is the man of the hour, the guy who’s got the president’s ear.

Heaven help us if Bolton’s world view carries the day in the West Wing of the White House.

Bolton is known around the world as one with an itchy trigger finger. He favors pre-emptive military action against North Korea. Indeed, he has favored “putting boots on the ground” in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan … you name it, Bolton wants to flex U.S. military muscle.

He despises the nuclear arms deal worked out by the Obama administration that seeks to de-nuclearize Iran.

There’s Bolton’s profile in brief.

How about Mattis? He favors the Iran nuclear deal. He believes it is working and is worth retaining. And North Korea? Well, the retired Marine Corps general, a decorated combat veteran to boot, believes diplomacy should remain as Option No. 1 in our efforts to talk the reclusive Marxist regime out of striking at South Korea, or Japan — or the United States of America!

Mattis’s world view is forged by a career that has seen him serve up close in harm’s way. Bolton’s world view comes from a different perspective. He doesn’t have the kind of front-line military experience that Mattis does; Bolton served six years in the Maryland Army National Guard.

I want to bring this to your attention only to suggest that there might be yet another ideological storm brewing within the Trump White House.

As I have noted before, “Mad Dog” Mattis is one of the few grownups who have signed on to serve this president.

I do not believe John Bolton falls into that category of public servant.

Let’s see how this guy works out

Of all the things Donald J. Trump said while campaigning for the presidency in 2016, one of the few statements he made with which I agree dealt with the Iraq War.

He called it a “total disaster.” Which it turned out to be … on so many levels.

So, who does the president hire as his next national security adviser? John Bolton, an Iraq War advocate, a premier uber-hawk and a guy known for a fiery world view that seems to require that America embark on nation-building whenever it sees fit.

Trump shoved H.R. McMaster out the door this week after press secretary Sarah Hucakbee Sanders assured us that all is well between the president and the national security adviser.

It turns out it wasn’t. McMaster actually was one of the grownups within the Trump inner circle. He is a U.S. Army lieutenant general, a battle-tested scholar. He also disagreed with Trump on a number of key issues: Russia, the Iran nuclear deal come to mind.

Now the president has brought on board a guy who agrees with him on the Iran nuke deal. He’s extremely hawkish on North Korea, too, meaning that he just might counsel the president to go to war with Kim Jong Un if an opportunity presents itself.

Gosh, I feel decidedly less comfortable knowing that John Bolton is returning to the federal government.

Bolton did say that he knows his role, that the president sets policy. His new duties will be to provide advice and counsel on national security matters.

Throughout all of this chaos, though, is the pattern already established that Trump hardly takes a moment to listen to anyone. I am left to wonder: Is the president going to heed the reckless advice that John Bolton is capable of delivering?

Oh, my. I am gnashing my teeth.

What? A new national security adviser, too?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is gone. Fired! Canned! Kaput!

Now it’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster, the active-duty Army lieutenant general, who’s reportedly out. He, too, will be booted, according to multiple media reports.

In the span of one week — that’s just seven days — Donald Trump reportedly has dismantled two key components of his national security/foreign policy team.

Oh, and the timing of all this madness? Yep, the president is supposedly prepping for a summit with “Little Rocket Man,” the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

McMaster is the second national security adviser to work for Trump in the past 14 months. The first one, Michael Flynn, lasted all of 24 days before he got the boot.

And through all of this, Donald Trump would have us believe that all is well, all is good, all is working just as it is supposed to work within the White House.

I, um, think not.

Chaos is king in the West Wing.

The ‘moron’ now becomes the ‘dope’

One man’s “moron” is another man’s “dope.”

Is that how it goes these days inside the White House, the center of power of the United States, the place where the Leader of the Free World practices his statecraft?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson famously called Donald J. Trump a “bleeping moron.” When asked whether he said such a thing, Tillerson didn’t come close to denying it, saying only that he wouldn’t engage in “petty” discussions.

Now comes national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who reportedly called the president an “idiot” and a “dope” and someone with the attention span and intelligence of a kindergartner.

I’m feeling the burn, which more than likely is being lost on the target of the epithet.

The White House, to no one’s surprise, denies McMaster — a U.S. Army lieutenant general and an expert on terrorism — said such a thing.

What does one think about all of this?

I get no satisfaction hearing about this level of disparagement coming from top hands within a presidential administration. I consider it virtually unheard of at this level of government.

I know what I’ve said about the president, how I don’t believe he is suited temperamentally to hold the office to which he was elected. He has uttered some remarkably intemperate, inarticulate and indelicate statements since entering political life in June 2015.

Trump’s knowledge of any sort of intimate details of anything remains suspect to anyone who’s watched this man operate.

Finally, I am left to wonder if anyone should be surprised that Lt. Gen. McMaster — an acknowledged expert on national security — would say the president lacks the understanding of the complexities these issues present.

I’m now waiting for McMaster himself to deny saying it.

Firing Comey a big mistake? Yeah … do ya think?

I didn’t expect to agree with Stephen K. Bannon on anything.

But you know what? The former chief strategist for Donald John Trump Sr. said something on “60 Minutes” that makes me rethink that notion.

He said the president’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is the “biggest political mistake in recent political history.”

I believe Bannon is on to something.

Trump canned Comey because of the “Russia thing.” He said initially the Russia probe wasn’t a factor; Vice President Mike Pence said the same thing. Then the president blabbed to NBC News anchor Lester Holt that, yep, Russia was the reason.

Then came Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was hired by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to become special counsel. Mueller is off and running; he has hired a crack team of legal eagles; the “Russia thing” is getting pretty damn serious.

Mueller is examining whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian computer hackers who sought to meddle in our electoral process in 2016. He is going full bore, as he should. Had the president not fired Comey, Bannon said, there would be no Mueller, no special counsel, no need for concern among Trumpkins that Mueller has smelled blood in the political water.

Bannon is a tremendously objectionable character. He is back where he came from, as editor in chief of Breitbart News. Bannon had no business in the West Wing. His political experience is just a shade greater than Donald Trump, who had none before he entered the 2016 presidential campaign. Bannon is a right-wing provocateur and political hack who once sat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council. Then the president wised up and removed him.

However, Bannon is likely quite correct about what Trump may have done to his presidency by kicking Comey out the door and ushering in the Age of Mueller.

And isn’t it fascinating that someone who professes such admiration for Donald Trump might have given the special counsel — Mueller — an even more inviting target by talking about potentially grievous political consequences the president has delivered to himself?

Bannon got the boot, but he’s still around

I am going to admit something that critics of this blog will applaud: I am wrong far more than I am right.

So, when I am right — or when my suspicion turns out to be correct — I feel a need to call attention to it.

Stephen K. Bannon got the boot recently as one of Donald Trump’s key White House advisers. Chief of staff John Kelly showed Bannon the door. My suspicion was that Bannon wouldn’t disappear entirely, that he’d remain a factor in the president’s policymaking.

Dammit anyway! Bannon appears to be hanging around.

Here is what I posted on Aug. 20:

Bannon’s gone, but is he … really?

Bannon returned to his roots, as editor of the far-right-wing publication Breitbart News. He reportedly chats with the president, according to sources in the White House, when John Kelly isn’t around. Think about that for a moment. Does that sound like the action of a junior high schooler who steals a cigarette from Dad when the old man is looking the other way?

The bigger issue, though, is that Bannon’s ultra-right-wing world view — his anti-globalism, uber nationalistic, allegedly racist ideology — will continue to help inform whatever passes for policy from the president.

Bannon is a scary dude. He didn’t belong on the National Security Council. Trump eventually removed him from that post. He didn’t belong anywhere near the Oval Office, but there he was, sitting next to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who also has no business being near the center of power.

So he gets shown the door out the back of the West Wing. He now vows to be Trump’s “wing man,” that he’ll work to keep the GOP based fired up and putting pressure on the president to do their bidding.

Bannon is no longer employed by the White House. If only he was actually gone.