Tag Archives: Steve Bannon

GOP set to self-inflict a mortal wound?

The buzz around political circles is that Republican Party “insurgents” are set to declare civil war against the party “establishment” in their effort to elect Roy Moore of Alabama to the U.S. Senate.

Good luck with that one, folks.

Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange this week in a GOP primary runoff. Moore now will face Doug Jones in a general election later this year to fill the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions left to become attorney general.

Civil war? Is it really going to happen?

Moore is no friend of the GOP higher-ups. He savaged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while defeating Strange, who by the way did the same thing. Both men sidled up to Donald Trump, who endorsed Strange.

Let the fight begin

Moore is a renegade, to be sure. He thinks gay people should be made criminals. He was twice removed as Alabama Supreme Court chief justice because (a) he installed and refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument on public property and (b) refused to honor a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared that gay marriage is legal in this country.

Now he’s gotten the support of former Trump senior strategist Steve Bannon, who’s back in charge of Breitbart News. Bannon is sounding the bugle to launch the civil war against that GOP establishment.

Bannon is old enough to remember the last time a major political party — the Democrats — engaged in such an internal conflict. It erupted in 1968 and continued through the 1972 presidential election. The Vietnam War divided Democrats. It was Hawks vs. Doves. The fight tore at the nation’s soul, as did the war itself.

Democrats lost the White House in 1968 and then got obliterated in 1972. The major recuperative factor that enabled the Democrats to regain the White House occurred when the Watergate break-in and subsequent presidential cover-up doomed President Nixon. They won the 1976 election, then got clobbered in 1980 and 1984. Oh, and let’s not forget about the primary battle that erupted in 1980 when Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged President Carter.

Civil war … again?

Bring it!

Gen. Kelly leaves giant footprint

Sebastian Gorka has been shown the White House door.

Who is this clown, ‘er , West Wing aide? He is, or was, one of Donald Trump’s anti-globalist whisperers. He’s a Hungarian-born guy who was hired by the president to be an “expert” on terrorism.

It turns out Gorka’s academic and foreign policy credentials aren’t nearly as sparkling as he let on. It also turns out that the guy didn’t actually have any duties. He just sort of … was just there.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, thus, apparently decided he’d darkened the White House door enough. So he kicked Gorka to the curb. Good deal.

Let’s see. Since Kelly took over as chief of staff from Reince Priebus he’s managed to:

Kick communications director Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci out of the White House; usher uber-anti globalist Stephen K. Bannon out of the West Wing; and now it’s Gorka who’s gone.

All that’s left is to finish cleaning the White House of the some of the other radicals who are perched throughout the inner circle; policy adviser/speechwriter Stephen Miller comes to mind immediately.

Gen. Kelly, of course, cannot control the president’s impulses, which run wild every morning when he awakes and grabs his cell phone to start firing off those tweets.

Sebastian Gorka’s departure, though, is a welcome step as the retired Marine Corps general seeks to establish some semblance of sanity within the White House.

Bannon is gone; POTUS remains

Before we all cheer ourselves hoarse over the departure of far-right provocateur Stephen Bannon from the White House, I’d like to offer a not-so-subtle reminder.

Donald John Trump Sr. is still the president of the United States.

Make no mistake: I am delighted to see Bannon shown the door. Chief of staff John Kelly stepped up and did his job with authority and a bit of panache.

However, as we’ve all been reminded so painfully for the entire length of the Trump administration, the president calls the shots; everything happens or doesn’t happen because of the Man in the Oval Office.

Gen. Kelly is able to whip the White House staff into shape. He cannot whip the Big Man into similar shape. He cannot persuade Trump to control his Twitter impulse. He cannot get the president to keep his mouth shut when he meets with reporters, which was astonishingly evident this week in that jaw-dropping press encounter at Trump Tower.

Bannon’s “alt-right” point of view is gone from the White House. Does any of this mean that the West Wing’s newfound professionalism is going to find its way to the Oval Office? Does it mean that the president will start cracking the books and start learning about the executive branch of government over which he now presides? Does it mean he’s going to actually read the U.S. Constitution and come to grips with what it says about how governing is a team sport, with Congress and the courts also playing a role?

You know the likely answer to all of that. It ain’t likely to happen. None of it. We’ll still have an out-of-control president who has managed to alienate himself from damn near every key player on Capitol Hill.

Oh, and remember? This is just Day 211 of Donald J. Trump’s term as president.

Bannon shown the White House door

I am being tangled up by competing impulses with the news that Stephen K. Bannon has been kicked out of the White House.

The senior political strategist for Donald John Trump is out. They’re calling it a “mutual agreement” between Bannon and White House chief of staff John Kelly. That’s clearly code for Kelly kicking Bannon squarely in the a**.

Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart News and a far-right provocateur, had no business serving among the president’s closest circle of advisers. He’s a scary dude. He detests what he calls “globalism.” Breitbart has become infamous for publishing commentary that is decidedly racist and anti-Semitic. For a time, Bannon had a seat at the National Security Council table.

To that end, the president did himself no favors — except with his hard-core base of supporters — by having Bannon sitting nearby and offering advice.

Accordingly, I’m glad he’s gone.

Bye, bye Steve.

I’m not proud of the other impulse, which is a desire to continue to watch the president continue to struggle. The new chief of staff has made a tangible impact on the White House operation. I once stated my desire to see Trump “succeed” because abject failure as president doesn’t bode well for a nation that needs stability within the White House machinery.

Trump’s definition of “success,” though, doesn’t comport with what I would like to see for the nation. I oppose the president’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, his rolling back of U.S. environmental regulations and the decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; those issues have Bannon’s fingerprints on them.

Where this all goes is now anyone’s guess.

Bannon is now free to speak his mind. Inquiring minds are going to press the former chief strategist to reveal what he knows about what’s really going on inside the West Wing.

The drama continues. So does the chaos.

Hoping these Bannon reports are true

Oh, how I hope reports that have surfaced about Stephen Bannon are true, that he’ll be shown the door at the White House, the one leading away from the “real dump” where the president now lives and works.

A Bannon exit actually would verify that White House chief of staff John Kelly is the kick-a** Marine everyone says he is and that he cannot work with someone who (a) holds extreme right-wing views, (b) has the ear of the president of the United States and (c) is wholly unqualified to be the “senior strategist” for Donald John Trump Sr.

I have made no secret of my loathing of Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive whose publication has — and continues to do — published blatantly racist and anti-Semitic commentary on public policy. Bannon is the darling of the “nationalist wing” of the base that continues to cling, albeit in declining numbers, to its support of the president.

Bannon reportedly also has been feuding with another Trump grownup, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who happens to be an active-duty Army lieutenant general; he, too, has been known to kick some back sides in his day.

The president is on vacation in New Jersey. He’ll be returning soon to the place he calls “a real dump.”

The changes that might await him are substantial, thanks to the work of Kelly, the retired Marine general. The potential changes likely won’t erase the immediate past — the “Russia thing” and questions about whether the president sought to obstruct justice in that ongoing FBI and special counsel investigation.

If only Gen. Kelly can control the president’s Twitter fingers. We’ll still have to see how that plays out.

Trump makes sound national security move … finally!

I have been highly critical of Donald J. Trump’s assembling of his national security team.

But then — what do you know? — the president does something that makes eminent sense. He has removed his political hack/senior adviser Steve Bannon from the National Security Council and has elevated two men who should have been seated on the NSC’s principals committee in the first place.

Good call, Mr. President. May it be the first of many.

Bannon had no business serving on the principals committee. He is the former Breitbart News editor. He has the president’s ear on all matters political. His national security experience is next to zero.

Trump also demoted his homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, and elevated Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. They now will be regular attendees of the principal committee.

Oh, there’s more. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has received full authority to set the agendas for meetings of the principals committee.

Someone got hold of the president’s ear and advised him in the strongest language possible of the folly of seeming to politicize the NSC’s principals committee — which is what Bannon’s presence on the committee did.

If there’s any aspect of a president’s duties that demands non-political consideration, it must be matters dealing with national security.

Donald Trump is entitled to have a top-drawer political hand giving him political advice. That adviser doesn’t need to be anywhere near where national security concerns are discussed.

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.

Let’s hope the new security adviser stands test of time

I am more than likely able to stipulate that H.R. McMaster wasn’t privy to any conversations between Donald J. Trump’s campaign and Russian government officials prior to the president taking office.

That is one of many positive aspects of the president’s choice today of McMaster to become the new national security adviser.

McMaster is the second Army lieutenant general to take this post, succeeding retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who Trump dismissed a week ago for a whole host of reasons — some of which are likely to be fodder for ongoing investigations.

McMaster’s appointment is drawing high praise from Republicans interested in national security and defense. At first blush, Gen. McMaster looks like a great choice.

Even Trump critics are pleased. One of them, Sen. John McCain, lavished praise on the president and his national security adviser. “He is a man of genuine intellect, character and ability. I give President Trump great credit for this decision,” said McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, of McMaster.

As with all of Trump’s selections, though, one must ask: Will the president rely on this man’s experience, intelligence and savvy as he presents reports on threats to our national security?

McMaster has been tested in combat, leading a cavalry regiment during the Iraq War. He was a critic of U.S. policy in the Vietnam War. His credentials as a national security expert are unquestioned.

Many of us, though, have questioned whether the president has politicized the National Security Council by placing senior political strategist Steve Bannon on the principals committee.

The national security adviser must have unfettered access to the president and must be able to deliver the truth to the commander in chief when it’s required. My hope is that Gen. McMaster will have the access he needs and my expectation would be that this no-nonsense military man demanded it of the boss before he agreed to serve.

If the president committed full access to the new man, great.

If he keeps his pledge, that’s even better.

National security must be above politics

I cannot help but wonder if it ever has occurred to Donald Trump that the presence of his top political strategist on the National Security Council might deter qualified individuals from seeking the national security adviser’s job.

OK, I know that the president isn’t prone to introspection at any level. But the longer he goes without a national security adviser, the more grave the risk for the United States in the event of an international crisis.

These things have a way of exploding with zero advance warning … you know?

Michael Flynn was dismissed from the post after 24 days on the job, setting some kind of dubious record for brevity. Vice Admiral Bob Harward — a Navy SEAL and a highly regarded military mind — was thought to be ready to become the new national security adviser. Then he backed out!

Now the job remains vacant. Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” of an administration does not have the individual who is closest to the president after the White House chief of staff.

And this brings me to another, related point. Steve Bannon is part of the principals committee on the National Security Council. Bannon has limited experience in national security. Sure, he was a junior officer in the Navy once. He earned his political spurs, though, while running the Breitbart.com website.

He’s a political hand. A hack. Experts in national security issues have bemoaned his presence on the NSC, suggesting that national security should be totally, completely and irrevocably removed from any political maneuvering.

The president needs unvarnished assessment of national security threats without the taint of what a response would mean politically.

Trump elevated Bannon to the NSC and demoted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence, two people who historically have served on the principals committee that meets regularly with the president to assess these national security issues in detail.

What the … fudge?

The president insists his administration is on track. It’s running smoothly, he says. Everything is in order. Everyone is on the same page.

Except that the one individual he needs to provide accurate and detailed analysis of threats to the nation is nowhere to be found. Hey, he’s got Steve Bannon — the hack and purported white supremacist sympathizer — on hand to give the president the advice he’s supposed to digest.

Trump also told us he knows “more than the generals about ISIS.” Well, actually he doesn’t know squat … in my humble view.

I believe I’ll pray each day that we can survive the chaos that has erupted in what was supposed to be a “seamless transition of power” from one president to the next one.