Informed readers will recall that Karl Rove aka “turdblossom” was known as Bush’s Brain. Rove is credited with making “W” president. He has also been credited as the unidentified White House aide in Ron Suskind’s report in The New York Times Magazine, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” quoted as saying:
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Now we have Stephen K. Bannon, a white nationalist racist who ran the alt-right web site Breitbart and the Trump campaign, who is now Trump’s chief political strategist in the White House. It is fair to characterize Bannon as “Trump’s Brain.”
Bannon is no doubt the original source for Trump’s “alternative facts,” something his web site has specializes in for years. This past week Bannon attempted to silence the critical media with a threat that the Media Should ‘Keep Its Mouth Shut’:
Chief White House strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, ratcheted up the attacks, arguing that news organizations had been “humiliated” by the election outcome and repeatedly describing the media as “the opposition party” of the current administration.
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview on Wednesday.
“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
But Bannon may be more than just “Trump’s Brain.” It is becoming increasingly evident that he is the “power behind the throne” so to speak, a “shadow president” who is pulling the strings of his puppet. And that should deeply concern all Americans. Bannon Is Given Security Role Usually Held for Generals:
The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump’s presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production.
It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to “American carnage” in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his “shut up” message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon’s team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the “enemy,” fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump’s less than flawless debut.
But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the “principals committee” of the National Security Council — while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.
In theory, the move put Mr. Bannon, a former Navy surface warfare officer, admiral’s aide, investment banker, Hollywood producer and Breitbart News firebrand, on the same level as his friend, Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, a former Pentagon intelligence chief who was Mr. Trump’s top adviser on national security issues before a series of missteps reduced his influence.
But in terms of real influence, Mr. Bannon looms above almost everyone except the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Trumpian pecking order, according to interviews with two dozen Trump insiders and current and former national security officials. The move involving Mr. Bannon, as well as the boost in status to the White House homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, and Mr. Trump’s relationships with cabinet appointees like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have essentially layered over Mr. Flynn.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Bannon — whose Breitbart website was a magnet for white nationalists, antiglobalists and conspiracy theorists — always planned to participate in national security. Mr. Flynn welcomed his participation, Mr. Spicer said, but the general “led the reorganization of the N.S.C.” in order to streamline an antiquated and bloated bureaucracy.
Former White House officials in both parties were shocked by the move.
“The last place you want to put somebody who worries about politics is in a room where they’re talking about national security,” said Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and C.I.A. director in two Democratic administrations.
“I’ve never seen that happen, and it shouldn’t happen. It’s not like he has broad experience in foreign policy and national security issues. He doesn’t. His primary role is to control or guide the president’s conscience based on his campaign promises. That’s not what the National Security Council is supposed to be about.”
That opinion was shared by President George W. Bush’s last chief of staff, Josh Bolten, who barred Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political adviser, from N.S.C. meetings. A president’s decisions made with those advisers, he told a conference audience in September, “involve life and death for the people in uniform” and should “not be tainted by any political decisions.”
Susan E. Rice, President Barack Obama’s last national security adviser, called the arrangement “stone cold crazy” in a tweet posted Sunday.
Trump is defending his move. Trump Administration Defends Bannon’s Role on Security Council:
The Trump administration defended on Sunday a reorganization of the National Security Council that elevates the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon — a political adviser with no direct national security role — to full membership and downgrades the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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[T]he ascension of Mr. Bannon, who until last year was the head of Breitbart News, and the diminishment of the president’s top intelligence and military advisers took Democrats and Republicans by surprise.
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Current and former military officials said they suspected that the decision, in part, was prompted by the national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who retired as a three-star general after he was dismissed during the Obama administration as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. It was the previous director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, who delivered the news to Mr. Flynn that he was being removed from his post.
Throughout the transition, Mr. Flynn was reportedly hesitant to place many people around the National Security Council table who had outranked him in the military. Nonetheless, there are two in the cabinet: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who retired as a four-star general, and the secretary of homeland security, John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine Corps general who served for 45 years, ending his military career as the commander of United States Southern Command.
Both men remain principals on the council.
David Rothkopf, chief executive and editor of the FP Group, which publishes Foreign Policy magazine, writes at the Washington Post, The danger of Steve Bannon on the National Security Council:
While demonstrators poured into airports to protest the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies, another presidential memorandum signed this weekend may have even more lasting, wide-ranging and dangerous consequences. The document sounds like a simple bureaucratic shuffle, outlining the shape the National Security Council will take under President Trump. Instead, it is deeply worrisome.
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The problem lies in the changes that he made.
First, he essentially demoted the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the highest-ranking intelligence officer in the United States, the director of national intelligence. In previous administrations, those positions or their equivalent (before the creation of the director of national intelligence, the CIA director occupied that role) held permanent positions on the NSC.
Now, those key officials will be invited only when their specific expertise is seen to be required. Hard as it is to imagine any situation in which their views would not add value, this demotion is even harder to countenance given the threats the United States currently faces and the frayed state of the president’s relations with the intelligence community. A president who has no national security experience and can use all the advice he can get has decided to limit the input he receives from two of the most important advisers any president could have.
The president compounded this error of structure with an error of judgment that should send shivers down the spine of every American and our allies worldwide. Even as he pushed away professional security advice, Trump decided to make his top political advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, a permanent member of the NSC. Although the White House chief of staff is typically a participant in NSC deliberations, I do not know of another situation in which a political adviser has been a formal permanent member of the council.
Further, Bannon is the precisely wrong person for this wrong role. His national security experience consists of a graduate degree and seven years in the Navy. More troubling, Bannon’s role as chairman of Breitbart.com, with its racist, misogynist and Islamophobic perspectives, and his avowed desire to blow up our system of government, suggests this is someone who not only has no business being a permanent member of the most powerful consultative body in the world — he has no business being in a position of responsibility in any government.
Worse still, it is a sign of other problems to come. Organizing the NSC this way does not reflect well on national security advisor Michael Flynn — whether the bad decision is a result of his lack of understanding of what the NSC should do or because he is giving in to pressure from his boss.
Moreover, elevating Bannon is a sign that there will be more than one senior official in Trump’s inner circle with top-level national security responsibility, an arrangement nearly certain to create confusion going forward.
Indeed, rumors are already circulating that Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner are the go-to people on national security issues for the administration, again despite the lack of experience, temperament or institutional support for either. Kushner has been given key roles on Israel, Mexico and China already. History suggests all this will not end well, with rivalries emerging with State, Defense, the Trade Representative and other agencies.
Combine all this with the president’s own shoot-from-the-lip impulses, his flair for improvisation and his well-known thin skin. You end up with a bad NSC structure being compromised by a kitchen cabinet-type superstructure and the whole thing likely being made even more dysfunctional by a president who, according to multiple reports, does not welcome advice in the first place — especially when it contradicts his own views.
The executive order on immigration and refugees was un-American, counterproductive and possibly illegal. The restructuring of the NSC, and the way in which this White House is threatening to operate outside the formal NSC structure, all but guarantees that it will not be the last bad decision to emerge from the Trump administration.
We are entering dangerous times ahead for U.S. national security.