Monday, February 6, 2017

The New NSC, Take 2

I already have written about the decision to elevate Arsonist-in-Chief Steve Bannon to the National Security Council and the placing of the Chairman and Director of National Intel on the to be invited list.  But there is still much confusing, including by Trump, who, of course, didn't read the executive order.  He is lazy, uninquisitive, and reckless.  But we knew that.

What is new?  That the former Chairman, Mike Mullen, is so pissed off that he entered the fray.  TO be clear, he may not be as apolitical as Martin Dempsey, his replacement, but is still legit enough that his entry into this debate is remarkable.  His concern:
Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the Principals Committee [PC] will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be candid, nonpartisan deliberation.  I fear that it will have a chilling effect on deliberations and, potentially, diminish the authority and prerogatives to which the Senate-confirmed cabinet officials are entitled.  They, unlike Mr. Bannon, are accountable for the advice they give and the policies they execute.
 I love a military officer embracing not just civilian control of the military but democratic control--note the whole bit about being accountable to the Senate.  Bannon is different from the other NSC folks in many ways (most are not committed to the destruction of the United States), but the key for Mullen is this: usually, the only person in the room who might be thinking mostly about the domestic politics of big decisions might be the President.  Everybody else's day job is on their institution and on the national interest of the United States.  Bannon's job, besides burning down the US, might be to focus on Trump's domestic political standing. 

What can we do about it?  Not a whole lot.  A friend keeps pushing for lawsuits, but that is misguided.  The PC, as far as I know, is not a statutory body but something a President can form or not.  Even if Bannon was not formally listed as regular member, Trump could invite him to appear all the time.  The real threat of Bannon is that he has got Trump's ear, not that he is part of a decision-making group.  No legislation or court can separate the Trump Whisperer from Trump.  Like impeachment, some external force getting rid of Trump is not going to happen.

The best bet to get rid of Bannon?  The theme of President Bannon.  SNL played it up, twitter is playing it up.  If Trump's thin skin gets scraped by the accusation that he is not really in charge and that Bannon is, he might dump Bannon.  A thin reed?  Maybe, but betting on Trump's narcissism and insecure ego is, alas, a better bet than the limited reach of institutions on a President's decision-making process.

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