President Donald Trump has reorganized the National Security Council—elevating his chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, and demoting the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Bannon will join the NSC’s principals committee, the top inter-agency group advising the president on national security.
Meanwhile, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will now attend meetings only when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed,” according to the presidential memorandum issued Saturday.
Political strategists have never before participated in National Security Council principals meetings, because the NSC is supposed to give presidents nonpartisan, factual advice.
But forget facts. Forget analysis. This is the Trump administration.
And what does Bannon have to bring to the table?
In case you forgot, before joining Trump’s inner circle Bannon headed Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet that has promoted conspiracy theories and is a platform for the alt-right movement, which espouses white nationalism.
This is truly scary.
Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice calls the move “stone cold crazy.” Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also served under President George W. Bush, says the demotions are a “big mistake.”
Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS News, "I am worried about the National Security Council.… The appointment of Mr. Bannon is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history.” McCain added that the “one person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view.”
Here’s the big worry; Trump is unhinged and ignorant; Bannon is nuts and malicious. If not supervised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their decisions could endanger the world.
In Trump and Bannon’s view, foreign relations is a zero-sum game. If another nation gains, we lose. As Trump declared at his inaugural: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”
Some of you are old enough to recall John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, when the young president pledged to support any friend and oppose any foe to assure the success of liberty.
But Trump makes no distinction between friend and foe, and no reference to liberty. As conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer observes, Trump’s view is that all other nations are out to use, exploit and surpass us.
Not incidentally, “America First” was the name of the pro-Nazi group led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II to keep America neutral between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Reich.
Trump and Bannon’s version of “America First” is no less dangerous. It is alienating America from the rest of the world, destroying our nation’s moral authority abroad and risking everything we love about our country.
Unsupervised by people who know what they’re doing. Trump and Bannon could also bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust.
Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations and Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.