The appointment of John Bolton to be his National Security Advisor was not unexpected but no one wanted to discuss the prospect of his coming on board the White House for precisely the reasons that have become apparent since yesterday evening. The dangers to U.S. national security policy—both diplomatic and military—that Bolton presents, far outweigh any positives Bolton will bring to the White House. Aside from his extremely hawkish views and ideological rigidity, however, there are a number of operational questions which also should concern Trump’s critics and friends alike.
- How can and will Bolton deal with a President who has no ideology or commitment to any policy direction? This is a President who has demonstrated repeatedly that he makes decisions in a whimsical manner.
- He changes his mind on a dime and is never at fault for any mistake.
- Bolton had a reputation of not treating staff appropriately. Will he be able to hire people and, if so, will they be able to work for him and for this White House?
- Given his intelligence, Bolton cannot possibly be seduced by his new found power. Is he so arrogant that he cannot see the enormous challenges he will face trying to organize policy?
- Clearly there are many who have left the White House over the past fourteen months who are evidence of the absence of process. Bolton also must recognize that Trump could tire of him as well.
- Assuming that Defense Secretary Mattis remains as the last holdout against the new Trump team, does Bolton expect to be able to roll over him and have his way with Trump? When Bolton fails or Mattis walks, how will Bolton respond?
It is clearly evident that the President is running the White House communications system strictly as a news operation. The announcements last week, throughout this week, and yesterday were clearly timed so the President’s actions and activities would control the news cycle. All Presidents have done that but no one has been so consumed by it on a daily basis.
Trump wanted all negative or critical news about him bounced off the front pages. He undoubtedly has a major tweet or announcement for Sunday to counter the forthcoming Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes interview. This is precisely how he successfully sent Playmate Karen McDougal’s interview yesterday evening to the back pages this morning.
The President yesterday continued to exhibit a total crassness in how he dismisses his most dedicated employees. Previously, former Secretary of State learned of his ouster by tweet, approximately two hours before the President actually called him. Andrew McCabe was dismissed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions days before he was to be able to retire on full pension. Now it has been disclosed that Trump called McMaster—whose office is directly outside the Oval Office–to inform him that he was being replaced as National Security Adviser. McMaster also was not given a new command and thus a fourth star, despite having served in the military with distinction for 34 years.
Trump clearly had disagreements of substance and style with all these individuals. This was not, however, what was transpiring here. This was Trump ruthlessly firing high Government staff as if they were participants on his reality show, The Apprentice.
One wonders what Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief Staff John Kelly are thinking now, as the last men standing.