Steve Bannon is out at National Security Council, with the White House still trying ever so to keep up the appearance that his being there to begin with wasn’t (a) wholly inappropriate (b) evidence of Trump ceding control to unqualified people (c) completely bananas.
Washington Post is reporting that a senior official says this is not a demotion, that Bannon had ‘already accomplished what he set out to do there.’The stakes are pretty high when you deal with the NSC; it exists to advise the President of the United States on issues of national security and foreign policy. President Trump has zero relevant experience – military, governmental or diplomatic – in making decisions about how the United States moves among and responds to the actions of the other nations in the world. Let’s sample the news the last 24 hours:
- a Mar-a-Lago meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, an enormously important meeting that needs to go well, but may not, given that Trump might not know what he’s doing among players who know more than he does.
- Reports that it was sarin gas we watched suffocate children in the gas attack in Syria
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s bizarre non-statement statement on North Korea’s missile launch.
We’ve got a president who not only doesn’t know stuff, he doesn’t have the brains to know what he doesn’t know. Instead of surrounding himself with skilled, thoughtful people with experience and judgement, he’s got a Secretary of State whose corporate history he admired who gives every impression that he’s in way over his head. And now we hear that Bannon – who got inside Trump’s circle by virtue of the white supremacist Breitbart News – is only stepping down formally from the NSC. He’’s still Trump’s chief adviser, he’ll still be going to NSC meetings.
Yesterday, a friend of mine proposed the question of how quickly the booming Resistance could adjust in the event that Trump is impeached or leaves office voluntarily. I realize much of our organizing has been about organizing against GOP attempt to dismantle the ACA. People’s own health and finances were threatened by irresponsible Republican conduct; people poured out into the streets against something that would directly affect them. It was impressive as hell and deeply reassuring that even as politicians tried to run the federal government off the rails, her people had better sense and were ready to put their own time into scaring the GOP into doing the right thing.
But our lives are also at risk with a foreign policy being run by headstrong fools who don’t know what they’re doing and refuse to admit it, and may also be more aligned with corporate profit-making than the safety of people here or abroad.
I have a lot of faith in the Resistance movement, including – especially – here in New Jersey. But I remember the Iraq War. Millions of people here and around the world saw – quickly – that it was mounted deliberately on a lie. But still, it was allowed to continue for years. Bush White House foreign policy was driven by people raking in the money in America’s first big mercenary war – a war so inculcated and supported by the American government that the 2016 Democratic nominee took 13 years to own up for her 2002 vote for it, and was rewarded even before then with the job of running the State Department. We don’t always learn our lessons here in the USA.
And now we see for sure that the ghouls are back inside a brand new president’s Oval Office circle: Washington Post reports Erik Prince met secretly in Seychelles off the east coast of Africa with a Russian closely tied to Putin. That meeting – 9 days before Trump’s inauguration -an may be attempt to establish backchannel communication between Moscow and Trump. I can’t begin to separate what’s really going on from the distractions pumped out by Trump’s White House or Twitter feed (to say nothing of Hillary Clinton opportunistically blaming her loss not on her own mistakes Russia, Russia, Russia). But clearly, secret meetings offshore arranged by the UAE don’t pass the smell test.
Particularly when the ghoul in question is Erik Prince. Who’s that? Erik Prince, brother of (wholly unqualified) Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos, it turns out, has been quietly advising Donald Trump on intelligence and defense for months. Prince is the founder of Blackwater, the paramilitary security company that was involved in murders of civilians in the Iraq War. Prince has since slid out of Blackwater, after its abuses and profiteering became synonymous with that war and George W. Bush. But he’s still in the mercenary business.
All of this is complicated, some of it may be smokescreen, and tracking the money and influence is obscured by a White House which be conducting itself more clandestinely than is good for anyone. Trump is known to be close to Steve Bannon, who’s been given so much power that the New York Times has called him “President Bannon”, the “de facto president.” What could possibly go wrong?
I hope the Resistance – here, and everywhere – is nimble enough to respond quickly if Trump leaves office, or he and the bad actors he surrounds himself with begin to make the terrifying foreign policy mistakes I believe he is capable of. That’s what’s on my mind today. I’m going to turn CNN off now.