Steve Bannon, appointed chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump, arrives for the Presidential Inauguration of Trump at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. 
Photo by Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Bannon’s White House role draws sharp criticisms for a reason

Of all the bizarre moves Donald Trump has made since becoming president, one of the most widely criticized decisions was, of all things, a personnel decision. The White House decided to shake up the National Security Council, giving right-wing strategist Stephen Bannon a seat and a vote, while demoting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence.

Trump’s baffling directive has drawn fire from both parties, former officials from the Obama and Bush administrations, and pretty much anyone who cares about how the executive branch approaches matters of national security. Those concerns only intensified this week when Foreign Policy reported that Bannon, the former editor of a right-wing website, has begun “calling the shots” at the NSC, “doing so with little to no input from the National Security Council staff.”

The magazine quoted an intelligence official who described the NSC’s work environment as one in which there’s “little appetite for dissenting opinions” and “shockingly no paper trail of what’s being discussed and agreed upon at meetings.”

But the problem extends beyond an amateur president giving too much authority to a radical provocateur on matters of national security, and includes the alarming beliefs embraced by that provocateur. Did you catch this USA Today piece yesterday?
Steve Bannon, who has ascended in just months from relative obscurity to become one of President Trump’s most influential advisors, has said that Islam is “the most radical” religion in the world and the U.S. is engaged in a civilizational struggle potentially leading to “a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” […]

In dozens of hours of audio recordings reviewed by USA TODAY of his Breitbart News Daily radio show in 2015 and 2016, Bannon told his listeners that the United States and the Western world are engaged in a “global existential war,” and he entertained claims that a “fifth column” of Islamist sympathizers had infiltrated the U.S. government and news media.
Just a year ago, for example, Bannon reportedly “expressed alarm about China and Islam” and worried about a “mosque on the North Pole” that doesn’t actually exist.

A few months earlier, the USA Today report added, Bannon said his concern about a brewing global conflict was at the heart of his enterprise. “Our big belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is that we’re at war,” he said. “It’s war. It’s war. Every day, we put up: America’s at war, America’s at war. We’re at war.”

Now this guy will have a seat at the table when the executive branch of a global superpower has to make life-or-death decisions about international security.

The Washington Post had a related report today, noting Bannon’s radical worldview, including him having expressed concerns that “the United States and the ‘Judeo-Christian West’ were in a war against an expansionist Islamic ideology – but that they were losing the war by not recognizing what it was. Bannon said this fight was so important, it was worth overlooking differences and rivalries with countries like Russia.”

The Post added, “Bannon’s past statements, aired primarily on Breitbart and other conservative platforms, serve as a road map for the controversial agenda that has roiled Washington and shaken the global order during Trump’s first two weeks in office.”

Welcome to Donald Trump’s America.