Morning breaks over the White House and the offices of the West Wing (R) in Washington January 20, 2015.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump finds his fourth national security adviser in three years

Updated

Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, the average tenure for a White House national security adviser is about 10 months, which suggests Robert O’Brien should probably rent instead of buying,

President Donald Trump on Wednesday named Robert O’Brien, a State Department official who has specialized in hostage issues, as his new national security adviser.

“I have worked long & hard with Robert,” Trump tweeted. “He will do a great job!”

O’Brien will replace John Bolton, whom Trump fired last week after a string of disagreements.

Yesterday, the president mentioned five names as possible Bolton successors, and the list included O’Brien, whom the president described as “fantastic.” For O’Brien’s sake, here’s hoping Trump doesn’t soon change his mind – as is his wont.

The public can take some comfort in the fact that the new White House national security adviser – a position that does not require Senate confirmation – has a more traditional background, having served as a State Department envoy for hostage affairs, a U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly, and a co-chair of the State Department’s Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan.

Or put another way, this does not appear to be an instance in which Trump tapped a guy who said something he liked on television.

That said, O’Brien did recently spend some time on screens. As NBC News’ report added, when rapper ASAP Rocky was in the custody of Swedish authorities, Trump dispatched O’Brien, who was in court with the American entertainer, and who pressured Swedish authorities to release him.

But for me, that’s not the first story that comes to mind when O’Brien’s name comes up.

Five months ago, the president published a curious tweet, ostensibly quoting the nation’s “Cheif [sic] Hostage Negotiator.” According to this unnamed official, Donald J. Trump “is the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States.” At a campaign rally in Green Bay soon after, the president repeated the boast. (The president referenced the quote again yesterday aboard Air Force One.)

The White House clarified in April that Trump was referring to O’Brien – though he may not have actually used the words the president attributed to him.

Nevertheless, I wonder if O’Brien received this promotion to the powerful White House post because Trump believes O’Brien described him as “the greatest hostage negotiator … in the history of the United States.”

Either way, O’Brien has a difficult task ahead. If recent history is any guide, Trump sees himself as his own national security adviser; he does not read intelligence reports; and he has little use for the conclusions of his own country’s intelligence agencies.

The president recently told reporters that he sees the national security adviser job as “fun” and “easy,” adding, “You know why it’s easy? Because I make all the decisions. They don’t have to work.”

Best of luck to Robert O’Brien.