Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, reviewed Donald Trump's new directive on the White House's National Security Council, and felt compelled to issue a candid assessment. "This is a 'Holy Crap' moment," the congressman said
.Under the circumstances, it's hard to argue with Larsen's conclusion. The New York Times reported
[T]he defining moment for [Chief White House Strategist Stephen] Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the "principals committee" of the National Security Council -- while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities.It is a startling elevation of a political adviser, to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president's top military and intelligence advisers.
Sure, Trump's national security team was already something of a mess. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn clearly has no business
holding his current post; his deputy is even less qualified
; and the person the president tapped to oversee NSC communications was forced to resign
.But this takes the problems to a whole new level. Susan Rice, who served as one of President Obama's National Security Advisors, described Trump's move as "stone cold crazy
," which also seems more than fair.Putting the former head of a right-wing website on the White House's National Security Council is bonkers. Putting him on the National Security Council while removing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence is so plainly crazy that no one has been able to present a coherent defense.Even George W. Bush, for all of his difficulties on matters of national security, made it abundantly clear
that Karl Rove was to have nothing to do with the National Security Council -- because to do otherwise would be inherently dangerous.The Times' piece
added that the news is drawing bipartisan criticism:
"The last place you want to put somebody who worries about politics is in a room where they're talking about national security," said Leon E. Panetta, a former White House chief of staff, defense secretary and C.I.A. director in two Democratic administrations."I've never seen that happen, and it shouldn't happen. It's not like he has broad experience in foreign policy and national security issues. He doesn't. His primary role is to control or guide the president's conscience based on his campaign promises. That's not what the National Security Council is supposed to be about."That opinion was shared by President George W. Bush's last chief of staff, Josh Bolten, who barred Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's political adviser, from N.S.C. meetings. A president's decisions made with those advisers, he told a conference audience in September, "involve life and death for the people in uniform" and should "not be tainted by any political decisions."
Bob Gates, who served as Defense Secretary in both the Bush and Obama administrations, called Trump's NSC shake-up a "big mistake
."Given the seriousness of the issue, it's a mistake Americans can hardly afford.