On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, President-elect Donald Trump met with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.
Times’ columnist Charles Blow was not at the meeting. The next day he wrote: “I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing.”
Blow spoke for many of us after the president-elect’s comment to the Times‘ journalists, when he wrote: “Let me tell you here where I stand on your ‘I hope we can all get along plea.’ Never.”
You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.
I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.
Blow concluded with a personal pledge: “I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.”
It is this same “withering gaze” that all Americans should fix on our president-elect, both in this transition period, and for the next four years of his presidency.
When the gaze reveals positive vibes, it should be noted. So far, in Trump’s mixed transitional and political rallies period, the vibes are largely negative.
Our national withering gaze should fix carefully on the decisions the president-elect is making. Does his leadership team, thus far assembled, possess the knowledge and personal skills sufficient to support a president with no prior experience in political leadership?
Trump’s security leadership team up to this point includes three retired military generals, starting with retired Marine General James Mattis as defense secretary (pictured above).
What should be expected from his leadership? His expressed views on the Iraq War should offer some tentative hope that his war experience makes him more of a realist than some of the civilians who launched the Iraq war. The Intercept’s Mattathias Schwartz wrote:
President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense called the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “mistake,” according to a recording obtained by The Intercept.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mattis said, “we will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake — as a strategic mistake.”
Mattis was one of the Iraq campaign’s most important ground commanders. He led the 1st Marine Division during the invasion and later oversaw the bloody retaking of Fallujah from insurgents in 2004. . . .
Mattis’s comments came during a question-and-answer session after a keynote delivered last year at ASIS International, a conference for “global security professionals” held in Anaheim, California. A conference participant provided an audio recording of Mattis’s speech exclusively to The Intercept.
Mattis’s appointment specifically contravenes a law, designed to preserve “civilian control” of the armed forces. The law stipulates that no one who has served on active duty within the last 10 years can serve as Secretary of Defense. Mattis is expected to obtain a waiver from Congress to circumvent that law.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Kelly’s appointment “would put a military commander who directly supervised U.S. operations in Central and South America in charge of one of the president-elect’s signature platforms: securing the border between Mexico and the U.S.”
DHS was created by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The WSJ further notes that DHS has more than 240,000 employees, making it the government’s third-largest cabinet agency. Its duties includes “counterterrorism, disaster response, cybersecurity, and border and immigration controls. The Secret Service, which protects the president, is also part of DHS.
In the Trump administration, “the agency also would be at the forefront of efforts to deport illegal immigrants who have entered the U.S. from Mexico and to block the entry of certain refugees from the Middle East, should Mr. Trump act on pledges he made during his presidential campaign”.
A third general in the security leadership would be Trump’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn, shown here in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. This position does not require Senate approval.
An Associated Press story in Fortune says:
On issues of national security and intelligence, no one is likely to have more influence in Donald Trump’s White House than retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
Yet Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser, has gained prominence in Republican politics by fueling conspiracy theories and Islamophobic rhetoric that critics warn could create serious distractions—or alienate allies and embolden enemies—if it continues.
“His job is to ensure that the White House is focused at all times on all of the threats that the United States faces abroad,” said Julianne Smith, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. She said she was “deeply troubled” by a Flynn tendency to promote fake news stories on his Twitter feed.
Three retired generals on the government case, and counting (two of them require Senate confirmation). They are Mattis, Kelly and Flynn. Sounds like a law firm ready to take your case for a very high fee of trust in a time of tension and uncertainty.
President-elect Trump has chosen his generals, who now will help him with security at home and abroad. That is the assignment the voters gave our next president. It is his decision to make, pending, in two instances, Senate approval.
These generals and the President who chose them, will demand close scrutiny at a moment in history which resonates with earlier moments in history, described by Charles Dickens in the opening line of his A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The picture of General Mattis is an Associated Press photo. The picture of General Kelly is from the U.S. Defense.gov archives. The picture of General Flynn is by Tom Williams CQ-Roll Call Inc.