Sixteen months after taking office, President Donald Trump has put on the most comprehensive show of musical chairs the White House has ever seen.
While it’s not unusual for a President to clean house and remove staff appointments from prior administrations, Trump has shown no reserve in firing over half of the people he started the job with.
General H.R. McMaster was recently relieved of his position as National Security Advisor, and Trump selected John Bolton to take McMaster’s place. A relic of the Iraq war era, Bolton is a take-no-prisoners ideologue who makes no apologies. Sound like anyone you know?
At this point in the Trump Era, you won’t be surprised to see the Donald choosing to surround himself with people who think and act like him. However, the position of National Security Advisor is no small charge. This is a man who will be responsible for the National Security Council, which orchestrates communication between the Pentagon, State Department and other crucial national security agencies.
Bolton’s selection drew almost immediate criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. Countless major media outlets have published pieces on just how dangerous this appointment could be.
The reason is Bolton’s track record from his time as ambassador to the UN for the George W. Bush administration. Bolton’s firm belief that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction from UN investigations significantly influenced the message of that administration to the American people. Donald Trump himself was quoted calling the Bush administration out for lying about WMDs.
No Tolerance for Disagreement or Dissent
It’s not just the left-leaning media that questions Bolton’s fitness for the role. Gen. McMaster, a veteran of multiple foreign deployments including the Iraq war, is a conservative, but he has demonstrated his understanding of complex issues from a bipartisan perspective.
Bolton, however, is likely to be less considerate of ideas not his own. He may instill a fear of speaking out against his ideas in the administration, as he did after chewing out a Bush-era bioweapons analyst who had concluded that no weapons existed. This authoritarian method of leadership is something we see more from the Trump administration, but it has not traditionally been the American way.
During the hearing to appoint Bolton, former Vice President Joe Biden recalled Bolton’s ideological style from his declaration that the United Nations did not exist during the Bush era. Republican senator George Voinovich opined colleagues in Congress not to allow Bolton to take the seat, citing his inability to accept disagreement or dissent toward his own ideas.
Bolton’s appointment has been condemned by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, a veteran of the Bush and Obama administrations, and by 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich, who said Bolton’s suggestion that we should proactively strike North Korea bothers him.
Not the Only New Iraq War Hawk at the White House
Despite the many dissenters, Bolton is now the National Security Advisor, and the United States can only wait white-knuckled to see what exactly he will do. At the beginning of the Trump administration, many Americans hoped that a President without much formal political experience would call on his advisors to explore new options and inform decisions about foreign policy, but what we are getting is the exact opposite.
It is difficult not to make a comparison to the Russian system much of America now views as our enemies. Powerful heads of industry have moved into government roles, the media is fighting for a voice and the supreme leader is surrounding himself with people who will only reinforce his views.
We know how uncomfortable Donald Trump gets when people challenge his ideas. We also know that many of his ideas need those challenges, but thus far there have been at least a few people around to ask questions before Trump sets the world on fire. He’s still managed to break a few things, and with Bolton assuming the role of NSA, you have to wonder. What now?