John Bolton's mustache is more qualified to be national security adviser than he is

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Posted: Mar 17, 2018 1:32 PM
Updated: Mar 17, 2018 1:32 PM

News outlets have reported that President Donald Trump has decided to replace his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Trump is supposedly waiting to announce the decision until he can find a good next posting for McMaster, who remains an active-duty Army general.

The rationale is that this would be more dignified for McMaster. But of course, leaking the news of his imminent firing has had the opposite effect. And it not only humiliates the general, it also undermines the effectiveness of the entire US national security apparatus at an extremely sensitive time when we face complex challenges involving North Korea, Iran, Russia and many other issues.

This being the Trump administration, this vitally important decision is being undertaken with all the calm discipline of a "Ren and Stimpy" cartoon.

The truth could be, for example, that one of the main reasons no announcement has been made is that while Trump knows he wants the independent-minded McMaster gone, he doesn't know who he wants to replace him.

A leading candidate is John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton has distinguished himself as one of America's most hawkish and ineffective diplomats for decades. He is known as an architect of the Iraq War, an enemy of multilateralism and foe of the United Nations, where he served during the George W. Bush administration through a recess appointment when he could not win Senate confirmation. He is also a harsh critic of the Iran nuclear deal and of North Korea, and is seen as someone who might promote conflict in both cases.

Few prominent national security figures are as ill-suited to the job of national security adviser as Bolton when you consider his views, his temperament and his ability be an honest broker. In fact, he is actually one of the few people on earth who would be worse than Mike Flynn, who was the worst national security adviser of all time.

That said, in Trumpland even the most outrageously grim developments have an absurdist subtext. In Bolton's case, this was illustrated by a tweet from CBS News' Jacqueline Alemany: "Just asked a source close to the White House if John Bolton's mustache will go if he replaces McMaster as National Security Advisor. Source doesn't think the 'stache will go but call it a 'sensitive subject.' "

That such a thing is even being discussed because of Trump's predilection for clean-shaven aides and people who "look the part" reminds us just how off the rails we have gone.

Having reviewed the available options and the nation's national security needs, if Bolton's famed mustache must go, I would strongly support it for the job over him.

To be fair, there are other reported candidates who would be solid, sensible choices. Former Bush National Security Council official Stephen Biegun is serious, experienced and respected in ways that neither Bolton nor his mustache will ever be. But, then again, so was McMaster.

Therein lies the rub. More than almost any other job in government that of national security adviser is defined and then on a daily basis redefined by the President. The job is ill-defined by statute. The president determines whether he will empower the national security adviser by respecting the process he or she runs and heeding the advice that process produces. If the president does not or if he is disinclined to take advantage of the rich resources of the National Security Council staff because he doesn't for example, like to read ... or if he undermines the national security adviser, as Trump has done with McMaster, then even the very best candidate will fail.

The most effective national security advisers, such as Brent Scowcroft, Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski, were empowered by their presidents in ways that would be impossible given Trump's narcissistic personality and volatility.

There are few jobs in the executive branch more important than national security adviser. And particularly at this dangerous moment, with turmoil both overseas and within the US government, with a personnel shuffle rocking the national security apparatus at the State Department, CIA and in the White House, how this transition is handled is especially important.

So far it has gone about as badly as can be imagined. Unfortunately, even if Trump makes a good choice to replace the ill-treated McMaster, it is unlikely to fix what is broken at the National Security Council. Because that's not the national security adviser, it is the President --compromised, erratic, inexperienced, possessed of terrible instincts, corrupt and disrespectful of his office and those who serve around him as he is.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319948

Reported Deaths: 7371
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22285267
Hinds20719421
Harrison18431317
Rankin13901282
Jackson13718248
Madison10263224
Lee10059176
Jones8467167
Forrest7832153
Lauderdale7261242
Lowndes6517150
Lamar635188
Lafayette6313121
Washington5425137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4670110
Oktibbeha466198
Pearl River4605147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425873
Monroe4157135
Union415777
Neshoba4063179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386987
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3371111
Alcorn327272
Scott320374
Yazoo314171
Adams308086
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298589
Tippah291968
Prentiss284161
Leake272074
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264642
Grenada264087
George252251
Newton248663
Tishomingo231868
Winston230181
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190474
Stone188433
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135347
Greene131834
Lawrence131124
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127238
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108234
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548657

Reported Deaths: 11306
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810031566
Mobile42105831
Madison35690525
Tuscaloosa26173458
Shelby25607254
Montgomery25081614
Baldwin21868314
Lee16278176
Calhoun14719327
Morgan14629285
Etowah14175364
Marshall12453230
Houston10781287
Elmore10293214
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10162251
Cullman9952201
Lauderdale9603250
DeKalb8972190
Talladega8460184
Walker7338280
Autauga7241113
Blount6945139
Jackson6932113
Colbert6413140
Coffee5635127
Dale4928116
Russell454841
Chilton4476116
Franklin431382
Covington4275122
Tallapoosa4138155
Escambia401680
Chambers3728124
Dallas3607158
Clarke353061
Marion3240107
Pike314378
Lawrence3133100
Winston283472
Bibb268564
Geneva257981
Marengo250565
Pickens236962
Barbour234559
Hale227278
Butler224271
Fayette218862
Henry194543
Randolph187544
Cherokee187345
Monroe180041
Washington170539
Macon163051
Clay160059
Crenshaw155957
Cleburne153444
Lamar146837
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124342
Conecuh113630
Coosa111729
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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