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Who’s new in the White House: Trump’s appointees spark controversy

By BILL DELEHUNT

It is almost impossible to keep up with the puzzling, bizarre and bewildering actions and positions taken by the Trump White House. The Minaret only publishes once a week, and there’s so much to cover. Here’s an abbreviated version of what’s happened recently.

During the 2008 Republican primaries, former Texas governor Rick Perry said, in a nationally televised debate, that he wanted to eliminate three departments from the federal government. Unfortunately, he had trouble keeping his three key government agencies in mind. Here’s the transcript, thanks to the Los Angeles Times, “It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and — the, uh — what’s the third one there? Let’s see …” Perry said. Take two. “Commerce, Education, and — uh. The, uh …” Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney tried to assist. “EPA?” “EPA! There you go,” Perry said, laughing (at least on the outside). Moderator John Harwood pressed Perry: Was it really the EPA he was looking for? “No, sir. No, sir.” Take three. “I would do away with Education. The, uh, Commerce. And let’s see. I can’t. The third one, I can’t,” he said. “Oops.” This was known as Perry’s “oops” moment and it effectively ended his presidential bid. The cabinet position Perry wanted to eliminate was the Secretary of Energy.

In 2015, President Trump, while still Candidate Trump, ridiculed former Texas Governor Rick Perry as not too intelligent. He mocked Perry for now wearing glasses, hinting that Perry was attempting to appear smarter than he was, and implying the lenses were simply untreated glass. Now, President Trump has nominated the “not-too-bright” Rick Perry to be Secretary of Energy, the department Governor Perry wanted to eliminate in 2008. Apparently, Governor Perry has learned the Department of Energy is more helpful and more complicated than he’d thought a decade ago. For the record, the Department of Energy spends 60 percent of its budget maintaining and certifying the nuclear weapons arsenal of the United States. As the Daily Beast pointed out, Governor Perry will follow President Obama’s two Energy Secretaries, Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu and MIT physicist Ernest Moniz. According to his bachelor’s degree transcript from Texas A&M, Governor Perry took chemistry four times, getting two Cs, a D and an F. An Animal Husbandry major in college, Perry also got a D in a course entitled, “Meats.” Apparently, Governor Oops needs a strong prescription for his fake eyewear.

President Trump has also made some changes to the National Security Council (NSC), baffling and angering some in the military community. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) has been removed as a member of the NSC, although he may be required to attend if the subject in question is within his purview. Each branch of the military has a Chief of Staff that is the highest ranking four-star general in that branch. Above those four-star generals, who comprise the Joint Chiefs, sits a military officer even higher in rank: The Chairman. He is, by law, the principle military advisor to the President of the United States. But, President Trump apparently does not need this man’s advice on matters of National Security. National. Security.

You are probably hard pressed to think of a national security issue that does NOT require some input from the military. Disease outbreak threatens the U.S? Former President Barack Obama sent members of the military to Africa to help local governments deal with an outbreak of Ebola. Natural disasters? When hurricanes strike the U.S, or volcanoes erupt, the military responds, often, but not always, in the form of the National Guard. How could removing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs from the National Security Council possibly improve  the security of the United States?

In addition to dissing the Chairman, President Trump says he no longer needs the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to sit on the NSC. The DNI, established in 2004 by former President George W. Bush, serves as an umbrella for the 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. government. Having all the intel agencies reporting to a single official ensures they work in concert instead of at odds with each other.

In place of both the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Trump has placed Steve Bannon on the NSC. Bannon was the chief of Brietbart News Network and is a strong proponent of the “alternative right (alt-right)”, a thinly disguised white nationalist movement. Bannon ran the Trump presidential campaign and has long been a political advisor to the current president. He was a junior officer in the United States Navy, which really isn’t equitable to the 40 years of military experience that General Joseph Dunford, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has.

Now, President Trump has a NSC that is devoid of intelligence, and he has blocked the highest ranking members of the military from being involved. The nuclear arsenal is under the direction of an unqualified individual in Bannon; even the president who appointed him to the senior security post has called into question his intelligence. Imagine for a moment if Obama had done this. Conservatives would have blown a gasket. Instead, with Trump, they meekly nod. Is there a world leader who would benefit from the dumbing down and military emasculation of the NSC? Yes there is. His name is Vladimir Putin.

Bill Delehunt can be reached at william.delehunt@spartans.ut.edu

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