Every President has recognized the need to seek advice and expertise from those knowledgeable in statecraft, intelligence, and defense to protect and promote the interests of the United States at home and abroad. The National Security Council, created by Congress seventy years ago, provides a formal framework for the dissemination of this advice and expertise, removed from the influence of petty partisan politicking.
Unfortunately, the actions of Donald Trump, who has argued repeatedly that “he and he alone” can direct our country forward, show he neither understands nor appreciates this need. Whatever other skills the Commander-in-Chief may possess – litigating real estate deals, bankrupting businesses, boasting about sexual assault, what have you – he lacks any real experience in public service, in civil governance, or in international diplomacy.
Unfortunately for United States, it shows. Mr Trump has offended our largest trade partner (China), threatened with invasion our third largest trade partner (Mexico), insulted one of our staunchest military allies (Australia), diminished our standing with longtime allies and Muslim nations alike with his refugee ban, approved a hastily planned and publically botched military operation in Yemen… and it is only Day Eighteen of his Presidency. Now, in the wake of these actions, Mr Trump has removed both the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as full-time attendees on the National Security Council, gutting the NSC’s core mission of inter-agency coordination. In their place, Mr Trump has instead appointed as a full-time attendee a political operative, Steve Bannon.
Steve Bannon has no right to be a full-time attendee of the NSC or any of its subcommittees.
One could argue temperament: Mr Trump is notoriously thin-skinned and hot-tempered, as even the most cursory inspection of his Twitter feed will show. He should not be permitted to discard (or at the very least demote) the expert advice of America’s intelligence and military communities in favor of the conspiracy theories peddled by Mr Bannon, the former propagandist-in-chief of what he himself called “the platform of the alt right,” the “politically correct” term by which our country’s white nationalist snowflakes demand to be called.
One could argue inexperience: Mr Bannon’s personal history as a naval officer in the late 1970s and a movie producer in the 2000s provide insufficient experience to properly inform the President’s national and international policies in the 21st Century.
One could argue optics: the toxic themes of racism, sexism, and jingoism that were increasingly promoted by Breitbart News under Mr Bannon’s stewardship have no place in American discourse, much less its policy.
Most importantly, though, one could argue the law: under U.S. Code 50, Section 3021 Part (a), since Mr Bannon is not one of the pre-approved Cabinet Secretaries or Under-Secretaries, he must be “appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to serve at his pleasure” [emphasis mine]. It is true that the statute does grant the President the right to invite any person he wishes to NSC meetings as an observer, but Mr Trump’s memorandum makes it clear that Mr Bannon is to serve the more formal function of full-time attendee and participant in the NSC and it Principals subcommittee.
Mr Trump has shown, time and time again, that he is unwilling of his own volition to heed the advice of our nation’s intelligence and military leaders. But he is required BY LAW to heed the advice and consent of Congress. Because the President will not, it is up to you and your colleagues in the Senate to thoroughly vet Steve Bannon to determine if it is in the best interests of the United States that he serve on the NSC, or to expose him as a home-grown Rasputin and remove him from it. I ask you, as both a constituent of South Dakota and a citizen of the United States, to DENY STEVE BANNON’S APPOINTMENT to the National Security Council and its Principals Committee, until such time as he has been PROPERLY VETTED AND CONFIRMED through Senate hearings.
I thank you for your service.