Friday, January 4, 2019

Trump's kitchen cabinet: Fox, Breitbart, Putin and Erdogan

A version of this was published  Jan 10 2019 online

In US  history a number of presidents did not rely on their staff and cabinet for advice, but took  cues  from cronies, friends, and trusted  peers. Those informal advisers were called  "kitchen cabinets".  They did not actually meet in a kitchen, but nonetheless they shaped the President's policies.  No one before has accused  the kitchen cabinet of ever working on behalf of a foreign government or radical ideologues , but this one could be a first.  Donald Trump's kitchen cabinet  with whom he has been consulting are those who are  not his official cabinet or national security advisers. Many of those  have either quit or have been fired.  There is evidence that his kitchen cabinet includes  autocrats he so admires as "strong leaders" and   who  are antagonistic to American security interests  or have their own agenda.  He has revised or commented on public policy, echoing Russian president Vladimir Putin's governments' talking points  in  verbatim terms and policy preferences.  Trump echos Putin's antagonism toward NATO and sympathizes with Russia's  invasion and takeover of  neighbors and  former satellites.  A telephone conversation with Turkey's president Erdogan resulted in a tweeted reversal of  US policies toward Syria  and calling for withdrawal of US troops, policies  to the benefit of both Turkey's and Russia's national interests. He numbers as trusted advisers   members of the media who represent some of the most extreme wings of his own party.  Criticism  by Rush Limbaugh, white nationalist leaning  Breitbart, and several Fox news personalities ended a deal with his own GOP Senate to avoid a government shutdown over his Great Wall of Trump. His daughter and son-in-law and his Mar-a-Lago members have unfiltered access to round out his kitchen cabinet.

 Since the days of Andrew Jackson in the 1830's, an  informal group of trusted advisers was called a "kitchen cabinet" because the decisions and policies were not being formed in the front parlor (the official cabinet and White House staff). Ronald Reagan's cabinet even contained a beer baron from Colorado, Joseph Coors.  Other presidents such as JFK, LBJ,  Ford, and FDR  relied on the advice of trusted friends instead of official advisers. That is not the problem. The Trump kitchen cabinet issue is the membership and their individual agenda.

Rachel Maddow, in a January 3, 2019   MSNBC program, noted  an AP report  revealed early in the administration  Trump had taken seriously Putin's  fabricated claim that Poland was going to invade Belarus. That was a Russian military disinformation campaign. She also cited  Putin's warning that Montenegro contained "aggressive  people" that could start World War III. That was Putin's view on the eve of that country's joining NATO, and  it was  parroted by Trump  in a 2018 TV interview. Trump echoed Putin's talking points  in  his January  2 2019 press briefing in which the President, out of the blue and a puzzle to  so many,   echoed Putin's  political party's  announced plan to revise  history to reflect that the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was justified  because of terrorist threats and  was not a mistake,  in spite of historical evidence to the contrary.

 This Trump/Putin echo chamber begs the suspicion that  Trump is in sympathy or in agreement with Russia  that any country can invade and takeover another country if they feel threatened, from Crimea to the rest of the Ukraine. He agrees with Russia that NATO is an alliance the US should not continue  though Trump gives reasons it is obsolete and members do not contribute enough. Russia views NATO as a threat to their expansionism.. Trump is already on record for lifting  sanctions imposed on Russia for the Crimea takeover. He has advocated earlier that Russia should manage  the Syria conflict. That would increase Russian influence in the region.  Russian troops are now  poised on the Ukrainian border. Poland has long feared Russia would find a pretense  to take back them and the Baltic states who were former Soviet satellites and now are  NATO members.  Montenegro, population of a less than a million ,  controls a key  port with access to the Mediterranean, lusted by Russia for centuries. Trump appears to be on Russia's side  in  many foreign policy matters, but "why "is still the question.

 See my column  in the Sky Hi News,  July 25, 2018, and a more detailed  posting.
A footnote:  My particular interest in Montenegro began with a visit in 1958 and frequent revisits. Our family once imported wine from there and my late husband's family roots over 500 years ago, pre Ottoman invasion, were in Montenegro. He was born in Montenegro in 1933 when his father was governor of Montenegro. Montenegro was a province of Yugoslavia then.


July 25, 2018,

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