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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trump's new Axis of Adults group

- The media seems to find the Trump administration filled with competing members and groups vying for power and the attention of that Great Wheeler Dealer President Donald Trump.

An earlier Digital Journal article dealt with the division between the nationalists led by Steve Bannon and including Stephen Miller and Julia Hahn versus the "Democrats" led by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, Ivanka Trump, and Gary Cohn. The "Democrats" have been prevailing over the nationalists as evidenced by Trump's aggressive response to an alleged chemical attack by Syria. Trump attacked a Syrian airbase with about 50 Tomahawk missiles. The nationalists noted that during the campaign, Trump had criticized U.S. intervention in Syria and other wars but Trump has been intervening even more actively than Obama. He has been praised for his actions by many liberals and even Hillary Clinton suggested that Assad's air bases be bombed just before Trump attacked one.
Now there is a new group singled out within the Trump administration called the Axis of Adults. The group consists of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Homeland Secretary John Kelly. They are Republicans who did not support Trump initially. Through almost daily contact with these three as well as Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and CIA director Mike Pompeo, Trumps' policy outlook is coming to more and more match hawkish Bush conservative Republicans. The changes all represent flip-flops from Trump's earlier position. Trump now aggressively intervenes in wars rather than leaning toward isolationism and criticism of U.S. involvement in areas such as Syria and Afghanistan. He not only attacked Assad but escalated the war in Afghanistan and dropped the Mother of All Bombs in the country. His attitude towards Russia has been threatening and negative rather than accommodating and he is now praising and supporting NATO while earlier calling it obsolete.
An anonymous White Official claims that H.R. McMaster has been a steadying force and saw the removal of Bannon from the National Security Council (NSC) is a sign that the 'adults' are winning. Many former Bush staffers say they are now submitting their names to work under either Mattis, Tillerson, or Kelly. However, it was actually a former member of Obama's administrative staff, Colin Kahl who introduced the term of "Axis of Adults" in a series of tweets: "First, it requires forging a working “Axis of Adults” among HR McMaster, Mattis, Dunford, Tillerson, Pompeo, Kelly, & Pence. "
A senior administration official said: “He’s consulting all these guys and they have a high degree of comfort among themselves. There is the band of military brothers—Mattis, Kelly and McMaster. Tillerson and [UN Ambassador] Nikki Haley are not military but play a big role. What’s making this work for the president is the mix—not one or the other.” Michael Waltz, a former senior adviser to vice-president Dick Cheney said that Trump is a good listener and incredibly flexible. Trump is flexible in that he can flip flop on policy on any given day. Unlike Obama who liked highly structured meetings and wanted lots of information to work with, Trump's meetings are informal and unstructured and he often responds according to his gut feelings about an issue. Mattis and Tillerson have a standing breakfast once a week with Trump. The newer Bush-related members of Trump's team at times have conflicts with those more closely associated with Trump or who still believe in the nationalist Trump vision espoused by Bannon. The group also are establishing old relationships as they had in the Bush administration. Trump campaigned on an anti-establishment theme but he is more and more creating and relying upon part of the Bush establishment within his own administration. There is still some trouble hiring as many of the people who the "adults" would like to hire are on a #NeverTrump list.
James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation said: “For a lot of people who put their name on the first #NeverTrump list, they did it on the basis of what they heard on the campaign trail and to be fair, I can see why they’d say that. Those of us briefing Trump saw more depth, maturity and responsibility there. If you look at how he’s used his leadership team, they don’t look half bad, and people are a lot less risk averse in signing on now.” In effect, the new members are changing the whole Trump presidency into one that is more and more a further right version of the former Bush administration. Is it any wonder that the media are becoming more kindly to Trump.
While much of Trump's policy still remains unclear and unpredictable his foreign policy is gaining favor among some analysts. John Hannah a former Bush official now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said: “After more than two months of relative chaos and uncertainty surrounding U.S. foreign policy…when a lot of people have been questioning the administration’s basic competence, this looked like governing at its finest by a group of highly experienced professionals.” The axis of adults and administrative staff view Trump's tweets as often difficult to deal with and as complicating their attempts to develop rational foreign policy.
Among those who formerly worked for Bush are none other than the error-prone White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. A recent list of former Bush people hired includes: "Marshall Billingslea, a Bush State Department and Pentagon alumni, was nominated to be assistant secretary for terrorist financing in the Department of the Treasury; and John J. Sullivan, who served in senior posts in the Justice, Defense and Commerce Departments during the Bush administration, was nominated to be deputy secretary of state."
During his campaign Trump made many critical remarks about the Bush administration and lambasted the Republican establishment. However, his own administration is now hiring more and more experienced former Bush personnel to run his own administration assuring that the establishment is re-established. At the same time, he has a cabinet full of rich people many associated with Wall Street. He also added many retired military personnel. The axis of adults will help advance the interests of the financial-industrial-military complex. The anti-establishment children, Bannon and the nationalists can return to writing for Breitbart news.


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