Opinion | Muftic: Trump’s kitchen cabinet: FOX, Breitbart, Putin and Erdogan
In United States 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 echoes 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 1830s, 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 Jan. 3 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 Jan. 2 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.
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