One has to believe that Donald Trump isn’t used to hearing likely minions say “No.” So it probably came as a shock when retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward—his first choice to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser—told the president he’d have to think about the offer. It must have been a double shock when, a few days later, Harward turned him down flat. That’s why Trump went to a rally – he needs to be adored.
REJECTION IS STUNNING
The rejection is stunning in several ways that go well beyond the scope of Trump’s personal sensitivities. First, it is very unusual—almost unheard of—for a senior military officer, retired or otherwise, to turn down a request from the commander-in-chief.
COVER FOR OTHERS
Second, and largely for that reason, by rejecting the offer, Harward has provided cover to other officers, and to civilian national security analysts with a similar sense of patriotic duty, to turn down this president, too. Service, in this case, is not its own reward and by no stretch worth the sacrifice.
CONDITION FOR HIRE
Third, the Financial Times, Washington Post, CNN, and other news outlets are reporting that Harward turned down the offer in part because Trump wouldn’t let him fire several officials who Flynn had hired for his staff and install his own team instead. This suggests that Trump is unyielding on keeping certain people loyal to him—including Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland, a former Fox News commentator who Trump admired. The news reports don’t mention whether Harward made demands about Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief political strategist who wrote the executive order that placed himself on the NSC Principals Committee and has created a parallel NSC structure called the Strategic Initiatives Group, comprising a few extreme right-wing associates. But any serious person would insist on the dismantling of this weird group as another condition for taking the job.