10 January 2017
By Jacob G. Hornberger
In a truly remarkable bit of honesty and candor regarding the U.S.
national-security establishment, new Senate minority leader Charles Schumer
has accused President-elect Trump of ''being really dumb.''
Was Schumer referring to Trump's ideology, philosophy, or knowledge about
economics or foreign policy?
None of the above. According to an article in The Hill, he told Rachel Maddow
on her show that Trump was dumb for taking on the CIA and questioning its
conclusions regarding Russia.
''Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways
from Sunday at getting back at you…. He's being really dumb to do this.''
Maddow then asked Schumer what he thought the intelligence community might do
to Trump to get back at him.
Schumer's response was fascinating and revealing. He responded, ''I don't
So, Schumer knows that there are six ways from Sunday for the intelligence
community to get back at Trump but then, a few seconds later, can't enumerate
even one of those ways? That makes no sense, unless he was a bit scared to go
into the details for fear that one of those ''six ways from Sunday'' might be
employed against him.
In any event, Schumer's point is a good one, even if he is reluctant to
clarify it. No president since John F. Kennedy has dared to take on the CIA or
the rest of the national security establishment or to operate outside the
bounds of permissible parameters within the paradigm of the national-security
That might have been because post-JFK presidents just happened to find
themselves on the same page as the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.
But another possibility is that the one mentioned by Schumer: They knew that
if they opposed the national-security establishment at a fundamental level,
they would be subjected to retaliatory measures.
Kennedy had come into office as a standard Cold Warrior and as a supporter of
the national-security state system, the totalitarian-like apparatus that was
grafted onto America's federal governmental system after World War II. But
after he was set up and betrayed by the CIA with respect to the Bay of Pigs
invasion, he was at loggerheads with that agency for the rest of his
presidency. After the Bay of Pigs, he vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand
pieces and scatter them to the winds. He also fired CIA Director Allen Dulles,
who, in a rather unusual twist of fate, would later be appointed to the Warren
Commission to investigate Kennedy's murder.
Kennedy's antipathy toward the CIA gradually extended to what President
Eisenhower had termed the military-industrial complex, especially when it
proposed Operation Northwoods, which called for fraudulent terrorist attacks
to serve as a pretext for invading Cuba, and when it suggested that Kennedy
initiate a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. (The latter suggestion
caused Kennedy to indignantly leave the meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
when the suggestion was made and remark to an aide, ''And we call ourselves
the human race.''
The feeling was mutual. The CIA considered Kennedy to be a traitor for
refusing to provide U.S. air support for the CIA's invaders at the Bay of
Pigs. One member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff considered the way Kennedy
handled the Cuban Missile Crisis to be the biggest defeat in U.S. history and
compared the president's actions to Neville Chamberlain's capitulation at
Munich in 1938.
After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy's war with his national-security
establishment got even worse. That's because Kennedy concluded that the Cold
War was bunk, that it should be ended, and that the United States could
peacefully coexist with the communist world. That's when he delivered his
famous Peace Speech at American University, which was broadcast all across the
Soviet Union. He had failed to consult with the Pentagon or the CIA in
preparing the speech. He also entered into a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the
Soviets, over the fierce objections of his national-security establishment. He
also ordered a partial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and told close
associates that he would order a complete withdrawal after defeating Barry
Goldwater in the 1964 election. Worst of all, from the standpoint of the
national-security establishment, he initiated secret personal negotiations
with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, both of
whom, by this time, were on the same page as Kennedy.
But that wasn't the page that the CIA and the Pentagon were on. They were
convinced that Kennedy was surrendering America to the communists. As far as
they were concerned, there could never be peaceful coexistence with the
communist world. There was only one way that the Cold War could end — by
finishing off the Soviet Union once and for all.
It's worth pointing out that Kennedy's actions constituted a direct threat to
the trillions of dollars in military and intelligence largess that would end
up flowing into the coffers of the ''defense'' industry if the Cold War and
hot wars (e.g., Vietnam) were to continue.
Kennedy was fully aware of the danger he faced by taking on such a formidable
enemy. He understood precisely what Schumer just pointed out about the
national-security establishment — that they have ''six ways from Sunday'' to
One possibility, of course, was a military coup, the same type that the U.S.
national-security establishment would initiate in Chile some ten years later
to save the country from a democratically elected president who was deemed to
be a threat to national security, especially owing to his desire to establish
friendly relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Kennedy was so concerned
about that possibility that he persuaded a friend in Hollywood to turn the
novel Seven Days in May into a movie (I highly recommend it—it stars Burt
Lancaster and Kirk Douglas) to serve as warning to the American people. The
movie was an echo of the warning that President Eisenhower had given to the
American people in his 1961 Farewell Address, when he pointed out that the
military-industrial complex, which was new to the American way of life, posed
a grave threat to the freedoms and democratic processes of the American
people. Also, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK's brother Bobby
told the Russians that there was a grave danger of a U.S. military takeover if
the matter wasn't settled soon.
Another possibility, of course, was assassination, thereby elevating to
president the vice-president, Lyndon Johnson, who just happened to reject
Kennedy's view on the Cold War and who just happened to embrace the Pentagon's
and CIA's views on the Cold War. Once he assumed the presidency, Johnson
immediately canceled JFK's plans to withdraw from Vietnam and, working with
the Pentagon, came up with the bogus Gulf of Tonkin attack that served as a
pretext to expand U.S. involvement in the war. More than 58,000 American men
would ultimately die for nothing in Vietnam.
Ever since the Kennedy assassination, no president has dared to tangle with
the national-security establishment at a fundamental level. Everyone in
Washington knows where the real power of the federal government is centered.
(See the excellent book National Security and Double Government by Michael
Glennon.) Every president knows that he is expected to operate within the
parameters set forth by the national-security establishment and every
president since Kennedy has dutifully complied.
Once he assumes the presidency, Donald Trump might be the first president
since Kennedy to violate that sacred rule of the national-security
establishment. If he does and if he refuses to do what previous presidents
have done, it will be interesting to see the outcome. As Sen. Schumer has
pointed out, the CIA and other intelligence agencies have ''six ways from
Sunday'' by which to retaliate.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom
Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in
economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the
University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He
also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught
law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become
director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has
advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the
country as well as on Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and
he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano's show
Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full