The Trump transition team’s announcement that Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland will serve as deputy national security advisor has received far less attention than the appointment of her boss, Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, as national security advisor. Both Flynn and McFarland have histories of pandering to the anti-Muslim and hawkish wings of the Republican Party. But videos reviewed by LobeLog show McFarland making wildly conspiratorial claims about China leveraging its holdings of U.S. debt to demand the elimination of Fourth of July celebrations and casually joking about nuclear winter as a solution to global warming.
Since serving in the Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan administrations, McFarland fashioned herself as a national security expert and worked as a Fox news analyst. There she delivered analysis like “war is the default position” in the Middle East and urged U.S. diplomats to treat Iranian nuclear negotiators like children, as Derek Davison detailed on Friday.
McFarland seems most at home when talking to friendly audiences, eager to earn their applause or laughter at her jokes.
In a July 2015, appearance on Red Eye, Fox News’ late night satirical talk show, McFarland ridiculed a video produced by the nuclear nonproliferation group, Global Zero, featuring celebrities endorsing the Iran nuclear deal. McFarland concluded her criticisms of the White House’s efforts to promote the nuclear agreement with a bizarre attack on climate change advocates, saying:
You know, in some cases you could make the argument that if we had to worry about global warming, maybe nuclear winter has some advantages.
To be fair, McFarland’s crack about using nuclear winter to counter global warming is probably less than serious. But her animosity toward Global Zero and the White House’s efforts to negotiate constraints on Iran’s nuclear program raises serious questions about what advice she might deliver in the Trump White House.
Perhaps even more worrisome, McFarland embraced xenophobic fear-mongering while appearing at a Manhattan Tea Party rally in 2009, where she delivered a disjointed warning about the threat posed by China’s investment in U.S. debt. She said (my emphasis):
[China has] two trillion dollars. They have a big bag of money and they’re going lend it to us. And they’re going to want something for that. You know the independence that most of you who are here tonight fought for, […] independence from tyranny? That means we get to choose who our allies are. We get to choose who we sell things to. We get to choose who we buy stuff from. We get to choose where our navy goes. Well, if China owns us then we’re not going to get to choose those things anymore. It’s not that the Chinese are bad, they’re just going to be practical. They’re going to want something for their money. They’re not our sugar-daddy. So, ten years from now, you might not have American Independence Day. You know, the Fourth of July might just end up being another day on the calendar.
After warning her Times Square audience that China might cancel the Fourth of July holiday, McFarland concluded her remarks by teaching some rudimentary Chinese that will come in handy if the audience fails to vote out incumbent members of Congress from Democratic-Party-dominated states like New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and California.
McFarland recommended learning useful phrases like: “How can I help you?” “What do you want from me?” and “Thank you.”
McFarland appears to enjoy her role as a provocateur and playing to the bigotry of Tea Party crowds and late-night talk-show audiences. But it’s an open question how her eagerness to spread baseless conspiracy theories about the biggest U.S. trading partner or heap scorn on efforts at nuclear nonproliferation will carry over to the Trump administration’s foreign policy. Given Trump’s campaign statements questioning the utility of NATO and nonchalance toward nuclear proliferation on the Korean peninsula, McFarland will probably find a receptive ear in the Oval Office.