If staff turmoil at the White House has President Donald Trump searching for leadership advice, he’s in luck: One of his top aides is here to help.
An official on Trump’s National Security Council — where stressed-out aides aren’t exactly known for their ample free time — has launched a website and related podcast on leadership.
The title of his first episode? “Leadership, Fitness and Sex.”
The host is retired Rear Adm. Garry Hall, who serves as the NSC’s senior director for international organizations and alliances. The “Admiral’s Almanac,” a podcast available on a personal website, appears to be a side project for a man whose day job is, in theory at least, punishingly busy.
“The Wit and Wisdom of Rear Admiral Garry Hall,” announces the website, which features Hall standing behind a desk in a uniform decorated with medals.
It’s not clear whether Hall has the White House’s permission to offer his personal thoughts online, or whether he might be breaking any rules. But his foray into audio entertainment has startled former NSC officials who note that senior NSC directors generally avoid the limelight and are — or should be — pressed for time.
“To plan or record a podcast in your spare time perhaps would suggest that you’re not devoting your full attention to the mountains of work on the desk of any NSC staffer, most certainly a senior director,” said Ned Price, an NSC spokesman under former President Barack Obama.
“It is in serious ‘What the f—?’ territory,” added another former senior Obama NSC official.
Potential listeners shouldn’t get too excited about the title of Hall’s first episode. He admits off the top of the 23-minute podcast that the reference to sex in its title is just “clickbait,” and that he’ll be focusing on good leadership traits. Which he does — discussing such attributes as commitment, responsibility and vision.
“To think about commitment,” Hall says, “take your average breakfast. A farmer participated, and he provided the potatoes for hash browns. A baker contributed and participated by providing bread for toast. And a chicken participated, providing the eggs for those scrambled eggs. Now the pig. The pig is committed. He provided the bacon.”
“So if you’re gonna be a leader, we need you to be committed. We need you to be the pig in that breakfast.”
Hall spent more than three decades as a naval officer, specializing in areas such as helicopter aviation. According to his LinkedIn profile, he’s worked as a consultant in recent years, advising everyone from venture capitalists to “international armed forces.”
Trump named Hall to his NSC last March. His position oversees multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. In the past, occupants of the job also handled human rights policy — but a Trump NSC reorganization dropped the “human rights” from the title of Hall’s job, in what former NSC officials call a reflection of Trump’s skeptical attitude toward human rights as a foreign policy priority.
Hall has a thin record of public writings and statements, although, in a March 2014 op-ed he wrote for Breitbart, he seemed to express disdain for the power of the sort of international organizations his office deals with. “Phone calls from world leaders or sternly written letters from international treaty organizations will never change the bully,” he wrote, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine. “International bodies are deliberating” while Putin acts, he wrote mockingly.
Hall’s podcast takes a lighter tone — sprinkling in nuggets of wisdom from great Americans such as Abraham Lincoln and Army Gen. George S. Patton, whom he quotes as having said: “A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end.”
At one point, Hall stresses that what separates good from great leaders is the willingness to be held accountable. “The great leader accepts accountability without equivocation,” he says. “The troops can smell the lack of accountability at the top.”
Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did spokesmen for the National Security Council.
Hall’s website and podcast make no mention of Trump, current events or his job at the White House. Nor does he appear to be charging for access to the podcast or accepting advertising, both of which could raise ethics flags. But the site does mention that he’s experienced in “politics” and has served as an adviser to “our nation’s leaders.”
Hall has not exactly made a secret of his podcasting dreams. The retired naval officer, who in person comes across as jovial and agreeable, posted his podcast plans on his LinkedIn page, where his White House affiliation is listed. A teaser clip was put up on the site in mid-January.
Hall is clearly thinking long-term for his project. He invites listeners to send in questions that he can discuss in future episodes. He also set up a Twitter account, @admiralsalmanac, in November. As of Tuesday afternoon, the account had six followers.