The Wall Street Journal, which has opposed Trump’s moves away from establishment Republican orthodoxy, came out swinging in defense of embattled national security adviser H.R. McMaster Wednesday — downplaying opposition from Trump’s base as drummed up by Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
McMaster has come under heavy fire since he initiated a purge of conservatives from the National Security Council. Last week he fired conservative Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director of intelligence on the National Security Council, the latest in a number of such firings. The Jerusalem Post called it a “sweep of Iran hard-liners.”
McMaster also has reportedly concluded that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice did nothing wrong by unmasking Trump campaign officials during the transition — a belief firmly at odds with past statements by Trump, and a move that infuriated Trump’s base, for whom Susan Rice is high on the list of enemies.
McMaster replaced Gen. Michael Flynn after Flynn resigned in February, buthe has faced accusations he is anti-Israel due both to his support of the Iran nuclear deal and reports that he refers to Israel as “the occupying power.” He has also raised eyebrows for allegedly telling his staff not to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” — allegedly telling staff that terrorists are “un-Islamic.”
This week Breitbart News reported that The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), where White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is listed as being a member for eleven years, added George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and another Soros-financed group to the list of donors on its website.
Yet the Wall Street Journal, an outlet that has repeatedly proven out of step with Trump and his base with its outdated stances on immigration and support for establishment Republicans, dismisses such criticisms in its editorial — instead choosing to point the finger at Bannon.
Chief of Staff John Kelly is by all accounts imposing more discipline in the Trump White House, but a mini-drama of the last week shows there’s still more clean-up duty to be done. To wit, notice the alt-right brigades who seem to rise up as if on call to smite some White House policy opponent of aide Steve Bannon.
The article seems to be referring in part to Breitbart News, of which Bannon was Executive Chairman until he resigned last year in order to lead Trump’s campaign. Breitbart, as an actual right-wing news outlet (unlike the globalist WSJ), has understandably been critical in its coverage of McMaster.
When the Journal’s editorial does step into the subject of criticisms of McMaster, it summarizes that he has “come in for abuse for favoring more troops and a new strategy in Afghanistan, for warning that Vladimir Putin is no friend of America, and for advising that Mr. Trump not precipitously withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. He also recently dismissed some NSC staff members who were brought on by Mr. Flynn and are said to be allies of Mr. Bannon.”
While this is not an accurate summary of arguments made by conservative critics of McMaster, the Journal instead quickly moves on to making insinuations about Bannon’s involvement in such criticism — apparently without evidence. Dismissing attacks from “the Bannon brigades” about McMaster’s stance on radical Islam and Israel as “preposterous,” the editorial soon trains its sights on Bannon’s job and calls on new White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly to question Bannon’s loyalties.
“The former Breitbart publisher has been a White House survivor, but his warring habits have also been responsible for much of the White House dysfunction,” the piece says, before apparently implying that Kelly and Trump should look to dismiss Bannon.
“Policy brawls are routine in any White House, and Lt. Gen. McMaster can surely handle his corner,” the editorial says. “The issue for Mr. Kelly—and Mr. Trump—is what to do when disagreement inside the White House turns into vilification of his staff from the outside.”
Where the globalist outlet falls on this made-up question is clear in the final words of the article:
“Mr. Trump may worry about the damage Mr. Bannon and his allies could do to his Administration if he is no longer part of the White House team. But if his minions continue to vilify his colleagues inside the White House, how can anyone tell the difference?”
It is far from the first time the Journal has called on Trump to do something about Bannon. In February, it grouched that he should stop following through on his campaign promise of pushing a hardline on immigration. Instead, it argued that Trump should push for “less Bannon disruption and more focus on passing his reform and growth agenda.”
But if Bannon is to blame for the “vilification” of McMaster, then who in the White House — one might wonder — is to blame for the Journal’s vilification of Trump’s loyal chief strategist?
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY