Lieutenant General HR McMaster gained fame for a landmark book blaming politicians for the US debacle in Vietnam.
After one year at the White House as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, he likely doesn’t have a higher opinion of Washington’s political elites.
On Thursday McMaster announced he would be stepping down to make way for Bush-era defense hawk John Bolton — and became the latest victim of the never ending bedlam, infighting and capriciousness that has characterized decision-making under Trump.
The serving officer had been widely expected to leave the White House later this year and return to the army with a promotion as a four-star general.
But his decision to retire from public life entirely came as a surprise.
“After thirty-four years of service to our nation, I am requesting retirement from the US Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service,” he said in a statement.
“Throughout my career it has been my greatest privilege to serve alongside extraordinary service members and dedicated civilians.”
– Tank commander, author –
Herbert Raymond McMaster made the move from the Pentagon to the White House as a proven battlefield hero — he led a now-legendary tank battle in the first Gulf war — and a respected military intellectual.
His pointedly titled book “Dereliction of Duty” earned him huge respect throughout the services as it savaged the politicking and careerism that he argued sank the military’s battle plan in Vietnam in the 1960s.
When the three-star army general replaced Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor who stepped down after 22 days over his murky contacts with Russians, there was a surge in hope that foreign policy neophyte Trump would be in safe hands.
He would form a triumvirate with Defense Department chief James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to keep a steady hand on the tiller.
He was enough in the “us versus the world” school of thought to work with Trump.
“Geopolitics are back and are back with a vengeance after this holiday from history we took in the so-called post-Cold War period,” he said in a speech late last year.
He took a harder line than his colleagues on North Korea, mulling a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear threat, saying “traditional deterrence” might not work with Pyongyang.
But, like Mattis and Tillerson, he resisted Trump’s instinctual rejection of multilateralism. McMaster is credited with blocking Trump’s push to end the Iran nuclear deal, and bending Trump’s attacks against NATO into just niggling criticisms over money.
– ‘Cage match’ –
He partly restored the mess of the NSC that Flynn left, regularizing a policy process and coordinating with other agencies, while driving out acolytes of Flynn and Steve Bannon, the president’s arch strategist.
For that he had to endure a withering campaign from the hard right to force him out, one which labelled him a liberal, an enemy of Israel and pro-Iran, among other things.
But his efforts to systematize the policy process weren’t enough, said Heather Hurlburt, a national security and government policy expert at the New America thinktank.
“The hope was that McMaster would form a smoothly functioning triumvirate with Mattis and Tillerson and he hasn’t been able to do that.”
“What is different here is you have a president who doesn’t trust process and loves to pit his senior people against each other. You know, they were placed in a cage match,” she said.
Trump’s approach to foreign policy “has moved a lot of us out of our comfort zone, me included,” McMaster told the New York Times.
And over time balding, gruff 55-year-old lost the ability to shift Trump’s thinking. He never really clicked with Trump, who bristled at McMaster’s lecturing on policy, preferring the more deferential hands of Mattis and CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
Perhaps the final straw was when McMaster, echoing the consensus of the entire US intelligence establishment, told a conference in Munich that the evidence was “incontrovertible” that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
Trump, hyper-sensitive to the implication that Moscow aided his victory, publicly rebuked him.
“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,” Trump tweeted.
Trump is facing massive criticism for his attacks on young women of color in Congress
US President Donald Trump came under fire from Democrats and even some members of his own Republican Party on Monday after launching an extraordinary xenophobic attack on four progressive Democratic congresswomen.
"All they do is complain," Trump told reporters at a White House event featuring products "Made in America."
"These are people that hate our country," he said of the four lawmakers. "If you're not happy here, you can leave."
Trump also accused the four first-term congresswomen -- who are of Hispanic, Arab, Somali and African American origin -- of having "love" for US "enemies like Al-Qaeda."
Trump’s campaign is spending massively at his own businesses — and even more on lawyers
President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign filed their latest campaign finance reports on Monday.
Anna Massoglia, a researcher at the money in politics watchdog group Open Secrets, dissected the numbers and made two startling discoveries.
In the three months covered, from April through June, Trump's campaign and affiliated joint fundraising committees spent $326,094.24 at Trump businesses, including six figures at both Mar-a-Lago and Trump Hotel DC.
Trump's campaign also spent over $1.3 million on legal bills. He spent approximately $7 million on legal bills in 2018, Massoglia noted.
Trump is ‘one pointy white hat shy of a Klan rally’: GOP strategist Rick Wilson ripped Trump as a ‘flagrant racist’ on MSNBC
Republican strategy ripped President Donald Trump for being a "flagrant racist" during a Monday night appearance on MSNBC.
Lawrence O'Donnell interviewed Wilson about Trump's latest nativist attacks on young women of color in Congress.
"Rick Wilson, is this a campaign strategy? Is this Donald Trump and his campaign advisers thinking, well, our only hope is going for the voters we already have and energizing them and getting them to come and squeak out that electoral formula once again?" O'Donnell asked.
"Absolutely, Lawrence. As everyone else stated on the show, it’s been obvious for a long time from the long arc of his dad to redling to the Central Park Five to birtherism to this stuff today, this guy, he's racist adjacent in of the best day of his life," Wilson is explained.