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 latest target has been H.R. McMaster, the three-star general who took over as national security adviser after President Trump fired Michael Flynn. Lt. Gen. McMaster 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.
Policy brawls are routine in any White House, and Lt. Gen. McMaster can surely handle his corner. 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.
Somehow the Bannon brigades outside the White House decided to assail the general as insufficiently pro-Israel and not hostile enough to Islamic State, among other calumnies. The latter is especially preposterous since then Colonel McMaster developed the counter-insurgency strategy in Tal Afar that was the prototype for the 2007 “surge” that won the Iraq War.
Mr. Trump issued a statement of support for Lt. Gen. McMaster late on Friday, which in a better White House would settle the matter. But rather than question the general’s loyalties, perhaps Mr. Kelly should question Mr. Bannon’s. 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.
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?
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board