Firing H.R. McMaster Makes Biden Look as Petty as Trump
Treating a former national security adviser and lieutenant general the same way as a political mouthpiece really is a political “massacre.”
Joe Biden’s bipartisan fantasy league cut another player this week with the petty, crass, and unnecessary removal of former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster from the advisory board of the United States Military Academy (also known as West Point).
Every president has the right to make such moves, but that doesn’t mean this decision isn’t scandalous. If Trump had removed a predecessor’s appointee of McMaster’s stature, the resulting criticism would have been deafening. Compare that to the current mainstream outrage level, which sounds more like crickets.
This much is indisputable: Lt. Gen. McMaster is highly qualified for this role. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and has also served there as an assistant professor of history. As Politico reports, “Later this week McMaster is getting honored by West Point’s Association of Graduates as a Distinguished Graduate of the academy.” This is all to say his academic and military qualifications are beyond reproach.
Now, McMaster didn’t always cover himself in glory during his tenure at the White House. But to the degree that he was complicit in the Trump administration’s sins, McMaster—much like former Defense Secretary James Mattis—helped mitigate some of the damage Trump might otherwise have inflicted.
The same could not be said of some of the other Trump administration officials who are also being asked to step down from military boards. Mixed in with names like McMaster, the list includes some partisan political operatives with dubious qualifications. White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki hinted at who these might be in what amounts to a strawman argument about the purge: “I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified, or not political, to serve on these boards.” Psaki seemed to suggest that Conway and Spicer were indicative of the 18 military academy board appointees being pushed out.
In this regard, McMaster’s sacking is both obscured and diminished by virtue of being part of a large-scale “massacre” (Purging one person can be a tragedy. Eighteen is a statistic). Instead of being overwhelmed by the number of people involved (or distracted by the worthy victims like Conway and Spicer), a purge of this magnitude is about pandering to Biden’s progressive base and paying back his critics.
I have no idea what Conway’s connections to the military are, but Spicer is a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. As far as we know, he has served his country honorably in uniform, but the same can’t be said of his service in a suit and tie, in which capacity he brazenly and routinely violated the U.S. Navy’s honor code: “Be honest and truthful in our dealings with each other, and with those outside the Navy,” and “Encourage new ideas and deliver the bad news, even when it is unpopular.”
Both are refusing to go quietly, with Spicer now threatening to sue. In a tweet, Conway complained that the move “seems petty and political, if not personal.” That may not apply to Conway, but it does to McMaster and others Biden just pushed out.
McMaster recently criticized Biden and Trump for “capitulation” to the Taliban. And Jack Keane, a retired four-star general who was also sacked, has also been a staunch critic of Biden’s foreign policy decisions. They have both been removed from their board seats after progressives ripped TV news for having them on to comment on the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Trump liked to boast about “my generals.” Now Biden gets to fire them, albeit from what were board positions rather than command ones.
Trump was not a normal president, and it is unreasonable to ask Biden to simply accept all of his eleventh-hour appointments. Still, he could have easily removed a couple of unqualified or unfit board members, instead of going overboard like this.
McMaster and Conway represent extreme ends of a tumultuous presidency. But Biden has treated them the same way, choosing a path where everyone from the Trump era is politically dead to him. Take no prisoners. No mercy. No exceptions. They’re all bad.
Revenge is Biden’s prerogative, but it’s not what we were promised and it’s an approach that will almost certainly lead to more such reprisals in the administrations to come.