R.I.P. McMaster’s credibility

McMaster may very well still be, relatively speaking, the adult in the room when Trump is handling foreign policy, but wow, did he just trash his own reputation in the past 24 hours.  Yesterday at

this time, most journalists/pundits would assume if McMaster said it, it’s probably true.  Today, not so much.  Trump just seems to ruin and corrupt everything he touches.

Dara Lind:

If it’s possible to work for Donald Trump and still remain an honest person, we haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

Time and again, even the most serious and respected people in the Trump administration — people who were looked to as good influences on the ignorant and impulsive president, or, in a worst-case scenario, as canaries in the coal mine — have ended up going out to defend Trump over something indefensible. They may not be technically lying, but they are advancing Trump’s narrative instead of advancing the truth. And more often than not, Trump has repaid them by making them look like fools — admitting he committed whatever sin they’ve helped to cover up. [emphases mine]

Take National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who was trotted out to the press Monday night to push back against reports that Trump had divulged super-classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting last week (and possibly put a key anti-ISIS source in danger by doing so).

McMaster’s carefully worded non-denial denial all but went up in smoke by Tuesday morning, when Trump tweeted that he’d had very good reasons to give information to the Russians. By the time McMaster delivered a second press briefing Tuesday, he was affirmatively defending Trump’s decision to share information as “wholly appropriate” — and chiding the press for the “leaks” he’d earlier tried to discredit…

What McMaster, Pence, and Rosenstein have done is different. They’ve made statements that are carefully crafted to avoid saying anything that’s technically inaccurate. But those statements have been made to serve a White House narrative that is, itself, a lie.

They’re being accurate. But they’re not being honest…

There are other definitions of integrity. You can decide that you’re acting with integrity if you failed to stop something bad from happening but didn’t do anything to facilitate it. You can decide you’re acting with integrity if lies are going on around you but you don’t say anything that is a lie yourself.

If you’re concerned with preserving your own reputation, that may well make sense. “Yes, I was part of the Trump administration,” you can imagine someone saying a decade from now, “but they never made me lie.” You might be impressed by that. It’s an impressive feat.

Right now that’s the standard that McMaster, Rosenstein, and Pence have met. They have never made false statements. They have only been used to make falsehoods appear true — and made people look like fools for taking them at their word.

Alex Ward:

This might seem like a Post-said, White House-said scenario, but this is much, much more than that. Specifically, there are three main takeaways from the press conference:

  1. One of the most respected generals of the past 20 years is laying his reputation on the line for the president.
  2. When repeatedly asked if Trump leaked classified information, McMaster refused to answer.
  3. McMaster did not deny that Trump decided to leak the information on his own without having first discussed doing so with intelligence officials…

Here’s what is clear: McMaster is entering dangerous territory here by trying to refute this story and adopting the administration’s talking points. For the “hero” who once passionately argued for the importance of standing up for truth in the face of a president’s lies, that course of action seems decidedly unheroic.

Josh Barro:

“It is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said on Tuesday, not denying that President Donald Trump shared classified information from an allied intelligence service with Russian diplomats last week.

This is the sad, laughable defense the White House is left with: When the president does it, that means it is not inappropriate.

When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

The president indeed has the legal authority to share classified information if he wants. Contrary to what McMaster claimed, this doesn’t make his choice to do so automatically appropriate.



Various on-point tweets:



About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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