Editor’s note: The Long March will be closed for inventory the month of August. We regret any inconvenience this causes our loyal customers. In an effort to keep you reasonably content and focussed, we are offering re-runs of some of the best columns of the year. We value your custom and hope you will stick around for . . . the Long March.
Flynn blew up on the launch pad. McMaster lasted a year as the national security advisor. Now Kelly seems to be slowly sliding toward the exit. Can Mattis be far behind?
This all makes me wonder: What is the bottom line on Trump and generals?
I’d be interested in what you all have to say. But, sure, I’ll go first.
I think Trump had a cartoon notion of generals out of DC Comics. He must have been taken aback when he found out that many of them, far from resembling Marvel superspy Nick Fury, are fact-based people who believe deeply in the American system and especially its post-World War II role as a key stabilizing force in the world. They think NATO is a good thing. They loathe Putin as a thug surrounded by rich parasites. They swore oaths to uphold the Constitution, not a person holding power.
And so I think that, Flynn excepted, these generals have been extremely frustrating to this president. Instead of just going out and doing what he wants, they tell him why he is wrong. (McMaster did so in public, on Russia, and got a Trump tweet smackdown in return).
So, in the long run, I think the generals will be remembered as emblematic of Trump’s first screwy year, when as the estimable Maggie Haberman observes, Trump was new and scared. By contrast, Trump nowadays feels he understand the job and is doing magnificently if only people would stop probing his past crimes. So he has turned away from the generals and instead is stocking his staff with people he has watched on Fox News.
Unlike the generals, this new crowd has demonstrated through their work at a corrosive organization that they generally do not believe in the rule of law and will do what the boss wants, when he wants it, and how it wants it done.