Breitbart News, perhaps the most important pro-Trump media outlet in America, didn't make much effort to hide its disdain for the president's decision to step up the war in Afghanistan.
In a splash headline, the hard-right nationalist site blasted Trump's primetime speech Monday night announcing that the US would continue fighting as a "flip-flop" that would lead to "endless war." The site blamed "globalists" in the administration for pushing "more war abroad," arguing that "Washington doesn't know" what victory even means in Afghanistan.
@JDiamond1: Breitbart homepage right now. Looks like Steve Bannon's not too happy with how Afghanistan deliberations turned out:
Breitbart singled out National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster for blame for the decision.
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"Today's Afghanistan speech by President Trump may be ... alien to his electoral base, though it was not difficult to figure out whose influence led to the speech's neoconservative bent. HR McMaster's voice was clear to hear," Raheem Kassam, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart's London branch, wrote in a piece titled "His McMaster's Voice."
Kassam's piece wasn't a one-off. It was part of a months-long war that Breitbart has been waging against Trump's top foreign policy adviser, publishing article after article attacking McMaster as soft on jihadism, hostile to Israel, and disloyal to the president.
Breitbart's war with McMaster highlights the tension between Trump's unorthodox policy instincts, the things that attracted publications like Breitbart to him in the first place, and the mainstream figures like McMaster who make up an increasingly large percentage of his inner circle.
That fighting is already intensifying now that Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, has retaken his pre-Trump position as Breitbart's chair, a top editorial position. Bannon was known for feuding with McMaster and others, like National Economic Council Chair Gary Cohn, whom he saw as hostile to the Breitbart agenda. Freed from the confines of the West Wing, Bannon can now bash them as harshly as he wants to.
So far, the Breitbart/Bannon offensive hasn't been very effective in shifting policy, as the Afghanistan speech proves. If anything, the nasty public attacks on McMaster have strengthened the formerly embattled official's standing in the White House. (Just months ago, there were rumors that Trump had soured on McMaster and that his job was at risk.)
"These attacks have largely backfired in terms of McMaster's own position within the White House," says Andrew Exum, who held a top Mideast policy position at the Pentagon during the Obama years and has worked with McMaster in the past. "They seem to have provoked or stimulated greater sympathy for McMaster within the government."
But it does have the potential to sow more chaos down the line. The nastier the fight gets, and the more time managing it takes up for McMaster and his staff, the harder it will be for them to do their jobs effectively.
And McMaster is facing a new and dangerous threat from Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israel GOP megadonor, who is working to cast McMaster as anti-Israel. Breitbart is gleefully amplifying those attacks.