Pundit: McMaster ‘Selling a Little Bit of His Soul’ to Defend Trump

Thomas Ricks is a two-time Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and accomplished author, but he evidently has a more impressive skill — he can see people’s souls.

Ricks, who worked for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is selling his soul by defending President Donald Trump. He even insinuated that McMaster might be risking military discipline since he remains an active-duty lieutenant general of the U.S. Army.

“I wonder how long he’s going to get up there and defend the president on camera in a way that amounts to quibbling … appearing to speak the truth while not really speaking the truth.”

“I wonder how long he’s going to get up there and defend the president on camera in a way that amounts to quibbling, and quibbling is a military term for appearing to speak the truth while not really speaking the truth,” he said. “He has not retired from the Army, and he remains subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That makes what he does a little more difficult than it would be for the average Washington bureaucrat who gets a job like national security adviser.”

Ricks said he has known McMaster since he was a major and has great respect for him. But he said he is disappointed by McMaster’s public statements, first when he disputed the premise of a Washington Post story that Trump shared classified information with a pair of Russian diplomats this month in the Oval Office, and next when he responded to a leaked report that the president called former FBI Director James Comey a “nut job” in that same meeting.

Observers seized on the precision of McMaster's language to argue that the national security adviser claimed only that Trump did not reveal "sources and methods" without disputing the heart of the allegation — that the information was highly classified and came to the United States from a third-party country.

Bouduan asked Ricks if he believed McMaster would leave the job soon. His answer managed to take shots at White House counselor Stephen Bannon, adviser Kellyanne Conway, and press secretary Sean Spicer.

"I saw H.R. McMaster sell a little bit of his soul over the last 10 days or so. And he is a man of great soul. When you talk to him, and he gets emotional, his voice thickens, his shoulders roll," he said. "Unlike [retired general and former CIA Director] David Petraeus, who kind of always presented a shiny, hard façade, H.R. McMaster is a very sort of emotional guy. I think he must feel under enormous pressure. And I think he must be staying in the job so they don't get some Bannonite to replace him, some yahoo from that side of the Trump administration."

Ricks added: "You can see these people's souls leaving them the longer they're in these difficult jobs. I don't think Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer has [sic] much soul left."

Ricks offered no opinion about Bannon sacrificing his soul to work for Trump. Presumably, Ricks thinks Bannon never had one.

Last Modified: May 22, 2017, 1:32 pm

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