One of the most under-reported and significant stories of the Trump White House in the past 24 hours has been the enhanced political clout suddenly accumulated by the president's national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster.
Sources Newsmax talked to on Capitol Hill almost unanimously agreed that the exit of White House counselor Steve Bannon from the principals of the National Security Council significantly strengthens the hand of McMaster on the foreign policy front.
"Gen. McMaster has quickly emerged as a very powerful voice, bringing swift and decisive policy options to an administration that remains understaffed at State and the Pentagon," Ken Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, told us. "He is already turning out to be as influential as any national security adviser since Condoleezza Rice, a remarkable feat since he and President Trump only first met a few weeks ago."
Weinstein added that McMaster's presence "reassures our allies and reminds our foes that the days of strategic patience - of watching crises unfold from the sidelines like a sports reporter, the hallmark of Obama's policies - are over."
By nearly all accounts, McMaster wanted Bannon out of his turf. Reaction to the news that the former Breitbart executive would no longer participate in meetings of NSC principals was applauded by members of Congress.
"Thank heaven," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R.-Fla., a past chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and no fan of Bannon's, told reporters Thursday.
Rep. Robert Pittenger R.-NC, chairman of the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, told Newsmax that "the President probably realized that the strengths of Steve Bannon were better served in areas other than the NSC."'
Pittenger and other Republicans who wanted action against the Assad regime in Syria believe they have an ally in McMaster. He earned a Silver Star for leading coalition forces during the Iraqi War of 1991 at the famed "Battle of 73 Eastings." In that battle, McMaster's forces were outnumbered by Saddam Hussein's elite units but overcame them without a single casualty.
McMaster also has his critics on the right. They cite his closeness to those they call "neo-conservatives" who, they charge, want an interventionist policy abroad.
"This is everything Trump ran against," former Texas Republican Chairman Tom Pauken, an early Trump supporter, told us, "Neocons and their useful idiots at NSC and the Department of Defense are back in power."
The analogy of Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and McMaster to Richard Nixon, his Secretary of State William P. Rogers, and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger is also being increasingly made in official Washington.
Writing in 1972, the late London Times Washington Correspondent Henry Brandon pointed out that what was notable about then-Secretary of State Rogers was "his lack of foreign policy experience."
"Kissinger," Brandon correctly predicted, "was to become on the other hand the idea man, the policy taster, the man in charge of the fuse box in the White House that could short-circuit the entire bureaucracy, even the Cabinet."
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