Trump announced Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser Monday evening from his Mar-a-Lago resort, The New York Times reports. He spent the weekend there interviewing candidates to replace Michael Flynn, who stepped down after not telling the whole truth about a conversation he had with Russia’s ambassador.
McMaster is a dramatic change from Flynn—he has no ties to Trump, and isn't considered ideological. In fact, his most enduring nickname is “The Iconoclast General,” which comes from his sometimes harsh criticism of both the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “iconoclast” as either “a person who destroys religious beliefs” or “a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions.” Taken literally from its Greek roots, the word means “image destroyer.” It’s definitely not surprising that Trump would want someone famous for speaking his mind on his staff, considering that’s the thing Trump himself is most notorious for doing. But McMaster has proven throughout his career that he'll speak out against government and military action that he doesn’t agree with, even when doing so might ruffle feathers, as NPR notes. That makes Trump’s choice a bit confusing. Having an “image destroyer” on staff who might loudly criticize Trump's actions doesn’t jibe with the president’s history of how he’s handled staff members who disagree with him. Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired via hand-delivered letter after refusing to enforce Trump’s travel ban, is a notable example. So is Craig Deare, who was fired from the National Security Council for criticizing Trump just last week.
Arizona Senator John McCain also highly approves of McMaster as the pick for national security adviser, tweeting that he's "an outstanding choice for nat'l security adviser," and "a man of genuine intellect, character & ability." This is a change from McCain's recent vocal disagreement with Trump on many of his statements and actions. It feels like surprises are the new normal of the Trump administration.
Despite widespread approval of McMaster, it's hard not to wonder what will happen when McMaster disagrees with something Trump says or does. Will he take it in stride because “He’s a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience,” or will McMaster also have a shorter-than-average stint as the national security adviser for a completely different reason than Flynn? It looks like the we’ll just have to wait and see.