General headed to the woodshed, will he get the axe?
The sound of palms slapping foreheads could be heard all over Washington, the physical exclamation of “what were they thinking?”
The spectacularly frank quotes from General Stanley McChrystal and his aides mocking Vice President Joe Biden and other top advisers to the president and commander-in-chief were jaw-dropping, not because that’s what they really thought, but because the views were uttered to a reporter working on a profile for Rolling Stone magazine.
Right from the first headline of the article titled “The Runaway General” it was apparent what was to come: “Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”
It’s one thing to talk truth to power — considered an admirable trait in military and intelligence circles — and quite another to make fun of top civilian leadership behind their backs in a very public forum.
So the general has been summoned to Washington from the battlefields of Afghanistan to explain this serious breach in chain-of-command etiquette. And it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a warm welcome.
UPDATE: President Barack Obama after a cabinet meeting said he had not decided what action he will take. “I think it is clear that the article in which he and his team appear showed poor judgment … but I also want to make sure I talk to him directly before I make any final decision.”
Earlier, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama was angry when he read the article and that “all options are on the table” when it comes to the general’s future.
(We’re wondering if White House enforcer Rahm(bo) Emanuel will get some time behind closed doors with the general before the meeting with the president tomorrow.)
Two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. David Obey and Senator Byron Dorgan, said McChrystal needs to leave his post if the comments in the article were accurate.
“I think sooner or later, probably sooner, Stan McChrystal will leave the administration,” Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters congressional correspondent Susan Cornwell. “He’s got deep disagreements with the White House national security staff, and he let his frustrations boil to the surface.”
The White House has begun laying the groundwork for removal of the general — if that ends up being the decision — and you have to look no further than Gibbs’ comments. He called it a “profound” mistake and said waging the war in Afghanistan was bigger than any one person — a not-so-subtle response to those who might say the general is needed in the fight right now.
James Hoge, editor of “Foreign Affairs” magazine, and Peter Peterson, chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a post on The Daily Beast wrote that McChrystal must go or Obama risks looking like a “wuss.”
“If Obama is to have any chance of succeeding in winding down the U.S. military engagement with some semblance of accomplishment and honor, he must end the policy divisions within his administration and the insubordination of military leadership on the ground. These efforts must start with a decisive heave-ho of General McChrystal. Anything less will reinforce the emerging calculation that Obama is a wuss,” they wrote.
The general has been calling and apologizing to everyone who got insulted in the article, but egos are huge and memories long in Washington, and forgiveness takes forever. It’s going to take more than “I’m sorry” to save his job.
Should McChrystal be ousted or forgiven?
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and McChrystal in White House press room, May 10), Reuters/Omar Sobhani (McChrystal and Afghan President Hamid Karzai)