McChrystal's Job in Peril Over Obama Slam

Tuesday, 22 Jun 2010 09:12 AM

By David A. Patten

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Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander in charge of the stalled war in Afghanistan, may be on the verge of being fired over remarks in an upcoming edition of Rolling Stone magazine that appear to disparage President Obama and members of his administration.

NBC News is reporting that the White House has summoned McChrystal to return the United States to attend a meeting in the White House situation room Wednesday, where he will be asked to explain controversial comments, most of which appear to come from his aides.

On Tuesday afternoon, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joined independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut in a joint statement on the McChrystal controversy.

"General McChrystal's comments, as reported in Rolling Stone, are inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military," the senators stated.

The senators said they share "the highest respect" for McChrystal, but added that "The decision concerning General McChrystal's future is a decision to be made by the president of the United States."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., praised McChrystal's service on Tuesday but also said his fate should be determined by the president.

McChrystal has apologized for the article but did not take issue with its accuracy.

“I extend my sincerest apology for this profile,” McChrystal said, according to the Washington Post. “It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and it should have never happened.”

NBC reports that the article, titled “The Runaway General,” depicts McChrystal as saying he is disappointed in a perceived lack of interest Obama displayed during a meeting one year ago to discuss the wars in the Middle East . McChrystal’s aides described the president as uninformed and not engaged.

One McChrystal aide is quoted calling national security adviser James Jones a “clown.”

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, is depicted as sending a memo to cover “his flank for the history books.” Eikenberry is a retired three-star general.

The article also quotes a McChrystal aide saying of Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan : “The boss [McChrystal] says he’s like a wounded animal," according to The Washington Post. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reported Tuesday morning that the White House has summoned McChrystal to explain his remarks. The incident marks the second time that McChrystal has appeared to have a run-in with the administration’s handling of Afghanistan, now the longest war in U.S. history.

In October, the president and McChrystal met privately on Air Force One while it sat on a tarmac in Copenhagen during Obama’s ill-fated bid to bring the Olympics to Chicago.

During that meeting, McChrystal reportedly was taken to task for a speech in which he said some policies under consideration by the White House would lead to “chaos-istan” in Afghanistan. McChrystal also appeared to be pressuring the president to act more rapidly to add more troops to the war there.

The timing of the controversy could hardly come at a worse moment for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. U.S. casualties have increased sharply in recent weeks, debate continues over the wisdom of Obama’s hard-and-fast deadline to begin troop withdrawals next year, and European allies continue to openly question the ongoing cost of their commitments.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough remarked Tuesday morning that a Republican president would fire McChrystal immediately for such remarks, but that a Democratic president would have to be careful to avoid playing into the narrative that Democrats are anti-war.

“The substance of this will be debated on the campaign trail. General McChrystal has just handed the Republican Party a club by which they will hammer Barack Obama and every Democrat over the next three to four months,” Scarborough said.

“If he gets to that meeting in the White House tomorrow without having resigned, I will be stunned,” pundit and author Mark Halperin commented, indicating that he thought the resignation would be forced.

“He has to go,” Scarborough said. “I think he’s fired.”

In his statement of apology, McChrystal said he has "enormous respect and admiration" for the president.

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