General Stanley McChrystal's interview in Rolling Stone magazine will do a lot to damage further President Obama's standing among liberals and Democrats and will undermine his chances of keeping control of Congress in 2010.
To conservative voters and commentators, McChrystal’s comments underscore doubts about Obama's competence. To the administration's spokespeople, the interview shows a lack of proper subordination in the chain of command. But to the voters of the left, the key import of his comments is that the general in charge of the war in Afghanistan basically said the war is not being won, and perhaps cannot be won.
Obama's decision to fire McChrystal guarantees that the story will now share page one with the Gulf oil spill, focusing liberal attention on Obama's two cardinal sins in liberal eyes - the oil spill and the war in Afghanistan. Relieving the general of command sends a message that Obama is thin-skinned, arrogant, and easily offended.
Coming at the same time that the failure of the Obama Administration to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf is already rankling liberal voters, the McChrystal comments will add to their doubts about Obama. They already are against his decision to send additional troops there and have long believed that we should not be fighting in Afghanistan. By calling attention to how badly the war is going and the disarray in the president's foreign policy apparatus, the McChrystal interview can only highlight and underscore these concerns and further dampen liberal enthusiasm for Obama.
Neither the oil spill nor the Afghan War will drive any liberals to vote for conservatives or induce Democrats to vote Republican. But they both will hold down Democratic turnout and reinforce cynicism about the Obama presidency on the left. Those initially attracted by Obama's charisma will be driven away by these twin failures.
The Democratic Party is really a synthesis of environmentalists and peace advocates with a few gay rights activists and public employee unions thrown in. Now, Obama has alienated both the green and the anti-war segments of the party. And the continuing spillage from the Gulf oil well and from the general's mouth will further damage his standing with his political base.
Whatever the fate of General McChrystal or of the American involvement in the war, the mounting casualty lists will drag down Obama's prospects in November still further and depress his ratings in the days ahead.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann