McChrystal and nut-cutting time

This Friday Rolling Stone‘s July 8-22, 2010 issue will hit the newsstands as they say.  It will contain an article that is today’s scandale du jour in Washington, D.C., already online, entitled “The Runaway General.” It is a profile of sorts of  U.S. Afghan commander Stanley McChrystal, which makes the general look like a red-neck with the maturity and sophistication of a high school wrasslin’ coach in some backwater Texas town — the sort that collects bullies as hangers on who call things they don’t like “gay” (“It’s fuckin’ gay” is how one of his aides describes a dinner “with some French ministers”  that the general is about to attend.)

The tag for the piece is:  “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”. In other words it’s a complete public relations disaster.  And of course, according to the BBC, the PR aide has fallen on his sword: “Duncan Boothby, a special assistant to Gen McChrystal who organised the Rolling Stone journalist’s access to the commander, has resigned as a result of the article.”

How McChrystal thought he was going to get away with the opinions he and his staff expressed is really mind-boggling. He already had a high stakes brush up with the Obama administration early in the build up process.  But that’s not all according to the article:

The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

And it doesn’t end there. In fact, all his civilian superiors come in for his or his aides’ mockery. To be in this group must be like being with a coach and his assistants at a school that has nothing going for it except the team. And they think all the students, teachers and principals are afraid of them.

The comments he and his staff allow themselves to utter are astonishing. McChrystal is now on his way to meet Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in Washington (and undoubtedly the President). He has already called the interview “a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”

There are occasionally times in the tenure of an executive that Lyndon Johnson called “nut-cutting times.” He was not making use of that phrase’s origin referring to squirrels gathering acorns for the winter. This is one of those time (in LBJ’s sense).

We have seen Obama’s tepid stimulus bill to address the depression and his playing footsies with Wall Street begging them to accept his “reforms.” From those we know he is no FDR. We saw how he allowed Senators from his own party to mutilate the Health Care Reform initiative that was his key domestic initiative. We can see he is no LBJ. If McChrystal survives his meetings in Washington with his job, then we will know that Obama is no Harry Truman.

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  1. July 31st, 2010
  2. September 14th, 2010

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