Blogosphere lights up over McChrystal stunner
Published: June 22, 2010
The trickle of news began around 6 p.m. Monday night that Rolling Stone had a new profile on Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Then we all started to read it. Wow. He said what? They’re drinking where? Uh oh.
By mid-evening, several military reporters and bloggers were dissecting what we were seeing before our eyes. Then the apology came. Not a denial, not a nondenial, not even a “Those quotes are out of context.”
This morning, as the cast of Morning Joe was digesting the article with their oatmeal (from Starbucks, of course) NBC’s Savannah Guthrie broke news on Twitter that the White House had summoned McChrystal back to Washington to face the president and the entire war cabinet in their previously scheduled Situation Room meeting on Wednesday.
Now it was a new ballgame.
Here’s a sampling of blogs on the run:
Danger Room’s anonymous blogger “Security Crank,” identified as a former Army Human Terrain System employee, writes: “If President Obama fires McChrystal, there’s a very real possibility of months of chaos as the commands switch over—just as there was last year, when McKiernan was axed. Worse still, it’s unclear that McChrystal’s original strategy can be pulled off without his staff there to push it down the chain of command.”
The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman, a.k.a. Attackerman, thought McChrystal would not be fired (when he filed a blog around 9:30 a.m. at least), but writes: “Vice President Biden will probably have the last laugh…” Ackerman notes that Biden thought “McChrystal’s adjusted plan for Kandahar is ‘[counterterrorism]-plus’, meaning something closer to the counterterrorism-and-Pakistan-centric alternative Biden advocated last fall.”
The New York Daily News’ James Gordon Meek writes: “The hot seat will probably turn into an ejection seat by week’s end.” Meek notes a June 18 rosy ISAF press release about the war’s progress went missing suddenly: “So which is the more truthful or accurate statement: The U.S.-dominated campaign doesn’t have the initiative or security is improving? The answer may not matter to our nation’s leaders, judging by early reaction on Capitol Hill to McChrystal’s comments that insulted luminaries such as Vice President Joe Biden.
Former CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, now of Military.com, leads with: “It’s hard to see how the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan can keep his job…” Besides, McChrystal slipped by last year after criticizing the leadership, so what more is there to say? Oh this: “Except for one important factor. The U.S. is not making any real progress in Afghanistan under the Petraeus-McChrystal plan.” Note the big name missing from most of today’s commentary, the man McChrystal actually reports to.
Rick Klein, author of ABC.com’s The Note, usually is focused on Hill and White House politics, which meant today was great day to wade into military news. ABC’s Matt Jaffe caught Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee outside a hearing: “I just think that they're out of place and inappropriate and so I'm very much troubled by them.”
Sen. Jim Webb, former secretary of the Navy, said: “"I think whether or not he should resign is up to the President, but I think he's had three bites out of the apple here.” Those are, Webb said: his involvement in the Pat Tillman cover up, giving a 60 Minutes interview during the strategy review last fall, and his disasterous London appearance. That, Sen. Webb, would make this the fourth bite. Not sure what happens now, but it’s up to four.
And at Talking Points Memo, Megan Carpentier took the time to write about what everyone else was complaining about until midday Tuesday: why did Rolling Stone wait so long to post their own article on their own website?
We all had a PDF of the original article on Monday night around 6:00 p.m. Or at least many of us did. But nobody threw the raw copy online because of obvious copyright restrictions. Not until Tuesday morning did Politico’s Morning Defense post a link to it. But in “How Rolling Stone Won The News Cycle And Lost The Story,” Carpentier writes: “Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana said the publication of the reprint was unauthorized, but "there's been no discussion" of legal action.”
Lesson No. 2 of 11 ways to do it better next time, Carpentier writes: “Publish the story and shop it to every media outlet under the sun because you realize that it's actual news, unlike Lady Gaga's machine gun jumblies.”
UPDATING MORE BELOW:
Andrew Sullivan, of The Atlantic and a Bill Maher regular, asks why MSM Pentagon reporters (Like me? Hey, now.) missed getting McChrystal’s true feelings all this time when the big “get” went to Rolling Stone? Almost giddy, Sullivan picks up Gordon Lubold of Politico’s take, that a freelance reporter can do what a beat reporter could not, or would not: “[McChrystal] is not known for being media savvy. Hastings, who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years, according to the magazine, is not well-known within the Defense Department. And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”
For the record, if I was drinking in a bar in Paris with Gen. McChrystal and his inner sanctum and they said it was on the record, I'd print it. I promise. Match meet bridge.
Vanity Fair’s Bill Bradley chimed in early with three tips for war commanders: don’t go drinking in Paris with Rolling Stone, don’t trash everyone in the administration, and don’t believe your own mythology. (Aww, come on!) “General McChrystal, as this and many other profiles have portrayed him, is an intellectual and athletic bad-ass. …Somewhere along the way, however, his ego got the better of his vaunted strategic judgment. To even think that he could say such things outside of a tight-knit, private circle without them being repeated reflects a woeful lack of self-awareness.”
Time magazine's Joe Klein has a point-counterpoint via Swampland with Andrew Exum, aka Abu Muqawaba from the Center for a New American Security. Exum lays out the cases for dropping/keeping McChrystal. But Klein writes: "I suspect he'll have to go...and the least disruptive way to proceed is to replace him with his operations officer, Lt. General David Rodriguez. I wish this could be otherwise."
Exum wrote: "I have been struck by the degree to which a lot of smart friends are in disagreement about what should be done about l'Affair Rolling Stan." He adds, "Neither side, that I have yet seen, has acknowledged that either course of action would carry risk." He's posted anew, three options for the president, here.