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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Stan’s so not the man, facing the can

Four-star general displayed plebe-level judgment
in openly criticizing Afghan war plan and planners

Given that the Obama Administration had already given Gen. Stanley McChrystal a pass previously – actually, two – for being “outspoken,” the only defense he could possibly offer the president when he comes into the Oval Office to meet with him tomorrow and explains his comments in the July 8 issue of Rolling Stone is insanity. From heat stroke, induced by the Afghan sands.

Yeah, that’s it.

Or just end the madness and offer his resignation. You can only beef at your boss but for so long before you meet the tail end of a door knob.

The scathing assessments of civilian handling of the war in Afghanistan – the war Obama installed him to oversee, despite a cloudy past – provides a contemptuous view of this White House by both the man and his empowered staff. Why his press aide Duncan Boothby didn’t pull the plug as this story was unwinding is still not explained, which may be why said aide resigned.

That McChrystal ran his mouth – and even more so, allowed his inner circle to blab off the cuff – is fairly surprising, even for a guy known to thumb his nose at authority. After all, military life is the ultimate homage to authority, and McChrystal is neither a newbie nor a dummy in this arena.

Including his West Point tenure, he’s closing in on 40 years in the service. He has a bachelor’s, two master’s, and studied at both Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations. And he’s been hailed as brilliant.

So what gives with the general’s sudden diarrhea of the mouth? I’m sure the president is eager to find out.

There have been arguments to can McChrystal for his ultimate dis job, as well as arguments to keep him, particularly since Obama already has replaced on general on the Afghan front.

Of course, the big winner in all of this is Rolling Stone magazine. Long known as an upstart in the world of “serious” journalism, the magazine had lost some of that luster in recent years. Modern hipsters saw it as "so ‘90s." This scoop – an opportunity of time and place – not only left competitors from erstwhile publications such as Time, Newsweek, The New Republic and the National Review in the dust, it also pushed its name to the fore of headlines worldwide. Take that, Financial Times! A half-naked Lady Gaga and a half-embittered four-star general in the same issue! Anybody else hear registers going ca-ching?!

Article author Michael Hastings for one can’t be saddened by the firestorm his piece has wrought. Far from a fan of the war (he chronicled his emotions after his fiancée, an aid worker, was killed in Iraq), he’s also far from a newbie. He took full advantage of the access he was granted to McChrystal – and the result no doubt will wind up as a case study for public relations management courses for years to come. After all, Hastings, a former Newsweek staffer and a GQ contributor, wrote the piece in classic Rolling Stone style – brash, pointed and salacious, complete with all curse words possible for extra emphasis.

All the wrong light for any PR professional worth the salt. And just more salt in open lashes this administration is taking from every direction and corner of the world, at home and abroad. Pick a crisis and multiply it. Welcome to 2008 Hope and Change colliding with 2010 Obstinateness and Reality.

Then again, BP might end up being the secret winner. Surely Tony Hayward and his BP brethren are breathing a sigh of relief to be out of the public flogging circle, if only for a moment. More than likely, it’ll be a brief one, with U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman reversing the Obama Administration’s issued six-month ban on deep-water drilling, calling it “overbearing.”

Never mind the deep goop that continues to strangle the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 20. For now, Washington’s eyes are fixed on the deep goop that McChrystal finds himself.

Wondering your view. This browngirl, for sure, will be staying tuned.

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