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Returning from Hawaii. (Photo/WWR)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

West Wing Report: June 24, 2010

In accepting the resignation “with considerable regret” of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, President Obama framed the argument well: this is about a sacrosanct component of American democracy: civilian control of the military. McChrystal’s jaw-droppingly indiscreet and insulting comments were nothing less than insubordination, and no President – certainly not one leading two wars – can tolerate such dissent.

"We have to remember what this is all about,” Obama said. “This nation is at war." He added "I welcome debate…but I will not tolerate division."

The President could have made yesterday's Rose Garden announcement alone. Instead, in a show of unity, Vice-President Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen stood with him – along with Gen. David Petraeus, who Obama has nominated to fill McChrystal’s shoes.

Although the President praised McChrystal’s long record of service, his anger was reflected in his public rebuke of the General – something Obama rarely if ever does. That anger erupted Monday night when the President read the now infamous Rolling Stone article, which criticized nearly every member of Obama’s national security team - including the President himself.

But Obama said his sacking of the General wasn’t taken from “any sense of personal insult.“

“The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general,” the President said. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.”

"I've got great admiration for (McChrystal) and for his long record of service in uniform,” Obama said. "But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.“

Difficult as Iraq was, Petraeus says Afghanistan is a much more difficult situation: poor, remote, completely lacking in infrastructure. After nearly nine years there, the U.S. is fighting the same battle it fought back in 2001 – the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people – even battles for the same land it won back then and later ceded to the Taliban. The U.S. war in Afghanistan, by the way, is now the longest in American history.


Foreign policy dominates Obama’s schedule today as well. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits. Iran, energy and trade will dominate – they’ll hold a news conference in the East Room this afternoon.



9:00AM In-Town Travel Pool Call Time

9:30AM THE PRESIDENT receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press

10:30AM THE PRESIDENT holds bilateral meeting with President Medvedev
Oval Office
Closed Press

11:00AM THE PRESIDENT and THE VICE PRESIDENT hold an expanded bilateral meeting with President Medvedev
Cabinet Room
Closed Press

1:45PM THE PRESIDENT holds a joint press conference with President Medvedev
East Room
Open Press (Pre-set 12:45PM – Final Gather 1:15PM – North Doors of the Palm Room)

3:05PM THE PRESIDENT attends the U.S.–Russia Business Summit with President Medvedev
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Travel Pool Coverage (Gather Time 2:45PM – North Doors of the Palm Room)


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