Wednesday: Obama, McChrystal Meet; Drilling Ruling to Be Appealed

BY Tom LeGro  June 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM EDT

President Barack Obama, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speaks about Gen. Stanley McChrystal during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Updated 10:40 a.m. | Gen. Stanley McChrystal left the White House roughly 30 minutes after his meeting with President Barack Obama began. He left before a scheduled 11:35 a.m. meeting with top cabinet officials about Afghanistan strategy that he had been asked to attend in person.

There was no immediate word what his fate would be after inflammatory comments from him and his top aides appeared in a magazine article. We’ll be following the latest developments here on The Rundown and on the NewsHour broadcast this evening.


President Barack Obama is set to meet with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal at the White House on Wednesday. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan set off a firestorm over remarks he and members of his staff made in a Rolling Stone interview published Tuesday that criticized senior administration officials.

Although McChrystal has prepared a letter of resignation, President Obama said he will decide whether to fire the general after they meet Wednesday morning.

McChrystal is also expected to attend Wednesday’s national security meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, where in attendance will be officials lambasted in the article: Vice President Joe Biden; National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones; Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (via videoconference).

The Washington Post’s Anne E. Kornblut and Karen Tumulty describe the president’s dilemma:

“Obama finds himself facing a particular test of that balance between control and deference with the publication of a magazine profile in which his top commander in Afghanistan, and those who surround him, showed disrespect for the president and his top civilian advisers…. Obama must assert authority over the military without alienating it or fueling skepticism about his own fitness as its commander.”

Slate’s Fred Kaplan weighs two possible outcomes:

“The key question–and it’s one that nobody outside the Oval Office can answer–is whether President Obama feels that he can still trust McChrystal….If Obama is simply fed up with McChrystal, and especially if Gates (McChrystal’s patron and Obama’s most trusted Cabinet officer) agrees with the assessment, then the general has to go. There are other risks, though. If McChrystal is pushed out, and if the war continues to go badly, many will blame Obama for this decision; they’ll say his ego got in the way of the war effort.”

NPR’s Alan Greenblatt says if history is any indication, McChrystal will lose his job. And moreover:

“The bedrock American concept of civilian control over the military essentially demands it.”

The New York Times argues:

“Whatever President Obama decides to do about General McChrystal, he needs to get hold of his Afghanistan policy right now.”

An Economist Democracy in America correspondent agrees:

“I also think there’s something else going on here: a failure [by McChrystal] to take responsibility for his own military strategy…. McChrystal does not appear to be achieving his own targets in Afghanistan. The strategy he is pursuing is his own. He has been given the resources he asked for.”

And if McCrystal is fired, who will take charge? Thomas Ricks at Foreign Policy thinks:

“James Mattis, who is just finishing up at Jiffycom, and who had planned to retire later this year and head home to Walla Walla, Washington. Petraeus and Mattis long have admired each other. The irony is that Mattis has a reputation — unfairly, I think — for speaking a little too bluntly in public about things like killing people. I think Mattis is a terrific, thoughtful leader.”

White House to Appeal Judge’s Decision on Drilling Moratorium

The White House said it will immediately appeal a U.S. district judge’s decision to block the administration’s six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling. The Interior Department issued the moratorium in May in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but judge Martin Feldman ruled Tuesday in New Orleans that the government had not proven the moratorium is necessary.

Interior secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that he would issue a new moratorium in the coming days that “eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities.”

Meanwhile, controversy arose over reports that Judge Feldman holds investments in the oil and gas industry.

Haley Wins South Carolina Primary; Lee Takes Utah Race

South Carolina state Rep. Nikki Haley won the Republican runoff primary for the state’s governorship, moving her closer to becoming the state’s first female and first Indian-American governor and cementing her place as a rising star in the GOP firmament.

In Utah, attorney Mike Lee narrowly beat businessman and fellow Tea Party-backed candidate Tim Bridgewater in the Republican Senate primary. He is the heavy favorite to win the election in November in the conservative state.

Suspected Drug Kingpin Captured in Jamaica

Suspected Jamaican drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke was captured by authorities just outside the capital city of Kingston Tuesday, Jamaican authorities said. The month-long search for him had set off clashes that killed 76 people.

PBS NewsHour reporter-producer Lea Winerman contributed to this post.