McChrystal For President

Given the events of the last few days, with Rolling Stone publishing an article that printed much too much truth about what the staff of our senior military commanders actually think of this administration, there is now an opportunity for McChrystal to really do something about it all if he wants to.

I am not going to repeat the commentary that has been running elsewhere about the Rolling Stone article, except to say that I actually doubt that a man in Stanley McChrystal’s position would have not known the likely result of the interviews his staff were giving. I think he realized that the President’s withdrawal timetable was leading to inevitable defeat, and decided to make a strong statement about the administration before he went. If this is true, then he is a very savvy political player.

I’ll lay out a case for why he can run for president credibly, but I will make no predictions as to what sort of president he would be, except to say he would be guaranteed to be better than what we have.

First; by 2012 at the rate things are going, Michael Jackson’s chimp could probably win against Obama in the general election if endorsed by the Republican Party. Obviously, there is more to it than that, with a sitting president always having a lot of advantages, but this president is displaying an astounding lack of competence combined with an astounding ego, which blocks him from learning in order to build his competence. The result is that we should not expect Obama to have built back up his credibility by 2012. This all means that the real race will be inside the Republican Party in the primary election; rather the way the real race in 2008 was in the Democratic primary election.

With the populist anger out there, any outsider will have a great chance against a Washington insider, but people will still be looking for competent experience after 4 years of the boy wonder Omessiah. This means that a military leader is almost the only category of individual who could simultaneously show national security and leadership credentials and also not come from an institution (like Congress) viewed as corrupt and out of touch with America. Obviously, he can check this box nicely. It is hard to say that McChrystal’s experience would leave him unprepared to handle being Commander In Chief. No community organizer is he.

Thirdly, he has already tickled the happy button of every hard-core conservative in Washington by letting his staff say what they really think to Rolling Stone magazine. Everybody who considers Dick Cheney a great leader is smiling at the entire episode (minus a little queasiness at the thought of changing out commanders during a critical phase of operations in Afghanistan while we are losing our boys in combat). This means that he has a good base to begin courting the real conservative types who are critical in gaining support for a primary run for the Republican nomination. If you have given the crusty old Washington conservatives warm fuzzy feelings in the past, you are in a good position for getting the Republican nomination, which I’ve already said is critical to winning in 2012.

Finally, he is not bad in either political maneuvering (having out maneuvered Obama; twisting his arm into ‘OK’ing a troop level increase last year) or public speaking, which are critical to the ability to transform into a presidential candidate. His public speaking skills are not bad at all. He has a plain-spoken, humble, yet intelligent demeanor that could easily appeal to middle America. He comes across as the kind of guy who would explode if he tried to do anything other than “give it to you straight”, which is enhanced by his entire break with the Obama administration of course.

There are downsides, and he has some liabilities to get around. First of all, being a presidential candidate takes a tremendous amount of effort and represents an entirely different set of skills than the war-fighting and leadership skills he has honed his entire career. Knowing how to win a war and knowing how to win a political campaign are related, but he will have to get out fast, get help starting a PAC to fund travel (like WIN-PAC maybe), and get some on the ground experience canvassing, meeting constituents, and speaking on behalf of selected Congressional candidates this year in order to build some experience with the weird and wooly world of campaigning. Also, he will have to try to practice smiling, which is always a bonus in a presidential candidate.

Beyond his lack of campaign experience is his political past as a Pentagon ladder climber. In the Pentagon, a presidential vote is a strategic move connected to your ability to get appointed to different jobs, and I am certain that his decision to vote for Obama was, like Colin Powell’s, the result of a lot of years needing to be on the winning side of the Presidential race in order to stay relevant. He probably wanted to be able to be appointed to oversee Afghanistan by the new administration because he knew we were bleeding there and had to win for the sake of our boys (and girls) in uniform, but this is something he would have to explain (diplomatically) should he seek the Republican nomination.

Another area where he is a mystery is economics. This is a critical area now, with the Great Recession just dragging on and on thanks to the endless meddling and over-involvement of Washington in all areas of our economy. What McChrystal knows about economics is not clear. He would have to attract some good people (I would personally recommend Tom McClintock of CA, for example, both for political and economic advice), and would have to develop and articulate a very clear, credible, and (critically) different from the Democrats, approach to our economic problems in order to be viable. If he did this though, with his excellent military background and politically incorrect break with Obama, I think he could be a major player, should he decide that running for Commander-in-Chief is the best way to help our guys in harm’s way and protect our citizens (goals he appears to have spent his entire life pursuing).

Some say his rough edged personality and penchant to “go rogue” on leadership are bad traits. I disagree. I think these things allow Americans to identify with him (unlike, say David Petraeus, who, rather too perfect all the time, has been aptly described as a “geeky teacher’s pet type”). McChrystal’s personality is actually one of his best assets, and as a senior officer, he has even had to learn to curb the expletives that come naturally to a guy who spent too long in Spec-Ops when on camera.

Whether he can bring in a team of experienced people who know about campaigns to advise him, build up a little campaign experience, and develop a basic economic plan, and whether he even wants to go through all the trouble and years of sacrifice of running are unclear (though years of sacrifice don’t seem to faze him particularly given his background). Nevertheless, McChrystal could well be a formidable figure in a Republican primary given the current lack of a central leader in the GOP. As I said before, he who wins the GOP nomination in 2012 will be well on his way to winning the general. I don’t know if he would be a great president or even a good one, but after what we have now, I think he would seem great by comparison if he only tried a quarter as hard as he did to win our war in Afghanistan for us.

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~ by Jubal Biggs on June 27, 2010.

11 Responses to “McChrystal For President”

  1. And here I was believing Fox that McCrystal is all washed up. Ha! McCrystal for president 2012… it’s an interesting idea. I wonder if anyone has broached the idea to the man?

  2. I completely agree about McChrystal’s chances if he chose to try, and think you did a good job pointing out his major weaknesses as a candidate. I have to wonder if he might have been angling at this sort of career shift from the beginning, since I agree that the whole RS article and how it came to be is too fishy to be accidental. He sounds like a commander who knew the administration’s policies would cost a lot of his soldier’s lives (especially with that public pull-out date) and decided that it was worth burning his career in order to cast light on the administration’s incompetence. Without scrutiny, that policy will not change. Frankly, I applaud him for the sacrifice.

  3. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I thought that the man was fairly reserved in his comments. For example, he called Biden “nearsighted” — hell, I’ve been calling him a lot worse than that for many, many years. And as for what I think about Obama, remember he’s the one who handpicked Biden as his VP. I’m not sure why some people think that Obama is a good speaker as it seems to me that each time I listen him read one of his speeches, he tends to put commas (pauses) in the wrong places sometimes giving an unintended meaning to what he is trying to convey. Some may say that I am being petty on this issue, but he is the only major politician that I’ve ever heard doing it with the frequency that he does. For certain I would vote for Stanley if he were to run for President, although I’m sure he wouldn’t as the job would drive him crazy — I was going to save “to drink” but I guess he already likes to bend an elbow with his boys. The campaign chant for 2012 should be: “Stanley, Stanley, Stanley — Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!

    • I have to agree with you. I think we could do worse than a blunt, non-politically correct no nonsense war fighter for President. As for the VP, who knows; though I’d probably prefer someone with very solid fiscal conservative economic chops on the ticket, I would vote for your suggestion.

  4. Correct me if I am wrong but McChrystal is Democrat. Perhaps in the inevitable backlash within the Democratic Party (with momentum careening towards the DLC), he will run as a Harry Truman moderate.

    • I am not sure that he is a lifelong Democrat. Like many senior military men, he seems to have tried to keep to the middle, or the winning side however it came down. I could be wrong about this. I know generals usually try to keep their political views largely under wraps until they retire…
      I might be completely wrong on this though. I’ve been wrong before.

  5. I know that he said that he voted for Obama which probably means he is/was a democrat as his alternative would have been an ex-military man plus a no nonsense woman. Who knows, they may all end up as teapartiers. Anyway, if he does decide to run I would vote for him no matter the party. The last time I voted thirty-some years ago, it was for the democrat Frank Rizzo for mayor of Philadelphia. He would have made it to at least the governor’s office if only he could have passed that lie detector test. How about that — an ex-chief of police who couldn’t beat the lie detector.

  6. It’s funny how this article calls Mcchrystal’s getting himself fired the move of a “very savvy political player” because really, if his intention was anything other than getting himself fired then he failed.

    Mcchrystal is a great warrior and he’s done amazing things for this country, but nobody is perfect. I am almost 100% sure that what happened was not what he intended, whatever the reason for him to air his team’s views publicly, getting fired from the most important job in the military is not the work of a political mastermind. Furthermore, I don’t think he has any kind of political ambitions, if he did, he would probably by far be one of the stronger Republican candidates, but he doesn’t and I think time will show that. He won’t run for president, because what he wanted to be was a general and now he’s closed that avenue forever because of a self inflicted wound.

    So I agree with the premise that he probably should run for president, but I don’t agree that he is some sort of visionary genious that had this all planned out lol. That’s just silly. BTW you republicans have to stop harping on the community organizer bit, after you’ve been senator and president for 4 years that’s really no longer the most important part of your resume, you need some more petty arguments. 😛

    • *genius* :-P. I need to get some sleep…

    • Well, you are assuming the necessary condition for your argument to be correct. You are absolutely right IF the only ambition the man had was to “be a general” as you put it. Yes, if he only wanted to be a general, he did a pretty stupid thing. Of course, when you are suddenly in the Army’s most important job, as you correctly put it, it is easy to think that one starts looking around and wondering “what’s next?”. After all, to get to a three and then four star general, you have to keep climbing and climbing the ladder. He had climbed until now he was going and sitting down for tea with the incoming leader of the Conservative Party in the UK and other heads of state. It isn’t hard to think that maybe he looked at these guys and thought “heck, these guys aren’t supermen. I can do that job.”
      So, if he actually had other plans, which I don’t know because I am not him, then it may have been a smart move. If the only thing he ever wanted was to retire with four stars guaranteed, then no, it wasn’t.
      As for the party politics. I did not say he would be the best candidate, nor the best president. I said he has a shot if he wants to try it. He has problems inside the Republican Party (like voting for Obama, obviously), and he would have other problems with the American people at large. I think he is not a political “genius”, because he could have handled the entire thing better, but he is quite smart and a player who was able to out maneuver the new administration into putting in 30K new troops with a well timed statement at a think tank in the UK. Politically, that was a canny move, and it got him the support he felt he needed to win the war in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, with a set timetable, NOBODY can win the war in Afghanistan (see my post; “How To Win In Afghanistan”), so I think he decided to go out his way and try to take this administration down with him if he could. He is a guy who spent most of his career in the special forces community. That is the way they think; my premise is very plausible for a rogue, ticked off, special forces type guy with the political skills to get to four stars.
      But of course, I am not him. I don’t know what is in his head, so again, IF the only thing he wanted was to stay in the army, you are right, he was stupid.
      Last thing; you non Republicans had better pray that we keep harping on the “community organizer” thing, because that was the only SUCCESSFUL thing Obama has ever done! Woe to him if we start talking about how he has run the White House!

  7. […] McChrystal For President June 2010 10 comments 5 […]

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