“My sense is that Cartwright behaved properly in trying to figure out some alternatives for the administration to revise its Afghan strategy,” Kohn said. “It was a problem of both Gates and Mullen not understanding the proper role of the military. They’re not supposed to be providing one option and that’s all you get.”
Over the past year, as it became apparent that the president was strongly considering Cartwright to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his opponents lobbied against him behind the scenes. Critics emphasized his lack of combat experience and what they called an insular leadership style.
Just weeks after becoming the Army chief of staff, sources say General Martin Dempsey is the president's pick to become the nation's top military officer. (May 25)
In February, sources at the Pentagon leaked the results of an unflattering inspector general investigation into allegations that Cartwright had a sexual relationship with a subordinate female officer. Investigators found no evidence of such a relationship, but they did criticize the general for not disciplining the woman, who had passed out on a bench in his hotel room after drinking too much on a business trip.
Cartwright and his wife separated shortly after the report’s release, giving more fuel to detractors.
His critics predicted that Cartwright would have difficulty winning confirmation in the Senate. They said he lacked support among Republicans, particularly Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, and female lawmakers.
Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for McCain, said the senator had not signaled that he would oppose Cartwright’s nomination. “Senator McCain has never publicly, or privately for that matter, said he would give Gen. Cartwright resistance,” she said in an e-mail.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, also reacted sharply this month when news organizations reported that speculation about Cartwright’s personal life were torpedoing his chances to lead the Joint Chiefs.
“I have been advised that some are attempting to impugn General James Cartwright’s reputation,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I deeply regret this since he is one of America’s most respected four-star generals.”
Spokesmen for Gates and Mullen declined to comment on why they did not endorse Cartwright for the chairman’s job. But Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said Gates was “disgusted by the apparent rumor-mongering. He has the highest regard for General Cartwright, his extraordinary service to the nation and the job he has done as vice chairman.”
Staff writers Greg Jaffe and Scott Wilson and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.