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Reactions to Gen. McChrystal's critical remarks of top Obama officials

Tuesday, June 22, 2010; 2:48 PM

The highly critical remarks that Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and his staff made about top Obama administration officials found few defenders in official Washington on Tuesday. A sample of the reactions:

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates: "I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of 'Rolling Stone' magazine. I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world. Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well. I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person."

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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: "The president will speak with General McChrystal about his comments, and we'll have more to say after that meeting." Asked whether the president was considering firing McChrystal, Gibbs said, "All options are on the table." He called the gravity of the comments in the article "profound." He described the president as "angry," and when asked for details, Gibbs said "you'd know it when you saw it."

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Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "When General McChrystal called me this morning, I emphasized that my concern is our policy in Afghanistan and what it will take to be successful there. I respect General McChrystal as a soldier and always have. What's most important is the 94,000 American troops serving in harm's way in Afghanistan. Their safety and their mission should be the priority we stay focused on above all else. The Commander in Chief and his national security team, including his top commander on the ground, must have confidence in each other and confidence in the path forward in Afghanistan. It would be a grave mistake to allow this unfolding news drama to distract anyone from the mission at hand. Now is not the time for Washington to be sidetracked by chatter. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and give the President and his national security team the space to decide what is in the best interest of our mission, and to have their face-to-face discussion tomorrow without a premature Washington feeding frenzy."

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Joint statement from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.): "We have the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation. General McChrystal's comments, as reported in Rolling Stone, are inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military. The decision concerning General McChrystal's future is a decision to be made by the President of the United States."

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Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.): "I'm going to give him the opportunity to try to clarify what he said or explain what he said before making any comment. . . . Obviously I think it's fair to hear from him what his side of the story is, then we can judge what's right or wrong."

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House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.): "I'm prepared to withhold judgment for the next 24 hours."

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Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee: "If he actually said half of what is being reported, he shouldn't be in the position he is in. . . . Anybody, including a U.S. Army General, is entitled to making a damn fool of themselves once. But General McChrystal hasn't appeared to learn from his mistakes. In London last October, he made a deliberate determination to try to box in the President, and the President was generous to give him another chance to prove that he understood the chain of command. His repeated contempt for the civilian chain of command demonstrates a bull headed refusal to take other people's judgments into consideration. That is damn dangerous in somebody whose decisions determine life and death for American troops and others in the region. That is something that we simply cannot afford."

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House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.): "Obviously a General and his top brass don't make statements like these without being frustrated, so I hope that the President's meeting with General McChrystal will include a frank discussion about what is happening on the ground, and whether the resources and the plan are there to defeat terrorists and accomplish our mission in Afghanistan. Without question, the article in Rolling Stone raises a lot of concerns, but our top priority must be to ensure that our forces in Afghanistan have what they need in order to successfully execute their mission and win the war there."

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