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Democrats far more critical of McChrystal than Republicans

On Capitol Hill, it’s senior Democratic lawmakers who have the harshest words for General Stanley McChrystal, the Afghanistan commander who is racing back to Washington to meet with President Obama in the wake of the embarrassing profile of him coming out in Rolling Stone magazine. "I thought his comments were inappropriate… the problem is that ...

On Capitol Hill, it's senior Democratic lawmakers who have the harshest words for General Stanley McChrystal, the Afghanistan commander who is racing back to Washington to meet with President Obama in the wake of the embarrassing profile of him coming out in Rolling Stone magazine.

"I thought his comments were inappropriate... the problem is that personality differences effect the successful implementation of policy," said Carl Levin, D-MI, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "That's why you can't allow these things to happen."

On Capitol Hill, it’s senior Democratic lawmakers who have the harshest words for General Stanley McChrystal, the Afghanistan commander who is racing back to Washington to meet with President Obama in the wake of the embarrassing profile of him coming out in Rolling Stone magazine.

"I thought his comments were inappropriate… the problem is that personality differences effect the successful implementation of policy," said Carl Levin, D-MI, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "That’s why you can’t allow these things to happen."

Levin said it was President Obama’s decision whether of not to sack McChrystal and argued "there don’t seem to be differences in terms of policy" in the article, but said "it doesn’t help the war effort." A change in military leadership in Kabul could be done smoothly, if the President chooses someone who has broad based support, he said.

According to Levin, McChrystal will first meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates before facing the entire Afghanistan team at the White House on Wednesday. Gates’ statement on the article showed that he is playing an important role in the McChrystal flap.

"I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person," Gates said, showing that it is his job, not the president’s, to order McChrystal to come home. "I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case."

House appropriations chairman David Obey, D-WI, who holds the keys to the war money McChrystal badly needs, openly called for his ouster. "If he actually said half of what is being reported, he shouldn’t be in the position he is in," he said in a statement.

"This clearly is bad judgment," said Senate Armed Services member and former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, D-VA, who added that he had problems with McChrystal’s behavior all along and this was just another in a string of incidents. He referred to McChrystal’s role in the cover up of the death of football star Pat Tilman in Afghanistan.

An official investigation said McChrystal made "inaccurate and misleading assertions" when putting up Tilman for a silver star. "He was in the middle of that process, he knew it was a friendly fire incident," Webb said.

Webb also pointed to the last time McChrystal seemingly got ahead of the president in talking about the war strategy, when he spoke to the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the media in London late last year and then was summoned for a private scolding from Obama.

"Last October, I raised the question about him being in London making a speech and doing 60 minutes while there was a careful evaluation of the policy going on," Webb remembered. "I thought that was inappropriate."

"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," said Obey.

Meanwhile, Republicans are holding their fire, for now. A joint statement by Senate Armed Services ranking Republican John McCain, R-AZ, and committee member Joe Lieberman, I-CT, made no judgment on his future and said, "We have the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation."

Senate Foreign Relations committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, said, "I’m very hopeful that the General and the president have a good meeting tomorrow."

The disruption of the war effort that both Democrats and Republicans fear would come from McChrystal’s firing was at the top of the mind of one senior lawmaker who spoke to McChrystal this morning.

"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," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-MA. "Now is not the time for Washington to be sidetracked by chatter. Everyone needs to take a deep breath."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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