McChrystal should just be the start
Q: In confronting the issue of Gen. McChrystal's apparent insubordination, did President Obama have any choice but to remove him? Going forward, what can Gen. Petraeus do to overcome this dramatic shakeup and keep his troops reassured and on mission?
It's long struck me as strange how reluctant presidents are to fire anyone. Even tough-minded hombres like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush couldn't bring themselves to boot aides lacking discretion or competence - or both.
When he was president-elect, Bill Clinton asked my advice on how to be a successful president - as successful, I then assumed, as Reagan had been. I made three points, the first being: "Just fire someone -- at least by June."
When Clinton looked at me quizzically, I explained that among his 25 or 30 new top appointees would be (at least) five turkeys - perfectly fine folks, yet who couldn't cope with the glare, or perform in the morass, of government. Firing just one such turkey would instill a smidgen of accountability in the public sector.
But he didn't. And Barack Obama hasn't been much better.
With disasters far more damaging than Clinton faced, Obama has fired very few - even those who did a remarkably god-awful job overseeing financial institutions, housing mortgages, or environmental protections. Or those responsible for homeland security.
Government positions have thus become entitlements. Public officials practically tenured posts.
Hence my wish that the firing of General McChrystal -- so obvious as to be unavoidable -- sets a new expectation (if not pattern) of top performance and discretion in government -- or else. The "else" being presidents who can (and do) fire wayward aides.
Posted by: nicekid | June 24, 2010 1:20 PM
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