A former Army commander who stepped down in 2010 after mocking then-Vice President Joe Biden endorsed the Democratic nominee today – at the same time George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign manager also said he will not vote for Donald Trump in November.
On the day it was published in the summer of 2010, the Rolling Stone article electrified Washington in a way that almost seems quaint by today’s news standards: The commander of American troops in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and his aides were quoted privately mocking several government officials.
One McChrystal aide referred to Vice President Biden using the phrase “bite me.”
An angry President Obama promptly fired the general, putting an end to a storied career that had included running the military’s most secretive Special Operations missions and the American-led war effort in Afghanistan.
Today, General McChrystal added a coda to the story: He endorsed Biden, now the Democratic presidential candidate, not President Trump, to be the country’s next commander in chief.
“I worked most closely with President Obama and Vice President Biden when I commanded in Afghanistan,” the general told Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“They didn’t see everything the way I did,” he added. “But in every instance, they listened. In every instance, they took in my view. In every instance, I felt that they were trying to make the best decision based on all the information they had, and based on a bedrock of values.”
The Biden campaign immediately embraced General McChrystal’s statement.
“Vice President Biden is honored by General McChrystal’s endorsement,” said Andrew Bates, the campaign’s spokesman. “And he couldn’t agree more that the next commander in chief must ‘respect people who serve and have served’ and be ‘someone that you can trust’ — which would be a decisive break from Donald Trump, the most dishonest president in American history and the only one to have utterly disgraced himself by calling veterans and the fallen ‘losers and ‘suckers.’”
To say that Biden and McChrystal had policy differences is like saying that oil and water occasionally did not mix.
In 2009, General McChrystal and the Pentagon leadership, then backed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, fiercely battled Biden over whether to ramp up the Afghanistan war effort and send tens of thousands more American troops to engage in a counterinsurgency strategy meant to rout the Taliban and create conditions they said were necessary for the Afghan government to stabilize the country.
Biden, for his part, expressed skepticism that the effort was worth that much more American blood and treasure.
He pushed for a more streamlined counterterrorism strategy that would have seen fewer troops going to Afghanistan.
McChrystal won the debate, and Obama in late 2009 approved speeding 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to reverse Taliban gains in the country, to better protect the Afghan people and to increase the pressure on Afghanistan to build its own military capacity and a more effective government.
But not long after, the general lost his part in the war after he allowed a Rolling Stone magazine writer to accompany him to Paris.
The resulting article painted scenes of the general’s aides drunk at the Irish bar Kitty O’Shea’s and, along with their boss, mocking Biden, among other administration officials.
The article did not directly quote the general as saying anything overtly insubordinate.
Two days after the article was published, McChrystal was out.
Today, McChrystal said disagreements between people who respect each other are healthy for a democracy — and, in any case, he said that Biden would be better for the country than Trump.
“You have to believe your commander in chief, at the end of the day, is someone you can trust,” McChrystal said. “And I can trust Joe Biden.”
Also endorsing Biden today was Marc Racicot, 72, who chaired George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004.
Racicot, who served as Montana’s governor for two terms in the 1990s and as Republican National Committee chairman in 2002 and 2003, cited character flaws in Trump when explaining how he will cast his ballot.
“I regret that I will cause consternation, perhaps, in some corners, but even as a Republican, I will not be supporting Donald Trump for president, and I will not be voting for him,” Racicot said. “That means that I will be voting for Joe Biden. The reason that I’m doing that … is I’m not going to march lockstep with him every step of the way or with the administration. I’ll have disagreement. I’m certain.”
“But in the end, the content of a man’s character or a woman’s character to serve in that capacity is more important than any other issue that I have to consider as a matter of conscience.”