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Handy apology tips for McChrystal's meeting with Obama

By Alexandra Petri

Gen. McChyrystal, after your "misguided" remarks to Rolling Stone, you have been summoned to meet with President Obama and explain yourself. Having been summoned to the principal’s office a few times, I am an expert at explaining my way out of these things, so here's my advice as you head in for your big meeting!

Tell him the “mainstream media” distorted your remarks. “Sure, that’s what we said,” you can say, “but listen to what they left out.” Then go through the article, bit by bit.

"Biden?" suggests a top adviser. "Did you say: Bite Me?"

You: Years of shouting loudly about how much I respect Vice President Biden have damaged my hearing. I would never speak ill of that man. I am training a dog so that whenever anyone makes disparaging remarks about Joe Biden, it bites that person on the leg, no questions asked.

The biggest military operation of the year -- a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja -- continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a "bleeding ulcer."

You: Sure, it’s a bleeding ulcer, but only in the sense that it’s something technology has equipped us to handle easily and efficiently with minimal damage to civilians! My uncle had a bleeding ulcer once, and he’s fine now.

One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985."

You: You have to understand, this aide loves clowns.

And when he says “stuck in 1985,” he means in the sense that 1985 was a great year for America, when we were strong and prosperous and Jim Jones was in his prime. This is a convoluted way of saying that Jim Jones is an exceptionally competent man.

At one point on his trip to Paris, McChrystal checks his BlackBerry. "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke," he groans. "I don't even want to open it." He clicks on the message and reads the salutation out loud, then stuffs the BlackBerry back in his pocket, not bothering to conceal his annoyance.

You: Holbrooke’s emails are so thoughtful that whenever I read them, I know I’ll want to change my strategy to accommodate his views. It’s kind of a hassle, though. Also, I usually wait to read them until I’m in a private setting where I can laugh, cry and do whatever else these beautiful missives move me to do. They’re really less e-mails than they are poems. E-poems.

McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his [expletive] war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed."

You: I apologize, Mr. President.

By Alexandra Petri  | June 22, 2010; 2:50 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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Next: Gen. McChrystal's firing offense


Brilliant! And it's hard to imagine the general coming up with anything better...

Posted by: DCSteve1 | June 22, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Really I think that a lot of talk goes on and get posted to the web specifically speaking this is an excellent General and his fellow comrads are all probably tired and well fatigued people or people in times of stress and under certain conditions are subject to sometimes say things that are misinterpeted, or taken out of context I would also mention he has lost a lot of mothers sons fighting for the comander in chiefs war in Afganistan. So what more can the government do to this honorable man shave his head bald and throw him out of an airplane on the other side of the world and tell him don't come home until you have won my war for me!!!! Things happen you know. Oh I forgot you really don't know you weren't there and didn't see anything with your own eyes.

Posted by: luckyfreeman69 | June 22, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Like Eric Holder, I doubt seriously that any of the yahoos called for McCrystal's job have read the Rolling Stones article (due out Friday).

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | June 22, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

For a top Military General like McCrystal to call to task his own bosses is something that is not done without consequences. I don't know anywhere that you can in public put down your boss and not expect to be fired or severely put in your place. General McCrystal should have put an immediate stop to his staff comments and set the example of not talking in public like an undisciplined buffoon. That his staff officers were not put on notice by General McCrystal that behavior and disrespect of their superior officers appointed above them will never be tolerated period is a serious lack of judgment on his part. In the military you take an oath to follow all orders of the officers appointed over you without question unless that order is unlawful order. The military works for a civilian government and takes orders from that civilian government and the President is the Commander in Chief of the Military. General McCrystal not only showed bad judgment he showed the greatest lack of Military bearing and his staff also is guilty of the same offence. I do respect General McCrystal and I think he is a great commander but he has lost his way and needs to be make very aware of just where he stands and who his commander is and that respect of rank is always required and warranted. There is no question he should be fired for his actions along with most of his staff officers for the same behavior. He may get a pass on this one because of his upcoming campaign and the major offensive that is coming but he should not be forgiven for his short sightedness nor should he. There is always a price to pay for your actions and this is something General McCrystal should already know and understand without question. That payment may not come right away but it will come. In the military you can have your own opinion and you can voice that opinion to trusted friends but to voice that in public where anyone can hear it is just plain dumb. Let General McCrystal finish what he started for the upcoming campaign hopefully stabilize the situation there but General McCrystal should understand his days as an active Military Commander are going to be short lived. His carrier is over.

Posted by: Concerned5 | June 22, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

You forgot this apology:

"On the report that my favorite movie is 'Talladega Nights' and favorite drink is Budweiser Light Lime, this is simply not true. No general in his right mind would favor a chick drink over Jack Daniels. Which happens to be my favorite. And 'Talladega Nights'? Wow. What I meant to say is that my favorite movies are 'Patton,' 'The Longest Day,' 'Saving Private Ryan,' 'Apocalypse Now' ... you know, war movies. I was taken out of context.

Posted by: bluicebank | June 22, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Generals have bravado, for the most part. At least the ones I served with. We all told stories about Generals Hollingsworth and DePuy. But we should judge them by deeds, not words. Let the offensive prove his worth.

But watch him.

We all know what Rolling Stone wants to do to the USA.

Posted by: gary4books | June 22, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse


Like Eric Holder, I doubt seriously that any of the yahoos called for McCrystal's job have read the Rolling Stones article (due out Friday).

Posted by: kitchendragon5"

How did you come to know that Eric Holder seriously doubts that?

Posted by: thrh | June 22, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

I was first introduced to the US military, in 1963 when I was the Testing Specialist of the US Air Force Base in Torrejon, Spain.Of course I find the remarks of Gen. McCrystal to be unbecoming of a 4 star general, even though at the time the commander of the 16th Air Force was only a two star general. My point being that have we put the stars on sale during the past ten years? How fast did Gen. McCrystal get his stars? He certainly shows inexperience in his utterings and his results in Afghanistan, as he himself admitted, were not as promising. I can understand McCrystal's offense by the present ambassador there who was only a 3 star general, yet as the representative of the President is the 4 star's superior. I chalk this to inadequate experience. Regarding Mr. Hallbrook, I do not blame the general, for he is a real pain in the butt. I will never forget my encounter of him on the Island of Cyprus. I was visiting a village church that its walls contain some of the best Bizantine iconography when Mr. Hallbrook's US Embassy limousine arrived with a standard size American flag on its right fender that made me wonder how could the driver see the road. The local police asked the visitors to leave the church. I showed my American passport and my ID of a colonel with the CMR and the Linguist of the California National guard. The police allowed me to stay after they evidently told Mr. Hallbrook and he approved. Even so, I was amazed at this pompous man and I fully support Gen. McCrystal in his distain of Mr. Hallbrook. Another thing that I never liked about Mr. Hallbrook is his affair and later on, marriage to the wife of the ABC anchor Mr. Peter Jennings.
It is up to the President to make a decision whether to keep or dismiss Gen. McCrystal, but I strongly suggest that both Eikenberry and Hallbrook be dismissed .

Posted by: maitami | June 23, 2010 2:26 AM | Report abuse

This quik-take is stupid, inappropriate---and, worst of all, though it tries to be, it is NOT IN THE LEAST funny.

Posted by: secretaryofspite | June 23, 2010 2:51 AM | Report abuse

YOU: I have contained my real feelings since our first meeting where you strutted in like a peacock and I have wanted to kick your butt ever since
Pres: uh, I uh, let me be clear, uh, I am in charge and uh
YOU: Yeah, kiss my rear. Now you are going to pretend to consider this resignation for a nano second, then you are going to pretend to think about it, then you are going to act upset (the prompter will tell you when to clench your jaw) then you will keep me around so I can continue to run the show
Pres: understood but uh, I am the president and I won and uh, let me be clear, the buck stops with me and uh....
YOU: go back to your golf game son and let me continue to be the man of the house

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | June 23, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

god what a stupid article. How does Alexandra get paid to write stuff like this? Is it supposed to be funny?

Posted by: jackson641 | June 23, 2010 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Jackson641 - this entire administration is a joke, we have to laugh or we'll continue to cry (while we VOTE)

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | June 23, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

If these comments were publicly made, then the General should have been dismissed. It is my understanding that the comments, and those of the staff, were made privately, albeit in the presence of a journalist. When I was in the military they called this "griping".

Posted by: atkissonjim | June 23, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I like to here these apologist for McChrystal. The bottom line is We do not make any kind of disparaging comments when stangers especially some one from the press is around. All seasoned military members know everything we say is on the record so if anything is to be said it is when those that need to know is around then we gripe. This has been boiling in the military from the day President Obama was elected and he refused to chop alot of officers head we will see if this nonsense from the officer corp stops.

Posted by: yayawt | June 23, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

I find it hard that in a free country ,they would fire a general for telling the truth.and worst of all being fired by the biggest liar in this country.ODUMBASS is a liar and a traitor to the country and the constitution.prove us wrong Barry,show us a real paper showing your birth in the united states or get your stupid a** back to where you came from,and we will just add you to history as a mistake made by very weakminded americans who were either minorities or just complete morons(if there's a difference)and move towards fixing all that you have destroyed.

Posted by: patriot1954 | June 28, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

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