One paragraph into “the Runaway General,” Barack Obama was pretty sure he’d fire Stanley McChrystal. An hour after the president got the Rolling Stone article, aides were summoned to discuss the possibility. “There was a basic meeting of the minds,” Rahm Emanuel tells the New York Times. “This was not good for the mission, the military, and morale.” The only one who really objected was Robert Gates, who met Obama one-on-one Tuesday to express his concern that McChrystal was essential to the mission.
Obama and his aides carefully considered the counterargument, but the consensus was always to dismiss. McChrystal had annoyed them before, one aide says, particularly with his London speech. “And we aren’t exactly rolling through Kandahar, so he wasn’t walking on water in the field,” notes Mike Allen in Politico. Gates’ concerns were alleviated by the selection of David Petraeus, a consensus pick from early on. But no matter how sure aides were, they didn’t offer Petraeus the job until after McChrystal’s meeting with Obama—a brief affair, in which McChrystal didn’t try to defend himself.