Stage Right Exit

The closed-door meeting in the Oval Office this morning between President Obama and General Stanley McChrystal was, by all indications, short and probably not very sweet.

McChrystal, who was abruptly called to Washington to explain comments by him and his staff in Rolling Stone disparaging the administration’s national security team, left the White House shortly after 10 a.m. That means he will likely not attend the broader staff meeting on Afghanistan later today — a potential sign he will no longer continue in his post as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal point on the Matter

“The political rush was on yesterday, from the left and right, to urge President Obama to exert his command over the military by firing General Stanley McChrystal for an impolitic interview with Rolling Stone magazine. But our advice would be that the President put any personal pique aside in favor of asking whether sacking General McChrystal on the eve of a crucial military offensive would help or — more likely — hurt the war effort in Afghanistan. This is not to say that the General doesn’t deserve to be taken, as Ronald Reagan once did to budget director David Stockman, to the White House ‘woodshed’ for his media indiscretions. Why any U.S. officer, much less such a senior one, would invite an antiwar correspondent from an antiwar magazine into his inner councils is one for the PR history books. There’s no excuse for military officers to show such disrespect for civilian leaders, including U.S. ambassadors, and especially to a Vice President and Commander in Chief. These are errors in judgment, albeit of a distinctly political kind in which the General’s aides had not been sufficiently trained. It speaks to a failure by General McChrystal to instruct his team on the crucial political nature of modern generalship, and a staff housecleaning on that score is plainly in order. … U.S. and NATO forces are currently in a hard fight to control Marja and on the eve of even bigger battle for Kandahar. No individual is irreplaceable, but Mr. Obama needs to ask if he can do without his main commander in the middle of this Afghan surge campaign. If firing General McChrystal will demoralize the men and women fighting those campaigns, then it would be a mistake for Mr. Obama’s own war strategy to do so.”

Will that Be Door Number 2 or 3

Senate Finance Democratic staff have called a meeting later today with K Street officials to talk about the stalled “extender” package that includes tax break renewals important to the business community. According to lobbyists, Finance Democrats want to know what it will take to get companies on board with securing the last couple of GOP votes to pass tax breaks such as the R&D credit, active financing exemption for overseas lending, and other items. K Street wants those provisions passed but cannot stomach the revenue-raisers, including those impacting their international operations. The stalemate has left Medicare physician payments in limbo, as the House will not take those up without movement on the broader extender bill. With the prospect of physicians dropping Medicare patients before the November elections, Democrats know it is “do or die time” on the extender bill, one industry official said.

How is all that Spending Going

House Budget Chairman John Spratt said this morning he hopes to unveil as soon as today a budget package that will set the FY11 discretionary spending level. “We are waiting for everyone to sign off,” Spratt said. Spratt said the package would apply only to the House and likely be included in the rule for the emergency war supplemental spending bill House Democrats are working on. He said the Senate is expected to pursue its own budget package that will also set FY11 discretionary number, likely at the same level the House will set. If not, the issue will be dealt with in negotiations between the House and Senate, he added. Spratt said he hopes the House will take up the supplemental and the budget package next week.

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