Angry Obama weighs McChrystal's fate 

The controversy over contemptuous remarks directed at his administration by his commander in Afghanistan comes at a bad time for President Obama, who has seen support for the conflict slip, casualties rise, and his latest war funding request stalled by Congress.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal "has made an enormous mistake -- a mistake that he'll get a chance to talk about and answer to," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, who described Obama's state of mind to a single word: "Angry."

In a lengthy profile in Rolling Stone magazine, an unguarded McChrystal boozes and complains, while his aides criticize the president and belittle one Obama appointee as a "clown" and another as a "wounded animal."

Also mocked in the piece was Vice President Biden. McChrystal last year publicly disagreed with Biden on the war and found himself summoned to Copenhagen for a dressing down by the president while Air Force One was parked on the tarmac.

The magazine story describes McChrystal as laughing and saying, "Are you asking about Vice President Biden?" and adding, "Who's that?" A top aide chimes in with, "Biden? Did you say: Bite Me?"

The magazine piece depicts McChrystal as possessing the type of loose, profane and high-testosterone swagger that Obama particularly abhors. An uncommonly thin-lipped Gibbs described the president as "angry."

"General McChrystal has fought bravely on behalf of this country for a long time -- nobody could or should take that away from him," Gibbs said. "But there has clearly been an enormous mistake in judgment to which he's going to have to answer to."

Obama last year tapped McChrystal to lead allied forces in Afghanistan and head up a major shift in U.S. strategy, but the two have never clicked.

In the Rolling Stone piece, military aides describe Obama as "uncomfortable and intimidated" in his first meeting with the general, who was "disappointed" by Obama's lack of engagement.

Gibbs said one issue for the White House now is whether the military command in Afghanistan has the "maturity" to carry out the mission.

Languishing in the House is a $33 billion appropriations bill to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama so far has not fulfilled a campaign promise to make war funding part of the regular budget process.

A clutch of liberal lawmakers have vowed to oppose the measure, leaving Obama to depend on Republicans and moderates to keep both wars going.

"It's worse than ironic," David Swanson, a prominent anti-war activist and co-founder of WarIsACrime.org, said of Obama's fractured coalition.

A recent ABC News poll found 52 percent of Americans believe the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting -- up 8 percentage points since Obama announced his surge strategy in December.

Wednesday's scheduled White House meeting of the president's Afghanistan team will be supplemented by a one-on-one between Obama and McChrystal, whose professional fate appears bleak to uncertain.

"I would say all options are on the table," Gibbs said.

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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Julie Mason

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