Will McChrystal stay or go?... There are downsides for Obama with either scenario… The intense focus on McChrystal has turned Washington's attention to the war's shortcomings… Michael Hastings as William Miller in "Almost Famous"… Ken Salazar's new moratorium… No real surprises on Super Runoff Tuesday -- Haley wins in SC, Marshall wins in NC, and Lee (in a minor upset) wins in UT… Also, Inglis becomes the fifth incumbent to lose this cycle, as well as another TARP victim… McCain hits Hayworth in new TV ad on infomercial-gate… And American Crossroads' poor fundraising.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Will he stay or will he go? According to NBC's Jim Miklaszewski, Gen. Stanley McChrystal arrived at the Pentagon earlier this morning, before his meeting later today at the White House with President Obama and his national security team. When Mik asked the general if he offered his resignation, McChrystal replied, "Come on, you know better than that. No!" Of course, no one is sure what Obama will decide to do after this morning's meeting, but it's clear that the president is facing a no-win situation. The downsides to keeping McChrystal: it would create the perception that it damages the chain of command and civilian authority over the military; it would raise doubts about Obama's toughness (a spate of "Is Obama tough enough" columns are probably just a "click send" away); and it could hurt troop morale (if McChrystal is saying these things about the administration, what would the troops think of the White House?). But if Obama decides to keep him, it will be because the president believes it will damage the war effort.
*** A no-win situation: Here are the downsides to firing McChrystal: it would force Obama to scramble to find another general; it would re-open the entire debate over Afghanistan; and it would probably embolden opponents of the current Afghan strategy (one which the president is "completely invested in" as an aide re-emphasized to us yesterday). But if Obama does fire him, it will be because the president believes this is the final straw for McChrystal (after the Pat Tillman controversy and the general's previous criticisms of the administration). Yet whatever Obama decides, we guarantee this: This will become a chapter in every book about Obama's presidency. It is a giant moment. In fact, you could argue that everything that has happened in the past three months -- the Gulf spill, Europe's economic problems, the Arizona immigration law -- all deserve their own chapters.
*** When the 'good' war goes 'bad': As we predicted, all the focus on McChrystal and the Rolling Stone article forced the chattering class -- which had been fixated on the Gulf spill, the economy, and the midterms -- to turn its attention to the administration's policy in Afghanistan. And the result isn't pretty. Politico says the controversy is "a reminder of just how badly Barack Obama's 'good war' in Afghanistan is going." Maureen Dowd calls it "just another sign of the complete incoherence of Afghan policy. The people in charge are divided against each other. And the policy is divided against itself." And here's Tom Friedman: "The ugly truth is that no one in the Obama White House wanted this Afghan surge. The only reason they proceeded was because no one knew how to get out of it — or had the courage to pull the plug."
*** Almost Famous? On a lighter note, does anyone else see the similarities between Michael Hastings' piece in Rolling Stone and the movie "Almost Famous"? You have a freelance journalist working for Rolling Stone who gets accidentally embedded with his subject; the journalist ends up staying with the subject longer than originally planned; and the journalist ends up writing a juicy story that causes a stir and gets the subject in trouble. The only thing missing is this current story is someone proclaiming, "I AM A GOLDEN GOD!" Of course, maybe McChrystal or his aides did say something similar during those Bud Light Lime benders… By the way, Bud Light Lime? Really? Who knows, maybe the entire White House team will come out singing Tiny Dancer after today's Afghanistan-strategy meeting.
*** Salazar's new moratorium order: Turning from McChrystal to the Gulf spill, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday that the Obama administration would be issuing a new deep-drilling moratorium -- after a federal judge ruled yesterday to block the current moratorium. "We see clear evidence every day, as oil spills from BP's well, of the need for a pause on deepwater drilling. That evidence mounts as BP continues to be unable to stop its blowout, notwithstanding the huge efforts and help from the federal scientific team and most major oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico," Salazar said. "Based on this ever-growing evidence, I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities." (Fascinating that the administration has decided NOT to keep fighting this in court.) What are American's opinions about the spill, about President Obama's handling of it, and about the need for offshore drilling? Tune into NBC, or click onto MSNBC.com, beginning at 6:30 pm ET for the latest answers from our new NBC/WSJ poll.
*** No real surprises last night: There wasn't a Blanche Lincoln-like surprise in last night's runoffs, which played out the way most thought they would. In South Carolina, Nikki Haley won the GOP's gubernatorial nomination, making her an instant Republican star and the favorite in the fall. Also in South Carolina, GOP Rep. Bob Inglis became the fifth incumbent this cycle to lose a primary for re-election, while Tim Scott (an African American) beat Paul Thurmond (Strom Thurmond's son), making him the front-runner to be the GOP's first black congressman since J.C. Watts. In North Carolina, Elaine Marshall defeated Cal Cunningham (the DSCC's favorite) in the Democratic Senate primary, and she will face Sen. Richard Burr (R) in November. Utah gave us our minor surprise of the evening, with Mike Lee edging Tim Bridgewater in the state's GOP Senate primary. Lee is now overwhelming favorite to succeed defeated Sen. Bob Bennett (R).
*** TARP's victims: As mentioned above, Inglis became the fifth incumbent to lose a primary for re-election, following Bennett (R-UT), Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Arlen Specter (D-PA), and Parker Griffith (R-AL). What's more, GOP Rep. Gresham Barrett -- who lost to Haley in South Carolina's gubernatorial runoff -- became the third senator or member of Congress to lose a primary for higher office, following Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Artur Davis (D-AL). What do all of these folks have in common (except for Griffith, who wasn't in Congress then)? They all voted for the TARP bailout in 2008. This might be the most underreported trend of the 2010 cycle. (In fact, remember that Blanche Lincoln, another TARP voter, almost lost earlier this month. Bill Halter's first attack ad was on … the bailout) Here's another takeaway from the Inglis loss and even Haley's win: GOP primary voters are sending this message – we want you more conservative. Inglis wasn't seen as being conservative enough, while Haley (Mark Sanford's ideological heir) was the most conservative candidate in the SC primary field.
*** Midterm news: In Arizona, John McCain is going up with a new TV ad hitting J.D. Hayworth on infomercial-gate as the campaign continues its "June is for defining Hayworth strategy"… In Florida, Democratic Senate candidates Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene squared off in a debate where Meek's mother became a topic. ("How dare you attack the character of my mother," Meek said. Responded Greene: "I'm not attacking your mother, I'm attacking you.")… In New Hampshire, Paul Hodes launched his first TV ad, which goes after Kelly Ayotte… And the Karl Rove-/Ed Gillespie-backed American Crossroads group raised just $200 in May, Politico wrote.
Countdown to AL run-off: 20 days
Countdown to GA primary: 27 days
Countdown to OK primary: 34 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 41 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 48 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 132 days