President Obama's trip to Copenhagen to support the Chicago Olympic bid has been pilloried by his critics who cite more pressing matters, such as the economy and war. What these critics have missed was that President Obama was in Copenhagen for exactly those two reasons: the economy and war.
The economy because Chicago could have used the jobs and war because of the meeting between President Obama and the General Stanley McChrystal, the officer in charge of the war in Afghanistan.
President Obama squeezed a 25-minute council of war into his Copenhagen visit yesterday, meeting General Stanley McChrystal aboard Air Force One before returning to Washington.The general was summoned to the airborne White House on the day it was announced that four more British and American servicemen had died in Afghanistan. He was on his way back to Kabul from London, where he made a powerful public pitch for more troops to be sent to the battlefields.
Until yesterday, General McChrystal had been in direct contact with Obama only twice since taking up his post as NATO commander in Kabul six months ago -- once via video link to the Oval Office and then as a participant in a major Afghanistan strategy meeting on Wednesday, again via videolink.
If you haven't heard about that meeting, it might have been because it didn't play into the howls from the president's critics over the Olympics. But with a hot war raging in Afghanistan against those who attacked us on 9/11, it could have been one of his most important meetings to take place in neutral territory since Roosevelt met with Churchill in the mid-Atlantic.
That may sound like exaggeration, but let's explore what the meeting was about. A few days before the president's turnabout in his decision to go to Copenhagen, General Stanley McChrystal, the senior officer in charge of the war in Afghanistan, gave a talk where he presented his case for more troops in Afghanistan against a plan put forth by Vice President Biden to focus specifically on counter-terrorism against al Qaeda.
President Obama and General McChrystal had not met face-to-face since McChrystal's appointment to head the NATO forces in Afghanistan earlier this year. For the president to go to Copenhagen to meet with McChrystal on his way back to Kabul after McChrystal's London speech is unlikely to be coincidence or an afterthought of a meeting called because he was there.
What was said between these two pivotal figures in history is unknown in full. It's not outside the realm of possibility the president made it clear to this vital general his feelings on the type of speech McChrystal gave in London. It is also not outside that realm that the general had the opportunity to put forth his concerns about the theater of war under his purview to his Commander in Chief without his chain of command influencing what he had to say.
Would President Obama's critics have shot off their accusations of neglect if the meeting with McCrystal had been offered as the main reason for the president's trip? Quite probably, since they have no shame about their constant political attacks.
But would it have been patriotic to do so under such a scenario? We're in a time of war and the hot war is in Afghanistan. The Commander-in-Chief met with his command rank officer in that theater. Why are his critics not supportive of such a meeting?
Would these critics have howled the same way if it were Roosevelt meeting with Eisenhower?
Would these critics have howled the same if it had been Truman meeting with MacArthur?
Would these critics have howled if it had been Johnson meeting with Westmoreland?
Would they have howled if it had been the first President Bush meeting with General Norman Schwartzkopf or the second President Bush meeting with General David Petraeus?
What is it about this president that makes these critics think support for a president in a time of war is any less required now?
Meeting with General McChrystal in Europe so as to not require the general to fly all the way back to America and farther away from the hot war of his responsibility was the responsible thing for the president to do and the respectful choice. We should applaud him.