NBC Guest: Obama White House a 'Team of Nine-Year-Olds'

NBC's Today show on Wednesday refreshingly brought on a conservative guest who ripped the Obama administration's management of the war in Afghanistan. Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute blasted the "dysfunctional organization" at the White House overseeing the war: "It's not a team of rivals. It's a team of nine-year-olds, and something needs to be done about that" [audio available here].

Anchor Matt Lauer brought on Goure and retired General Barry McCaffrey for a panel discussion on the controversy surrounding Rolling Stone's recent article on General Stanley McChrystal, the now-former commander of American forces in Afghanistan. Goure defended McChrystal in a Wednesday column on his organization's website, suggesting that the general shouldn't be fired for his and his staff's criticism of Obama administration officials. Lauer asked to explain his position: "Mr. Goure, you think that firing General McChrystal would be a disaster- is that accurate? Tell me why."

The conservative guest almost quoted directly from his column in his reply: "He is the war in Afghanistan. It is his strategy, his surge, his organization, his command structure. He is a general who fights and fights and fights. If you want to have a chance of winning this war, you beat him up, send him to the woodshed, and then send him back to Afghanistan."

The NBC anchor followed-up on the question of the general's comments in Rolling Stone: "It's funny you use the term 'his command structure,' yet he has completely broken the command structure, in terms of the people above him, by his comments, and...it's not the first time. How many strikes does he get?"

Goure refuted Lauer's premise and continued with his "nine-year-old" label of the Obama administration: "Actually, I don't think he broke the command structure above him. What you're seeing, in the McChrystal behavior and his staff, is a broken command structure from the top. This is a president who has a dysfunctional organization running his war. It's not a team of rivals. It's a team of nine-year-olds, and something needs to be done about that, not just about Stanley McChrystal."

While General McCaffrey, who is a NBC News military analyst, didn't defend McChrystal, it's interesting to note that the morning show turned to a conservative to comment on the controversy, instead of someone from the left.

The full transcript of Matt Lauer's panel discussion with retired General Barry McCaffrey and Daniel Goure, which began six minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of Wednesday's Today show:

LAUER: Two men with very different perspectives on this are Retired General Barry McCaffrey, an NBC News military analyst, and Dan Goure, vice president of the conservative think tank, the Lexington Institute. Gentlemen, good morning to both of you.

BARRY MCCAFFREY: Good morning, Matt.

DANIEL GOURE: Good morning.

LAUER: General, let me start with you. You know, Savannah says that the President doesn't go into this with a preconceived notion. Do you think this is already a done deal? Is General McChrystal gone?

MCCAFFREY: I don't know. I'm sure of one thing- that he's impaired his effectiveness to guide the interagency process in Afghanistan- to deal with our own embassy, to deal with the White House in a significant way. And plus, it was sort of insulting to the allies. So Matt, it was a significant error. It's done political damage to the commander-in-chief and impairs effectiveness. Probably, he'll go, but- you know, the President could send him back.

LAUER: Well, is there anything, General, that General McChrystal could say to the President today, do you think, that could save his job?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I don't think what McChrystal has to say is really relevant. I think what the President is going to have to determine, in his own mind- what's the tradeoff between taking out- by the way, McChrystal is probably the most competent counter-terrorist fighter that we've produced in a generation. This guy is really good- so that's the tradeoff-

LAUER: Right.

MCCAFFREY: The strategy's faltering. It's $9 billion a month, 46,000 killed and wounded in the armed forces since 9/11. We're really in trouble from a political perspective

LAUER: Mr. Goure, you think that firing General McChrystal would be a disaster- is that accurate?

GOURE: That is accurate.

LAUER: Tell me why.

GOURE: He is the war in Afghanistan. It is his strategy, his surge, his organization, his command structure. He is a general who fights and fights and fights. If you want to have a chance of winning this war, you beat him up, send him to the woodshed, and then send him back to Afghanistan.

LAUER: It's funny you use the term 'his command structure,' yet he has completely broken the command structure, in terms of the people above him, by his comments, and, as Savannah Guthrie pointed out in her piece, it's not the first time. How many strikes does he get?

GOURE: Actually, I don't think he broke the command structure above him. What you're seeing, in the McChrystal behavior and his staff, is a broken command structure from the top. This is a president who has a dysfunctional organization running his war. It's not a team of rivals. It's a team of nine-year-olds, and something needs to be done about that, not just about Stanley McChrystal.

LAUER: Let me ask you both to comment on this next question. What happens to the troops on the ground and their morale if either of these situations plays out? General, I'll start with you,- if they fire General McChrystal, how does that impact morale, and if they keep him on, knowing- although Dan disagrees with this- but knowing that he seems to have broken the chain of command here, what does that do to morale?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, this would be the second in a row fired in Afghanistan, so it's a problem. But look- and let me disagree, if I may, with one of Dan's points. There are ten people who could step in and take command in Afghanistan without a momentary break in the effectiveness of the organization. General Mattis, a Marine general, at Joint Forces Command-

LAUER: Right.

MCCAFFREY: There's a lieutenant general, Dave Rodriguez, on the ground. So, no one commander is vital. Petraeus may be vital, our strategic genius at CENTCOM, but not McChrystal.

LAUER: Mr. Goure, what happens to morale? How does it impact, depending on which way this goes?

GOURE: The Rolling Stone article pointed out this is a general who walks the line with his troops. I think he is unique to this moment and unique to this war, and I think it does great damage to the morale of the troops.

LAUER: And real quickly, General McCaffrey, does it- if you think that General McChrystal needs to go, does it matter how it happens? In other words, can he resign, or does the President need to take the proactive step of actually firing him?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, it's all optics. You know, Admiral Fallon essentially got fired by Secretary Gates over a similar situation with a reporter. They can do this in a gentlemanly way or not. It almost doesn't make any difference. I think Dan's major point is a good one. What we have to focus on is the war. The war is not going well. Karzai's incompetent-

LAUER: Right.

MCCAFFREY: The [Afghani] government's corrupt, the American people don't support it- those are the issues on the table, not bad judgment on the part of McChrystal and his public affairs guys.

LAUER: We will wait to see what happens at the White House today. General Barry McCaffrey and Dan Goure- gentlemen, thanks to both of you. I appreciate it.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center