April 13, 2011

White House Defends McChrystal Role in Military Family Campaign

White House officials and the first lady deflected questions yesterday about the unusual appointment of former Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal to help guide the new Joining Forces campaign, designed to highlight the needs of military families. McChystal attended but did not speak at the unveiling event on Tuesday, the first time he’s visited the White House since his he offered his resignation last summer in the wake of a controversial profile of the former Afghan war commander in Rolling Stone magazine.

During Tuesday’s daily press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney called McChrystal an “excellent choice to help oversee that effort.” When asked about McChrystal’s firing, or his murky role in the Army’s cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death, Carney said that the president was “very aware … of the general’s resume” but offered no further explanation.

First lady Michelle Obama, who is leading the military families campaign, didn’t address the past controversies at all when McChrystal’s name was brought up in a media roundtable (including Stars and Stripes) Tuesday afternoon.

“He has a distinguished career in the military,” she said. “There’s a level of respect in the military community for both him and his wife. He was the right fit, he was willing to take up the challenge.”

“And he and [fellow advisory board member] Patty Shinseki both come from that cloth. They’re knowledgeable, they’re good people, and they care about this issue. So we’re grateful they stepped up to the call.”

The new Joining Forces initiative will be coordinated through the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank with numerous ties to the current administration. Michelle Obama said the reason for that was to ensure the project lasted beyond a single presidency. Officials would not say whether that arrangement will limit McChrystal’s interactions with the White House.