Stanley McChrystal 2: SNAFU or Ploy?

As a newcomer to the field, I passed my 5 July post on General Stanley McChrystal on to Andrew Caesar-Gordon, a PR professional of long-standing. He heads Electric Airwaves, a firm specializing in media training for executives.

Caesar-Gordon’s feeling was that while McChrystal may have had a real employee enforcement issue with the US president, the general’s harsh statements before a Rolling Stone reporter were nothing more than a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.

According to Caesar-Gordon: “By allowing … a print journalist to follow him around for days on end, he, like many business people, politicians and others, ‘forget’ they are there or get too comfortable around them; others start to believe they have a friendly relationship with the journalist (who for their part never forget what they are there to do). The interviewee becomes casual and thus careless with what’s coming out of their mouth.”

He added that “it would be an extraordinary person who was able to be fully on message 24 hours a day … (particularly for someone as apparently gruff and fire-from-the-hip as McChrystal appears to be,  (a man) who I suspect hates the very concept of being ‘on-message’ for one minute let alone 24 hours).”

I temper Caesar-Gordon’s view with this observation. Once when was performing my assigned tasks (paperwork naturally) as a lowly serviceman in the US Army, I saw through my window a colonel and his aide walk toward our building. As I was nearest to the front door, I did my duty and called our company to attention when the colonel entered; though our company captain was in the building, it needed to be announced that a higher-ranking officer was present.

I was always impressed by that: Soldiers always had to be aware of who was around and who to salute to first. I figured a soldier of McChrystal’s stature would always be aware of who is in his presence. But maybe when you’re always the ranking officer in the room, you think you don’t need to worry anymore about that sort of thing.

Whether McChrystal opened his mouth on purpose or absentmindedly, the point in the end is when you’re that high up someone is always listening. And you’d better worry.