In this week’s edition of Cheers and Regards, we’re going to change the format a little and take a look at the story that seemed to dominate the news cycle of much of last week: Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings’ profile of U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the now former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The piece caused so much discussion, created so much fallout (President Obama accepted the general’s resignation just two days after the RS piece went up online, a day before it was even available in print), and was such a perfect example of both good and bad journalism that we thought it deserves a full column.
CHEERS to Hastings for nabbing some amazing quotes, both from McChrystal and his aides. Some questioned whether Hastings used quotes given to him off-the-record, but he seems to have been pretty cautious with his attributions.
REGARDS to Rolling Stone for seemingly encouraging all their political writers to simply ape the style of their most famous political reporter ever, Hunter S. Thompson. Hastings’ piece reads like a copy of a copy of Thompson, all swagger and casual cursing, with none of the personality.
CHEERS to Hastings for making the piece work as a profile. Once you get past the eyebrow-raising quotes about Vice President Biden and the French, there’s a lot of context about McChrystal’s education, his career up to now, his involvement with how the story of the friendly-fire death of Cpl. Pat Tillman was presented to the public and his possible turn of a blind eye toward prisoner abuse in Iraq.
REGARDS to Hastings for seemingly giving in to hero worship (or maybe it was Stockholm syndrome, since he was stuck with the General and his aides for almost a month rather than the planned two days due to the volcano eruption earlier this year) at various points. He reports with what seems like considerable admiration when McChrystal brags that no one in the room at a Paris luncheon could beat him up. Plus, he says he looks like Christian Bale.
CHEERS to those commentators who pointed out that McChrystal was the only U.S. official who had a real and productive relationship with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. His removal makes that already rocky relationship with the Afghan regime even rockier.
REGARDS to Hastings for his apparent lack of understanding regarding just what sort of reaction his story would bring. You thought your story, the subhed of which said McChrystal publicly questioned his bosses, wouldn’t make some pretty big waves with those bosses?