McChrystal Resigns, Obama Names Petraeus In a speech from the Rose Garden, President Obama announced he has relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his duties as U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Obama said he believes it is "the right decision for our national security," and named Gen. David Petraeus to replace him.

McChrystal Resigns, Obama Names Petraeus

McChrystal Resigns, Obama Names Petraeus

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In a speech from the Rose Garden, President Obama announced he has relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his duties as U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Obama said he believes it is "the right decision for our national security," and named Gen. David Petraeus to replace him.


Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Tom Gjelten, NPR intelligence and national security correspondent
Robert Dallek, presidential historian
Maj. Gen. Mike Davidson, former assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters
Brad Warthen, political blogger


But, Ken, there's been - one of the interesting stories since we were last on from New Hampshire a week ago - it seems like so long ago - that, of course, Joe Barton, the top Republican - on the committee, apologizing to British Petroleum.

RUDIN: It was pretty remarkable. And it was a field day for the Democratic Party because the president, Obama, was on the defensive, the administration unable to stem the spill. Basically, they were just flailing. A lot of people thought that, yes, he gave a speech but ultimately the oil was still flowing. And here we have Joe Barton who's the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee apologizing to BP chairman Tony Hayward and saying that, basically, you know, it's a shakedown what the administration's doing and things like that, which embarrassed the Republican Party.

CONAN: And here's what he had to say.

JOE BARTON: I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anybody else, but I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure, that is, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. So I apologize.

CONAN: A shakedown. Well, then, later that same day, Congressman Barton issued some - one the most convoluted apologies for his apology I have ever misconstrued and misconstructed in my life. And then today, Ken, he was called back in and apologized behind closed doors to members of the Republican caucus.

RUDIN: Yes. And also, not many people would know this, but he also apologized to Algeria after the World Cup.


RUDIN: So I don't think people even realize this. But also what's strange about this is that at the same time, he put something on his Twitter account that gave a link to an article that said Joe Barton was right. So it's an apology with a wink almost. And, ultimately, a lot of people think that the only reason he apologized was to keep his position as ranking member on Energy and Commerce and that's what happened today.

CONAN: And a primary yesterday in Utah where, as usual in that state, the big contest was in the Republican Party.

RUDIN: Right. And the big story, of course, happened in May when the Senator Bob Bennett failed to get enough support to even qualify for yesterday's primary. Yesterday's primary was between two conservative Republicans. Mike Lee defeated Tim Bridgewater - Mike Lee backed by Tea Party. This is a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970. Mike Lee will be the next senator from Utah.

CONAN: Runoff yesterday in North Carolina.

RUDIN: Yes. As for the - we've seen Republican Senator Richard Burr. The Democrats are Elaine Marshall, the secretary of state. She handily defeated Cal Cunningham for state senator who had been backed by the party establishment in Washington, thinking he might be a stronger candidate against Elaine Marshall.

CONAN: And news from a runoff in Alabama.

RUDIN: Yes, finally, we do know who's going to go into the Republican runoff. By the way, there will be no primaries or runoffs until July 13th. Whew. That will...

CONAN: What are we going to talk about, Ken?

RUDIN: Okay. Plenty. Believe me. That will be in Alabama, but it will be Robert Bentley against Bradley Byrne, very household names, I think, in their households for the Republican nomination for governor. Tim James was not included in the runoff. He was the guy who did that controversial ad about immigration.

CONAN: And you mentioned a big win for Sarah Palin in a lot of places yesterday and Tea Party candidates. Indian-American Nikki Haley was the subject of slanders and accusations of infidelity yet won the runoff in South Carolina for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, some think, in large part because of a, well, a very significant endorsement.

NIKKI HALEY: I want to thank Governor Sarah Palin who has showed the entire country...


HALEY: ...who showed the entire country what it means to use the power of your voice. And she gave us that boost we needed when we needed it.

CONAN: And joining us now is Brad Warthen, the former editor and blogger at The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, and now runs his own website dedicated to South Carolina politics. And he joins us today from the studios of ETV Radio in Columbia. Nice to have you with us.

BRAD WARTHEN: Good to be here.

CONAN: And, well, that Palin endorsement was a key moment in the Haley campaign.

WARTHEN: I mean, she was really hitting her stride at that moment, full of confidence, full of poise - and from that moment it's all been upward for her.

CONAN: Though whispering campaigns have been, well, a feature, one has to conclude, in South Carolina politics in the past, there were whispering campaigns and indeed open accusations from some people as well - accusations of infidelity, accusations that maybe this candidate was not the Christian that she said she was.

WARTHEN: For one thing, it drew in a lot of national attention to the race, and very quickly, the whole accusations of scandal moved aside and it became about this exciting candidate, an Indian-American woman, about to win the Republican nomination.

CONAN: And Ken?

RUDIN: Two things. First of all, I actually thought that the big move - the biggest thing for - or the earliest thing for Nikki Haley was endorsement by Jenny Sanford...


RUDIN: ...the former wife of Mark Sanford. And that seemed to put her on the national platform that I never heard before. But also, the fact is, is that 2012, in South Carolina it will be, as always, the first big Republican presidential primary state, and Nikki Haley may be in the driver's seat. Both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin have endorsed her.

WARTHEN: Absolutely, which is, you know, it's an example of the craziness of national politics, that people are already talking about that. You know, Nikki is a very engaging young woman who is a sophomore member of the legislature. You know, and she - her accomplishments and her understanding of issues are about what you expect at that level. And now, all of a sudden, we're talking about national...


WARTHEN: ...national ambitions. It's just kind of wild.

CONAN: Right. She was, of course, boosted by business Sanford and hurt by the endorsement press by Governor Sanford. In any case, this is a day also that Michael Steele was very proud about, because not only was an Indian-American woman - if she's elected, she would be the second Indian-American Republican governor of the state...

WARTHEN: That's right.

CONAN: ...but also an African-American nominated by the Republican Party for Congress in the state of South Carolina, for the first time since reconstruction.

WARTHEN: And that's a tremendous narrative here. I mean, he beat Strom Thurmond's son. And he beat him like a drum.


WARTHEN: And so, you know, a little notice that all the scandals and the back and the forth and the things we talked about 24/7 on Twitter, is this historic shift that is happening in South Carolina. I mean, it really does mean something that a black man can run as a Republican in South Carolina and beat the son of Strom Thurmond.

CONAN: It is an extraordinary change for the face of the - the Republican Party has enormous advantages in the state of South Carolina, yet with Governor Sanford's problems and the unwillingness of the legislature there to install his lieutenant governor to replace him, it looked like the party was in considerable disarray. The picture looks completely different today.

WARTHEN: It does, although we're still providing plenty of grist for Jon Stewart. He's really enjoying us.


CONAN: Well, a lot of people provide grist for Jon Stewart.


CONAN: Bread also is something also to watch, something to talk about in the fourth congressional district. We have another incumbent going down to defeat: Bob Inglis.

WARTHEN: I mean, you know, he voted for the TARP. He did other things, such as he opposed General Petraeus' surge in Iraq. And he was one of the very few Republicans that - I think the only one in the South Carolina delegation - who actually said that Jerry Wilson should apologize for his you lie remark.

RUDIN: Right.

WARTHEN: And - I don't know if you call it a remark when it's shouted, but...

RUDIN: Outburst.


WARTHEN: Outburst. But that's stunning. I mean, he got less than 30 percent of the vote. And, you know, if anyone doubted that experience and long-time commitment to conservative principles doesn't mean a whole lot in the GOP this year, they just need to look at Bob Inglis.

CONAN: As we look ahead to November is Nikki Haley - again the Republican Party has a great registration advantages in the state of South Carolina. She - considered the favorite, is she considers, shoe in?

WARTHEN: I mean, that's - that is a very bad situation to be in if you're Vincent Sheheen.

CONAN: And as you look ahead to the political futures come November, of the other Republicans who won the congressional nominations yesterday, well, I gather I least one of them is considered an absolute mortal lock.

WARTHEN: Well, probably several of them.


WARTHEN: Are we talking about Joe Wilson?

CONAN: Yeah. Joe Wilson.

WARTHEN: Yes, absolutely, and his son won the nomination for attorney general last night. Joe is as strong as ever. His opponent who's facing him, Rob Miller, faced him two years ago and was not a particularly strong candidate, did not do that well in spite of Obama's strong showing; even though Obama didn't win South Carolina, he still got a lot of votes here. And that, you know, as much as, you know, millions of dollars flowed to Rob Miller after the you lie incident.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

WARTHEN: But even more money flowed to Joe Wilson, from all over the country. And he's as strong as he ever was.

CONAN: We're talking with - about South Carolina politics with Brad Warthen, a former editor and blogger at the state newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, now a political blogger at And you're listening to the Political Junkie segment on TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Brad, can you go out on a limb? You say that Jim DeMint defeats Alvin Greene?

WARTHEN: Yeah. You know - wait a minute, let me think. Yeah, I think you're right.


RUDIN: I mean, we did see the unlikely outcome, some Democrats tried to overturn the result because they just couldn't believe it happened.

WARTHEN: But that is stunning. It's testimony to the fact that Democrats were so convinced that Jim DeMint was invulnerable this year that they just paid absolutely no attention. And Alvin Greene's name was on the ballot first - and so he won.

CONAN: If he wins in November, I suspect we'll find out more about glitches in the electoral voting machine.

WARTHEN: Yes. Yes. I think the Republicans are going to be calling for a little investigation.

CONAN: Brad Warthen, thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

WARTHEN: Thank you.

CONAN: And Ken, a couple of things that we did not get to. In the Colorado GOP primary, a former lieutenant governor, Jane Norton, well, there's a new poll out suggesting that the Tea Party candidate in that race is being favored over the - what you might call the establishment party?

RUDIN: Well, we've seen this before. We saw this Kentucky with Trey Greyson who was not supposed to - who was supposed to beat Rand Paul and didn't. We saw this with Charlie Crist in Florida, when the establishment backed him earlier - now, he's no longer a Republican. And that's the same thing with Jane Norton. This guy, Ken Buck has backed the Tea Party, and he says that Jane Norton is far too liberal. And a new Denver Post poll has him up well over Jane Norton in the August primary.

CONAN: And the - there's news in the Arizona race for U.S. Senate. The challenger, the man challenging the former congressman, challenging John McCain, now tied up in the complaints about an infomercial that he appeared on.

RUDIN: Yes, and that's a subject of a new John McCain commercial, which is obviously (unintelligible)...

CONAN: J.C. Hayworth, right?

RUDIN: Right, J.C. Hayworth - out to embarrass - Hayworth. And speaking of J.C. Hayworth, you know, one of the reasons he lost his seat in 2006 was his involvement with Jack Abramoff. Jack Abramoff is not only out of prison right now, he's working for a kosher pizza parlor in Baltimore. I think, obviously, he's still in the dough, I guess (unintelligible)...


RUDIN: ...rolling a dough, but in a different way, I guess.

CONAN: Spinning the dough - anyway. But, yes, Jack Abramoff in a halfway house and, I guess, working at a pizza parlor. There was also, we mentioned at the top of the show, some - well, interesting remarks by both Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, your fellow news - Fox News commentator, Mike Huckabee, noted that Sarah Palin had appeared on a television program with Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas, the father of Rand Paul, the candidate in Kentucky.

RUDIN: I'm following you, so far.

CONAN: So far - in any case. And he'd asked her about legalizing marijuana, a position that he endorses as a former libertarian. And she said, well, she doesn't favor legalizing marijuana because it would provide a poor example for America's youth, however...


SARAH PALIN: And if somebody's going to smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm, then perhaps there are other things that our cops should be looking at to engage in and not concentrate on such a, relatively speaking, minimal problem that we have in the country.


I want you to know that Bill Schulz is dancing on the table right now.


HUCKABEE: Unidentified Man: What? What?

CONAN: Well, that last part was clearly a joke.

RUDIN: Mike Huckabee does have a prosody(ph) to say whatever he thinks. I mean, you know, I don't know, even though people like that myself, but I don't know anybody who would do that. But he is engaging, amusing and sometimes could be very out of his mind, in the sense that in politics, if you want to get ahead, you have to - you have to have some kind of measure of control. And often, Mike Huckabee, does not have that control.

CONAN: Ken Rudin, as always, thanks very much for your time today.

RUDIN: I understand there will be a trivia question next week.

CONAN: Ken Rudin will be back with us next week as the Political Junkie, maybe just a normal week of politics. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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