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Fight to Be Next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gets Nasty

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Bucked off: Hoss Cartwright

As the unflappable Adm. Mike Mullen prepares to sail into the sunset of retirement from his current post as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, squalls have kicked up about who will succeed him. Early-front runner, Marine General James “Hoss” Cartwright, has been bucked off the list. Reported to be President Obama’s favorite general, Cartwright’s alleged roughshod treatment of the fellow brass and his questionable dealings with a female aide apparently have made him too much of a risk, Pentagon officials say.

Background from Wednesday’s Washington Post here, and from the day before at Danger Room. It all got kicked off by this “piece” from the Washington Times two weeks ago. There is some thought that Cartwright’s closeness to Obama ticked off some in the GOP, who leaked this tale to the Times‘ Bill Gertz. Shortly after its publication, Josh Rogin over at The Cable blog knocked it down, but the damage apparently had been done.

The latest candidates to succeed Mullen include the brand-new Army chief of staff, General Martin Dempsey, and Army General Ray Odierno, currently running the soon-to-be-shuttered Joint Forces Command. Both officers have done well in Iraq, and it may be time for the country to give the nation’s top military post to an Army general – the last to serve was Hugh Shelton, who stepped down from the post on September 30, 2001, less than three weeks after 9/11. After all, the Army has shouldered the bulk of the burden fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since then.

Of course, all this tea-leaf reading suggests the ultimate choice is important, and that the best person gets tapped for the post (wonder if Pete Chiarelli has had any chats about delaying his retirement as the Army’s vice chief?). To see just how elusive and slippery picking military talent is, you might want to check out Picking Winners, a fascinating piece from the latest issue of Naval History Magazine:

In early 1942, a panel of senior Navy officers compiled a secret presidential list of top flag officers. Who was selected and how they performed during World War II is almost as surprising as who was left off the list.

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