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Biting Their Tongues

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By Dawn Lim

Turns out Gen. Stanley McChrystal's tête-à -tête with President Obama after his biting remarks in the July issue of Rolling Stone was the now-former top military commander's swan song. The incident likely will change how government officials conduct themselves in front of the media.

What was McChrystal's mistake? He let his guard down, establishing a precedent for his aides to set a similar tone in front of the press. "It was a sort of natural kind of recklessness that General McChrystal had, which has been with him through his entire career, as I understand it. And inviting me in was obviously a risk, as it always is when you invite a journalist in," said Michael Hastings, the journalist who penned the damaging profile, in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Reporters spend their lives waiting to be invited (or crashing the party), hoping to catch an authentic moment. As the administration increasingly puts the pressure on feds to toe the line, I'm not sure if the doors into government workings will be as open to me as they have been.

The president's announcement today provided a clear message that when top military commanders diss their peers and superiors -- publicly or privately -- it can affect troops' ability to carry out their duties. It seems the event's repercussions already are being felt. "It's a reminder that I need to do my job well," a public relations officer at the Navy said on Wednesday morning.

 

Kellie Lunney covers federal pay and benefits issues, the budget process and financial management. After starting her career in journalism at Government Executive in 2000, she returned in 2008 after four years at sister publication National Journal writing profiles of influential Washingtonians. In 2006, she received a fellowship at the Ohio State University through the Kiplinger Public Affairs in Journalism program, where she worked on a project that looked at rebuilding affordable housing in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR and Feature Story News, where she participated in a weekly radio roundtable on the 2008 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, she worked at the Housing and Urban Development Department as a career employee. She is a graduate of Colgate University.

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