Presidential Stagecraft Around McChrystal: The Suspense Builds

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What is the meaning of a 30 minute meeting? Gen. Stanley McChrystal came to the White House, shaking hands as he walked in for an Oval Office meeting. A half hour later, he left, shaking hands as he climbed back into a Toyota minivan. What does it mean?

We don’t know, yet. And the White House wants it that way. Which is interesting. Ever since the Rolling Stone article went online, upturning the political world, Obama has done what he can to attract attention to himself. He made McChyrstal fly home for a high-profile one-on-one meeting. He called the press into a Cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon, and announced he would not make a decision on the general’s fate. Then the meeting happened. And still no news. No leaks. The last word from the White House came at 10:21 a.m.: “No update yet on whether or not the President will speak, or when that would be. We will be in touch.”

In other words, stay glued to the television. Keep an eye on your email. The president is gathering the nation’s attention. For the White House, this is a moment to demonstrate leadership.

As I wrote last night, this is not the tack that Republicans on Capitol Hill expected. They had assumed that Obama would try to keep a distance from the McChrystal blunder. They were wrong. We still don’t know how it will play.

UPDATE: From the White House at 11:55: “The Af/Pak Meeting has started. I don’t have an update on attendees or additional scheduling guidance for today. I promise to send as soon as I do, and I appreciate your patience.”

UPDATE 2: President Obama will speak at 1:30 in the Rose Garden. Still no signals on what he will say.