U.S. Sen. John McCain has angered at least one member of his own party over harsh comments he directed at Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Obama administration’s pick to become the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to consider Dunford’s nomination for the war command job, McCain, the panel’s top Republican, criticized the general for his lack of knowledge about several aspects of the administration’s planning.
The Arizona Republican pressed Dunford for details about the White House’s plans for bringing home the remaining 68,000 U.S. forces between now and the end of 2014.
When Dunford admitted “I have not been included in those conversations,” McCain erupted.
“That’s interesting to me. The guy who’s going to take over command is not included in those conversations,” McCain said, with a biting and skeptical tone familiar to those who have been on the receiving end. “So you are a blank slate.”
House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is calling McCain’s comments “unfounded.”
In a Nov. 16 statement, Hunter, a former Marine war veteran, called Dunford “a high-caliber Marine officer whose strategic and tactical vision is exactly what the mission in Afghanistan needs ahead of the 2014 transition.
“He’s an outside-the-box thinker with keen insight, and his effectiveness as a commander in Iraq is proof that he can lead Marines and a coalition of troops under any condition,” Hunter said. “In 2003, I served alongside Gen. Dunford in Iraq and saw him in action. There, he rightly earned the nickname ‘Fighting Joe’ for his courage and tenacity.”
Then, in a comment aimed directly toward McCain, Hunter said, “Any criticism of Gen. Dunford is unfounded and inconsistent with his sterling record of accomplishment as one of the military’s top officers.”
The GOP-on-GOP sniping has been rare in the post-9/11 era, as Republicans generally have been in lockstep support of the Republican George W. Bush administration and critical of the Democratic Obama administration.