McChrystal: I’m not the right person to run Veterans Affairs

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that he is not “the best person” to run the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs.

“That’s a job that I think is going to be very difficult. And it’s going to take some specific expertise. I don’t think I have that expertise, and so I don’t think I’m the best person for it,” McChrystal said, effectively taking himself out of the running for the job.

“I care enough about what happens there that I hope they seek someone with just the right combination [of skills] and they let that individual have enough freedom of action so he can do the right thing,” he said.

The former general’s name had been floated as a possible replacement for retired General Eric Shinseki. President Obama accepted Shinseki’s resignation last week after reports of dramatic and widespread failures at Veterans Affairs health care facilities.

“When I heard about this, I said, ‘You know, we’re not doing our part,’” said McChrystal, who once commanded the war effort in Afghanistan. “We have a responsibility to those who serve.”

“If you get really practical about it, as George Washington said, how you treat your veterans is going to determine whether you have soldiers in the future,” he warned.

“If someone has served and then they are not well treated by we as a society, there’s a sense of ‘Why did I do it?’ It devalues what they did even if it’s unintentional.”

Among those under serious consideration by the White House to replace Shinseki is Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, the chief executive officer of the Cleveland Clinic and a former Vietnam War veteran. Others mentioned for the job include Sloan Gibson, Shinseki's interim replacement; Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli; and Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

McChrystal spoke to Yahoo News on the battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa., where he was due to headline a summit on national service. He has called for an ambitious public-private partnership to get Americans ages 18 to 28 to do one year of service.

The “Summit at Gettysburg: Our Unfinished Work” is being hosted by the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, together with the National Conference on Citizenship, ServiceNation, and Voices for National Service.

McChrystal was forced to resign after a 2010 Rolling Stone article featured him and his aides criticizing civilian leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden.