Former Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal endorses Joe Biden, despite previous tension between them

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General Stanley McChrystal

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal endorsed Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president on Thursday, saying that the nation needed a commander in chief that was “humble enough to understand that they are a servant.”

McChrystal made the endorsement even though there had been tension between McChrystal and Biden in the past.

“I don’t think we need a genius, I don’t think we need a magician, we just need an honest person who is willing to listen. We need someone who will take in information, surround themselves with talented people and lead the country the best they can,” McChrystal said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Anyone we choose will make mistakes, that’s for sure, but the reality is, if we pick for character, if we pick for values, we will be best off,” the four-star general added.

McChrystal described Biden as someone who is “humble enough to listen to experts and who is humble enough to respect people who serve and have served.”

Stanley McChrystal sits in the helicopter after a lengthy conference meeting with military officials October 7, 2009.

Paula Bronstein | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said the former vice president was honored by the endorsement. 

“He couldn’t agree more that the next commander in chief must ‘respect people who serve and have served’ and be ‘someone that you can trust’ — which would be a decisive break from Donald Trump, the most dishonest president in American history and the only one to have utterly disgraced himself by calling veterans and the fallen ‘losers and ‘suckers,” Bates wrote in an emailed statement to CNBC. 

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Before overseeing all U.S. operations in Afghanistan under the Obama administration, McChrystal led the Pentagon’s most secretive Black Ops for five years.

During his military career, McChrystal was critical of then-Vice President Biden’s foreign policy and national security decisions, which came to light in a gritty 2010 Rolling Stone profile of the war-weary general. 

When asked about his policy differences with Obama and Biden, McChrystal said that their relationship was rocky at times but that there was a mutual respect that transcended disputes.

“They didn’t see everything the way I did, but in every instance, they listened, in every instance, they took in my view, in every instance, I felt that they were trying to make the best decision based on all the information they had and based upon a bedrock of values,” he said of Obama and Biden.

In this photo provided by The White House, U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with General Stanley McChrystal, (L) Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan October 2, 2009 on Air Force One in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Pete Souza | The White House | Getty Images

“I think my willingness to endorse him now should signal to people that there was a respectful relationship then and just how important I think it is to replicate that kind of respectful relationship between senior military and leaders now,” McChrystal added of Biden.

“I think he would surround himself with an effective team of good people. I think he would set a tone in which he brings out the best of people and again, not everybody will agree with every policy, nobody ever will, and that’s healthy in a democracy,” McChrystal said.

When President Donald Trump took office he selected a number of prolific retired generals for some of his most senior national security posts. The Republican president though has frequently dressed down his top brass, ridiculed their suggestions, and questioned their intelligence and commitment.

Earlier this month, The Atlantic reported that Trump declined to visit an American cemetery near Paris in 2018 and referred to U.S. Marines buried there as “losers.” He also reportedly expressed concerns that the rain that day would mess up his hair.

“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump told aides after scrapping the visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, according to The Atlantic. The report said Trump later referred to the more than 1,800 Marines who lost their lives in the Battle of Belleau Wood in France as “suckers” for getting killed.

The 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood dragged on for 20 days and ended with U.S. Marines successfully clearing out German camps. The Allied victory became an enduring symbol in U.S. Marine Corps history. 

Trump has denied the report.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump slammed Sen. John McCain, a Navy veteran who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said during a town hall in Iowa in 2015. “I like people who weren’t captured.” At the same event, Trump said “I don’t like losers” after having talked about McCain losing the 2008 presidential election.

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