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Mullen v. Cartwright

Political warfare has broken out within the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, and vice chairman, Gen. James E. Cartwright facing off as bitter foes.

One issue is a nasty battle over whether Gen. Cartwright will succeed Adm. Mullen when he steps down later this year.

Gen. Cartwright, who rose to the top without combat experience, is the reported favorite of President Obama and worked with the president on the ultrasecret operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

According to officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, Gen. Cartwright is said to be under scrutiny by three senators who were alerted to character issues, including an inspector general’s report earlier this year that cleared the four-star general of allegations of impropriety related to a female subordinate two years ago.

Additionally, reports are circulating on both sides of the Potomac that Gen. Cartwright’s wife, Sandee Cartwright, is planning to go public with her feelings about her husband.

The Cartwrights are separated, and Mrs. Cartwright has written a letter to several high-ranking military officers outlining what defense officials say are the reasons for the separation.

The three senators were identified as Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both California Democrats, and Susan Collins, Maine Republican.

“I’m told they are all very upset with Cartwright and claim he did not comport himself well with women,” said one congressional aide.

A second official, however, said Mrs. Feinstein and Mrs. Collins have not expressed any concerns, at least about the inspector general’s investigation, and that Mrs. Boxer’s views were not known.

Sen. Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Thursday that “some are attempting to impugn Gen. Cartwright’s reputation.”

“I deeply regret this since he is one of America’s most respected four-star generals with both sophisticated weapons knowledge, as well as four decades of distinguished military service,” she said.

“He is also noted as a brilliant strategic and innovative thinker — particularly with respect to asymmetric warfare.”

A spokesman for Mrs. Boxer declined to comment. Congressional aides said the senators were not aware of allegations against Gen. Cartwright but were alerted to the issues by news inquiries.

Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Mrs. Collins, said the senator “thinks highly of Gen. Cartwright and has worked closely with him.”

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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