Gen. Joseph Ralston cut short a trip to Asia and returned to Washington on Sunday to meet Pentagon officials as his chances of becoming the nation’s top military officer faded further because of past sexual infidelity.
Many Pentagon officials say they expect the Air Force general to withdraw his name as early as today as a candidate for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ralston will meet with Defense Secretary William Cohen today to discuss the matter.
“I think he is going to voluntarily withdraw his name for the good of the country,” Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., a member of the House National Security Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon indicated it is Cohen’s intention to discuss the matter directly with Ralston before making any decisions.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee which must approve the nominee, said Ralston would “face a rocky road.”
Also Sunday, Pentagon officials suggested that Gen. John Shalikashvili, the current Joint Chiefs chairman, might put off his retirement and remain in the post for another two-year term.
Chairmen traditionally serve two terms, but officials said that under these circumstances, tradition might be a secondary concern.
“‘Shali’ would be a good, safe choice, and we wouldn’t have to ask him the embarrassing questions that we’re now going to have to ask all the other candidates,” said a Pentagon official, speaking on condition that he not be identified.
“I understand, however, that he’d be very reluctant. It’s a killer job, and he really has his heart set on retiring.”