“If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight – our country – these people are lying to themselves. . . . More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”
Those were the words of Lieutenant General John F. Kelly, United States Marine Corps, who is Secretary Gates’ senior military assistant. He went on to point out that less than one percent of the population serves in the armed forces currently, and there is a growing concern within the military community regarding their isolation in the America they are defending. Not only are our men and women facing isolation at home, they are being left on the battlefield with little support by their countrymen stateside.
A recent poll was released by ABC News and Washington Post shows that a paltry 34% of Americans find the war in Afghanistan worth fighting. Sadly, this poll came out the same day General Patraeus gave his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee asking his audience, Senators and informed Americans alike, to “remember why we are there in the first place.”
These statistics must be detrimental to anyone who has sent a family member or friend overseas; however, these statistics must be even more harmful for those serving overseas themselves. America was founded with the military, but philosophically, as a commercial republic. The two founders who shared the greatest vitriol were Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Despite their differences, they agreed on founding a republic that was commercial in nature so as to avoid war. Thomas Jefferson was the friend of the yeoman farmer, stating that “those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God…” Hamilton hoped this commercial republic would “soften the manners of men, and [to] extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars…” Until what can be considered fairly recently in the grand scheme of History, America never had a standing Army, opting to draft people when the occasion called for such measures instead. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in a war at the present moment, but we also find ourselves regimented into thinking that a battlefield is where football is played, or where ideas clash in a boardroom, or where politicians vie for votes in an important election. Even our professional athletes forget the difference between what they are, and what a true United States Soldier (or Marine) is.
America has faced large battles, and won. What is the difference this time?
Marc Thiessen has a post over at The Enterprise Blog where he lays the blame at President Obama’s feet when he points out that public support for the war has plummeted since President Obama came into office.
“When Obama took office, a majority still said the war in Afghanistan was worth it. He lost majority support in July 2009, then regained it briefly when he announced the surge in December 2009, and then lost it again with a precipitous decline throughout 2010.”
Mr. Thiessen continues by addressing what he believes to be the crux of the problem, which is the failure of the President to defend his policies in Afghanistan. Why hasn’t President Obama defended his endeavors overseas with the same zeal he defended his ill-conceived and unpopular health care legislation? Mr. Thiessen does not go far enough, however, in condemning the commander-in-chief for abdicating his duties as the leader of our armed forces and making sure that the American public that is entirely separated from this war and its ramifications remembers why our men and women are over there in the first place.
Let us get something straight: President Obama never addressed the war in Afghanistan with the attention it deserved, and when he did, it was with a flaccidity that would excite an Urologist. President Obama marched into the Oval Office with a view towards “slow[ing] things down” with regard to the military. The military asking a sitting president for the tools necessary to defeat an enemy abroad was seen as a problem to be solved, but not the war itself. As a matter of fact, most people have already forgotten that the president spoke with General McChrystal just once during the general’s first 70 days as commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, and that was a via video teleconference. Finally, in October of 2009, President Obama met with then-General McChrystal in Copenhagen while the president was lobbying to have the Olympics held in Chicago. He met the then-general of coalition forces in Afghanistan for twenty-five minutes in the front of Air Force Once.
Finally, it got to the point where President Obama had to act on the general’s recommendation for extra troops. As the Guardian reported, “Obama agreed to deploy an extra 30,000 troops but only after months of dithering that many in the military found frustrating.”
To claim the president displayed some sort of ambivalence regarding the war in Afghanistan is an understatement. The one most powerful weapon at his disposal (or what used to be) was his rhetorical ability, and even then he chooses not to rally the troops around the Afghan cause. In December of 2009, President Obama gave a lukewarm speech to West Pointers that earned him considerable scorn from the right. Even during this year’s State of the Union, the president dedicated six sentences to a war costing the United States $100+ billion and hundreds of American lives a year. Those six sentences gave way to 25 seconds of applause, the same length of time it took the president to deliver those sentences.
How can we expect our fellow countrymen to continue supporting an endeavor that our own president seems to treat as a mere thorn in his political side? This recent poll can be reversed if President Obama dedicated more of his time keeping Americans in the loop about what we are doing over there, why we are there in the first place, and using some of his famous rhetorical gifts to re-energize our commitment to those who are so committed to our country that they continue to fight even though 60% of Americans are not standing behind them.
As Peter Wehner said, “this is not ‘Obama’s War,’ this is ‘OUR war.'”
I am a Cowboys fan… Dallas Cowboys. Let me give you a quick synopsis of what that meant this past year:
Dallas Cowboys start season as Super Bowl contenders, and Jerry Jones hints constantly at looking forward to the Cowboys playing in the Super Bowl at the brand new Texas Stadium (which, of course, is bigger than YOUR stadium).
Dallas Cowboys go 0-2… win 1 game, then lose the next 5.
1-7 for the team that had high hopes. Many wept, Redskins fans rejoiced; we crumbled.
I now get to see what it felt like to be a Skins fan, and watch your rivals crumble under the weight of their own egos and expectations (Well, I got to twice, when the University of Texas precipitously fell to the bottom of the Big 12 South; below Baylor!). Did anyone pay attention to the events of tonight on Capitol Hill?
I am watching the Democratic Party collapse tonight. I’m popping popcorn, drinking a Shiner, and laughing at what I am hearing and reading. Democrats were short of the 60 votes they needed to try and pass the DREAM Act in the Senate, so they shelved it. Bear in mind, it is being placed on hold temporarily because the democrats have before the end of the year to try and legislate themselves some-million votes nation-wide. Nevertheless, a victory for Republicans. Next, Democrats failed to get the 60 votes needed for a procedural motion on the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, which included the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell provision. Since that failed, Senators have promised to re-introduce a free-standing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell bill on the floor; but this is not exactly a morale booster for Senate Democrats today. Finally, Democrats are none-too-pleased with the President and his reaching across the aisle on the issue of tax cuts. How mad could they be? Well, Rep. Shelley Berkley acknowledged that someone in the Democratic Caucus hissed “F*** the President” as they debated the bill. As Ron White says: there’s some good news. The outcome is that the Democratic Caucus came out and announced their stance on the bill, which follows what was said inside the caucus in the end.
Democrats seemed poised to enter into the wilderness as they relinquish control of the House. Perhaps Sam Tannenhaus will write a book about the death of legislative liberalism? But for right now, kick back and enjoy the new “Best Show on Earth,” because in two years, that might be us again…
I think it is safe to say that I have a particular affinity for tragic figures: Batman, Siegfried, Rorschach when I suffered through the movie The Watchmen, Fred Thompson in 2008, and my beloved Texas teams (NOT the University of Texas) including the Dallas Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys are finally taking the steps necessary to correct a season that transcends the term “tragic.”
Praise the football Gods (which, as everyone knows, is a Holy Trinity consisting of Emmitt Smith, Daryl Johnston, and Troy Aikman) or human reason. However, I learned very quickly that there can be a negative flip-side to every good action: the interim head coach for the Dallas Cowboys is now Jason Garrett, who is undoubtedly an even bigger reason for the Cowboys’ failures.
I got what I wanted… and now that old adage be careful what you wish for is ringing in my head.
So for those of you within the conservative movement that argue in favor of impeaching President Obama, keep this in mind: behind every Wade Phillips is a Jason Garrett, and behind President Obama is Vice President Biden…
The nice folks over at Americans for Tax Reform have produced for us the Obama Tax Hike Card. I thought all of us out in politico land would want to get one before they run out. (jk obviously they can’t run out.)
It is a pretty fun gag they have come up with and they hammer the point home with some key Obama quotes:
“I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”
–Candidate Barack Obama, Sept. 12, 2008
“If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.”
–President Barack Obama, Feb. 24, 2009
“The statement didn’t come with caveats.”
–Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, April 15, 2009, when asked if the pledge applies to healthcare
I don’t know what everyone else has planned for Memorial Day. Sadly enough, it has become less a day about remembering the sacrifices of our Service members here and abroad, and more about bar-b-queing, drinking and going to the pool. Of course, the original intent for Memorial Day was to remember the Union troops that gave their life during the Civil War (earning the day the nickname “Confederate Marksmanship Day” by our friends below the Mason-Dixon line).
Nevertheless, DrudgeReport is reporting (ignore the redundancy) that President Obama is skipping Arlington Cemetery for a trip to Chicago…
I seriously hope this is not true.
The quote above has been taken down off of DrudgeReport right now. We’ll see what happens through the day.
This is what Drudgereport has on the website now…
Skips Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery; sends Biden…
Originally Posted on Draft Liz Cheney:
Attorney General Eric Holder took his turn in front of the Senatorial talking-points firing squad (also known as a “Senate Committee Hearing,” where Senators don’t bother with what could be regarded as inquiry and instead try to fit as many one-liner rhetorical pot-shots they can during their allotted time) Wednesday. Interestingly enough, the New York Times reported the event in a considerably concise manner: touching upon the concerns Republicans (and Democratic New Yorkers) had with the idea of the Justice Department holding terrorist trials in New York, or in the United States period. The Times is also sure to point out the small spat between Senator Jeff Sessions (R – AL) and Mr. Holder, while de-emphasizing Mr. Holder’s respectable ability to quibble his way around Senator Session’s questions and points. In the end, even Senator Schumer (D – NY) pointedly registered his view that New Yorkers’ had developed a fairly strong consensus against any terrorist trial being held in the state.
Of course, I write for this website that encourages Liz Cheney in a direction that would land her in some sort of public office. With that in mind, I had to journey into forbidden waters to find what truly interested followers of Draft Liz Cheney, which was the part of the testimony where the Attorney General goes out of his way to address his contempt for Keep America Safe’s campaign to elucidate the nine lawyers working on terrorism cases that had defended ‘suspected’ terrorists in the past. Fortunately, the HuffingtonPost does a fair and balanced article on the Attorney general’s scornful remarks:
“There has been an attempt to take the names of the people who represent Guantanamo detainees and to drag their reputations through the mud,” he said, when pressed to disclose more information about these lawyers by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “There were reprehensible ads in essence to question their patriotism. I’m not going to allow these kids… I’m not going to be a part of this effort.”
Holder continued: “Their names are out there now. I’m simply not going to be a part of that effort. I would not allow good, decent lawyers who have followed the best traditions of American jurisprudence… I will not allow their reputations to be besmirched. I will not be a part of that.”
Had Mr. Holder answered the questions raised regarding the Justice Department’s employment of attorneys that had been involved in terrorist defense cases, no one’s reputation would have been “dragged through the mud.” Furthermore, it was not for the purpose of dragging through the mud that Senators (before Keep America Safe even became involved) asked the Attorney General for those names in November to begin with, it was in the interest of full disclosure and transparency: these two nefarious notions that the Obama Administration promised would be at the forefront of their Administration. When the Justice Department ducked and dived, Keep America Safe stepped up to the plate and Liz Cheney called Attorney General Holder out on it.
I find it interesting that Holder’s lawyers are “good” and “decent,” while the Bush Administration’s lawyers faced possible indictments the entire year following Bush 43’s ride into the sunset. What is killing the Obama Administration is the knowledge that they might be able to kick around Sarah Palin and a few others by calling them stupid or letting SNL do their dirty work for them; but they cannot do the same with Liz Cheney. This is what makes her such a force inside the beltway, and why we need to push her in that direction.
Despite the despondent attitude I had earlier this week, I’m a bit more optimistic after a number of Democratic mistakes on health care reform, as well as the leadership of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). Even better, I saw on Fox News this morning that a CBS poll showed the vast majority of Americans want the GOP to repeal the health care reform bill President Obama signed into law. Even better than that, however, is the upcoming ping-pong of the reconciliation bill back to the House. Maybe they can scare a few Democrats into shutting it down. Unlikely, but possible.
Hope springs eternal- I just hope the right is not getting reform fatigue. I know I am. (Though that might be the allergies…)
Peggy Noonan writes a truly fantastic column in today’s Wall Street Journal. Some of the best bits are below:
The American version [[DS: of Britain’s Question Time] might not translate so well. The Brits have a certain tradition of elegance in debate, and enjoy insulting each other. American politicians are more conflicted about obvious aggression, not about feeling it but showing it—it might not play well!—and so they tend to go under or over the line. “You lie!” “Yeah? Well you’re blankin’ developmentally challenged!” We will miss Fritz Hollings, the former Democratic senator who once said to then-Sen. John Glenn, in a presidential primary debate, “But what have you done in the world?”
If an American version could take place regularly, outside Congress and on neutral territory, as the gangs say in “West Side Story,” there could be benefits. It would momentarily force members and the president to focus together on what’s actually happening this week, and, more important, it might force members of Congress to be more familiar with the bills they support. They might actually have to know what’s in them and show a grasp of details. This might tend to produce fewer omnibus bills. “You expect me to know and talk about what’s in that? It’s 2,000 pages! Cut it down to 20 and give it a new name.”
Both our political parties continue, even though they know they shouldn’t, even though they’re each composed of individuals many of whom actually know what time it is, even though they know we are in an extraordinary if extended moment, an ongoing calamity connected to our economic future, our nation’s standing in the world, our strength and our safety—even though they know all this, they continue to go through the daily motions, fund raising, vote counting, making ads with demon sheep, blasting out the latest gaffe of the other team. Our political professionals cheapen everything they touch because they are burying themselves in daily urgencies in order to dodge and avoid the big picture.
America doesn’t need to be told that something bad will happen. America needs to be told what is being done, what will be done and what can be done, how together we’ll get through it, what information and attitude to take into the future. They don’t need to be made anxious, they need to be recruited into a common endeavor.
Instead both parties, understandably and yet wickedly, destructively, irresponsibly, use the nation’s safety as another issue on which to protect their political position.
But the tendency of both parties to default to politics when they think about terrorism—”You’re weak,” “No, you’re bellicose,” “You’re avoiding reality to advance some dreamy geopolitical vision,” “You’re exploiting reality to make cheap points”—cannot be heartening to the public.
The biggest historic gain of this administration may turn out to be that Democrats in the White House experienced leadership in the age of terror, came to have responsibility in a struggle that needs and will need our focus. It wasn’t good that half the country thought jihadism was some little Republican obsession.
But both parties should sober up. The day after the next bad thing, we will all come together, because that is what we do. Republicans and Democrats will work together, for a while.
It would be better to do it now. It is their job to do it now.
My uncle, a Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill, and I were talking about the state of political affairs in this country on Monday, and he pointed out how between an increasingly polarized media and an increasingly polarized political situation in Washington, DC, it is hard to work on the major issues. These issues include but are not limited to Social Security, Medicare, health care, energy and national security. Related to this point, Noonan said:
I think sometimes of the suburbs around Washington, which are planted thick with knowledgable veterans of government—old national-security and foreign-policy hands, patriots of both parties who’ve served within government, in and out of the military. How painful it must be for them to watch all this, knowing what they know and understanding that political party, at a time like this, means nothing. There is so much experience to share, and so much wisdom, from both parties. I wish those old hands had more say.
As I said above, this column is truly excellent. That said, Noonan does miss two key points that my libertarian friend Jon O’Neill pointed out. His first point was that the real issue at hand is that our officials are not following the Constitution. Secondly, we let ourselves be satisfied that the same officials who failed us on 9/11 (I would add that government officials also failed us regarding the economic crash in 2008 and America’s fiscal crisis) will take good care of us and our loved ones. To paraphrase Jon, this is folly.
I think Jon has hit the nail on the head- however, Noonan’s points are still very well-taken. Americans tend to ask “what,” which is important. But it is just as important is to ask “why” and “how.” Without these two, knowing the “what” of any situation is very, very limited.
Yesterday, Politico led with an article describing some deep hypocrisy among so-called fiscal hawks among both parties. According to Politico, the “hawks” are very much for cutting spending…unless it’s within their state’s limits. Senators DeMint, Enzi, McCaskill and Tester, among others, are targeted for their support for fiscal discipline outside of their state.
Today, Politico targeted Democratic deals designed to pass health care reform. Senator Ben Nelson’s (D-NE) so-called “Cornhusker Kickback” has been taken out of the picture…but Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) “Louisiana Purchase” is still on the table. According to Politico:
But there is no visible movement to erase a Medicaid deal with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that she has said is worth $300 million, three times the amount of Nelson’s agreement.
Or to strike a line item that exempts Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from a 40 percent tax on insurers that provide expensive health plans. Or to remove a provision that sends an extra $500 million in Medicaid funding to Massachusetts and $600 million to Vermont for being leaders in providing health insurance to their residents.
Politico snags statements from a number of Democrats senators regarding their state’s deals. Below are two:
“It is very clear from the process that took place in the final days of the bill that Americans are disturbed about the process,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “I believe it would be important for us to take out the egregious items.”
Does that mean he might forfeit the money for Massachusetts?
Not at all. Kerry argued the funding was completely legitimate because Massachusetts has already used significant state resources to extend benefits beyond what the current federal Medicaid rules require.
“I don’t think adjusting for Medicaid costs for states that have already done some things is inappropriate,” Kerry said. “I’m not for a single-state fix. I’m for every state in the country that has taken action, to have that reflected somehow, and that should be part of the fix.”
Kerry’s remark highlights an axiom of Washington: Every deal is egregious except your own.
On the labor deal, Levin said he signed off on it initially “in the context of trying to get the bill passed.”
But now that party leaders have gone back to the drawing board, he said critics want another chance to eliminate the tax completely. Barring that, he said they would like to raise the threshold on plans that would be taxed and exempt additional benefits — under the terms of the labor deal, only basic coverage would be taxed, exempting things like dental and vision coverage.
Other senators and several representatives are noted as getting their own deals in as well. While this is the way Congress works, and thus no bill is ever free from deal-making…this is pretty shortsighted of Democrats to make more of the same kinds of deals that hurt them so much in Massachusetts.
I first heard about the deals when Politico’s Mike Allen was on Morning Joe today. Arianna Huffington was on the show, and after Allen pointed out the Massachusetts, Vermont and Michigan deals, she made the observation that (and this is as best as I can remember, 25 minutes after the fact, so please excuse the lack of an exact quote)) beyond what was in the deals, Democrats are using the same secretive processes that made them so devastatingly vulnerable in Massachusetts. It’s the process, she noted, that is anathema to Americans most of all.
Following Huffington’s statement Joe Scarborough, the host of Morning Joe, offered some advice to President Obama on how to get rid of these backroom deals and get health care reform back track. Again, from memory, Scarborough said that President Obama should call each and every troublesome Democrat- and Joe Lieberman (I-CT)- in and inform them that they will support the health care bill he likes. If they don’t, he will veto their appropriations. Secondly, for those who are up for re-election this year, he should threaten to primary them if they don’t get in line. With his experience as a representative from Florida, Scarborough claims he knows that each senator will flinch at these threats.
I have to agree with Huffington; beyond making deals, which I think most Americans grudgingly accept as part of the political system- of course, that acceptance becomes significantly easier to bear when money comes to their state or district- we want the kind of transparency offered by C-SPAN, open dialogue, etc. Secondly, I agree with Scarborough. Elections and money to their own state are the lifeblood of U.S. Senators, and threatening both will lead very quickly to Democrats (and Joe Lieberman) falling into line. (Also, threatening to away Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee would probably help Democrats.)