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This piece by Jon Meacham is a bit old, but I just saw this the other day, and I thought it was on-point:
The McChrystal incident raises an interesting question: if commanders cannot speak their minds in such a forum—and the general was the very model of reason and grace—then what are the rules for commanders to engage in public debate? Many liberals have suddenly discovered Article II of the Constitution, arguing that civilian control of the military means soldiers should not express their views outside the chain of command. There is much to be said—in some senses, everything to be said—for officers restricting their comments, but I suspect the left would be taking a very different view of McChrystal's speaking his mind if the general were arguing a position with which it agreed.
In politics and in war, truth can be elusive; often all we can do is muddle through, trying to make the best of things. McChrystal knows better than anyone the complexities of what he faces, and if you read the whole speech he delivered in London you see that he was at pains to make the difficulties at hand as clear as possible.
He goes on:
History is not very helpful on this point. Douglas MacArthur is a bad example. He defied a president; McChrystal has not yet even disagreed with one. Still, the cultural imperatives within the armed forces are clear. As our longtime defense correspondent John -Barry notes, the tradition in the American military is captured best in Gen. George C. Marshall's dictum that commanders should present their views in private and then resign if they disagree sufficiently with the decision of the political leadership.
The issue is complicated, but then most issues of significance are. McChrystal appears to be a good man trying to do a nigh-impossible job. At least the general in whose hands lie the lives of thousands of soldiers and in whose success may lie our own national security chose to be clear now, in real time, when it matters, rather than waiting for a book contract. He has told us what he thinks when it can make a difference, and for that we should be grateful.
Full disclosure: I support staying the course in Afghanistan. That being said, I don't think Obama is "dithering," by waiting a bit to see how the elections turn out. I also think it's outrageous that certain people are suggesting that Gen. McChrystal should STFU, or that he is somehow undermining his CiC. McChrystal was handpicked by Obama, and gave his assessment of the situation. He has made clear that he will follow whatever orders are given. He has not disagreed with the President's decision, because the President hasn't made a decision yet, and that final decision will be ultimately up to President Obama.
As to the larger debate, I think it behooves everyone to take McChrystal's recommendations seriously. As far as the politics are concerned, I've no doubt that if McChrystal had argued a position they disagreed with, plenty of righties would be in an uproar, and Lefties would be hailing him, as opposed to hurling insults. Partisan politics has become war by other means. Nevertheless, suggesting that a general who does his job by giving his commander-in-chief true counsel is doing anything but his duty is disgraceful. The fomentation of division between the President and his generals, by either side, to score political points, or to further personal agendas, is even more so.
There is a new controversy of this brainfart by Anita Dunn, in which she appears to be praising Mao. The usual suspects have piled on, but like Andrew Sullivan, I sense that this is one of these kinds of situations. I submit that Dunn is not a Maoist, but a moron. A first-class moron.
ADDED: I mean, of course she was joking*, but who in their right mind jokes like that about Mao? Not only is it dumb politically, considering the optics, but it's downright disgusting. Ugh.
Oh, BTW, I used Media Matters purely for the links, via Andrew Sullivan
*I stand corrected. She wasn't, and those other links don't really mitigate the situation.
Mickey Kaus, on the problem with Fox News:
I think it's pretty clear MSNBC and the NYT and Breitbart.tv are not neutral. They all have an agenda and they pursue it. But they are independent. The Obama White House can't tell Bill Keller what to do. They can't tell Keith Olbermann what to do. (They can suck up to him, and it will probably work, but that's a different issue.) Breitbart is for sure independent--I can't see anyone telling him what to do.
I think Fox is also not neutral (which, again, doesn't bother me) but it's also not independent (which does). This isn't because it's owned by Rupert Murdoch--moguls are, typically among the more independent sorts. It's because it's run by Roger Ailes. I have zero faith that Ailes is independent of the Republican party or, specifically, those Republicans who have occupied the White House recently--the Bushes.
Read the whole thing.
I point this out, because I've started to wonder if he occasionally forgets. I'm starting to wonder if he doesn't need for someone to gently whisper in his ear from time to time, "Sir, you are the President." I'm probably overreacting, but I think that may go a long way in preventing displays like this:
“Why is it four years after Katrina we’re still fighting for money to repair our devastated city?” asked Gabriel Bordenave, 29, a Loyola law school graduate. “I expected as much from the Bush administration. But why are we still being nickeled and dimed?”
The president, in a rare moment on the defensive in a format that is usually friendly to him, said many people in New Orleans were “understandably impatient” and said he had inherited a backlog of problems.
“These things were not all going to be fixed tomorrow,” Mr. Obama said. “So we are working as hard as we can, as quickly as we can.” He added, “I wish I could just write a check.”
When someone shouted, “Why not?” Mr. Obama replied, “There’s this whole thing about the Constitution.”
He added that “we’ve got to go through procedures” in assessing, for instance, how much to reimburse for the damage done to Charity Hospital in New Orleans. But he said his administration had freed up $1.4 billion in aid and told the young man, “That may not sound like a lot of money to you, but it’s real money.”
Now, that's just lame. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting that President Obama doesn't care about the people of New Orleans, but after four years of delay, and nine months into his Administration, after billions of bailout dollars to AIG, are you telling me that the same Congress that passed Cash for Clunkers can't cut a check, if you leaned on them? And why say it like that? Oh, and then leave after a couple of hours, and jet to a 30 grand a plate fundraiser, in San Francisco!? WTF?
I'm probably overreacting, but I just think, when Obama won the Nobel Prize, and said it was to be a "call to action?" That means less of this, and more of actually getting things done. Remember. You are the President. You are the President.
Glenn Greenwald, in a must-read rebuke to the DNC, and the far-Left, over their hypocrisy in criticizing the critics:
What's particularly bothersome about yesterday's attacks is the premise that it's improper, unpatriotic and even Terrorist-mimicking to do anything but cheer -- have a "national celebration" -- when Obama is awarded the Nobel Prize. Whether Obama is actually pursuing policies of peace happens to be an extremely legitimate topic of debate. The same is true for whether he's done anything meaningful yet to merit the award. Numerous liberals in good standing objected to Obama's award -- from Ezra Klein ("It is undeserved. It is a bit ridiculous") to The Nation's Richard Kim ("I woke up, read the New York Times website and thought I had come to the Onion instead . . . Obama doesn't deserve the prize, yet") to Naomi Klein ("disappointing, cheapening of the Nobel Prize"). While there are arguments to make in his favor -- I even made some myself yesterday in the first two paragraphs of what I wrote -- there is something unquestionably bizarre about awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a leader who did not merely "inherit," but is advocating, actively prosecuting and escalating, a major war that is killing large numbers of civilians with no plans to stop, while at the same time building prisons to house people who will have no due process.
Unquestionably, those are and must be legitimate topics of debate. Some smart people yesterday made some reasonable arguments for Obama's Prize. But to insist that it's the patriotic obligation of every American to stand and cheer -- and that those who don't are "casting their lot with the Terrorists" -- is creepy and repugnant. It's also a very dangerous game to play.
If George W. Bush had won the Nobel Peace Prize as Klein suggested he might deserve, would it have been the solemn obligation of every American -- including liberals -- to stand up and cheer, to hold a "national celebration," to congratulate and express support, happiness and patriotic pride? Or would it have been appropriate even for Americans to make arguments about why that Prize was wrongly awarded? If Bush had won, surely the Taliban and Hamas would have objected, just like they did yesterday with Obama. Would Bush critics have been guilty of "casting their lot with the terrorists" if they echoed those objections? Karl Rove and Fox News would have done so, but would Media Matters have condemned liberals who questioned Bush's Nobel Peace Prize as "unseemly and downright unpatriotic." Please.
Indeed. I guess all the liberals who criticized the decision are casting their lot with the terrorists as well? What putrid nonsense. Over the last nine months, many on the Right have accused Obama supporters of trying to stifle dissent. Most of the time, that charge has been off target, but in this case, it's true. Shame on the DNC.
It is never unpatriotic to question the President. Even in wartime. Even when he's a Democrat. Even Barack Obama.
President Obama has decided to snub the Dalai Lama, in order to not piss off the Chinese:
Samdhong Rinpoche, the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile, has accused the United States and other Western nations of "appeasement" toward China as its economic weight grows.
"Today, economic interests are much greater than other interests," he said.
Mr Obama's decision dismayed human rights and Tibetan support groups, who said he had made an unnecessary concession to the Chinese, who regard the Dalai Lama as a "splittist", despite his calls for autonomy rather than independence for Tibet. The Chinese invaded in 1950, forcing the young leader to flee.
Sophie Richardson, Asia advocate for Human Rights Watch, said: "Presidents always meets the Dalai Lama and what happens? Absolutely nothing.
"This idea that if you are nice to the Chinese Communist Party up front you can cash in later is just wrong. If you lower the bar on human rights they will just move it lower and lower."
Over several months of discussions the Tibetans resisted entreaties to delay the meeting, arguing that a refusal would make smaller countries more vulnerable to pressure from China not to meet the Dalai Lama.
This is disqueting to say the least. The idea that we are supposed to diss the human rights cause in Tibet, or anywhere, even if only for a few days to keep China happy is shameful. This is the sort of realist political move that rubs me the wrong way. Bad form, Mr. President. Bad form.
I am in total agreement that Rep. Alan Grayson crossed the line here, and made things worse with his follow-up (Holocaust references are almost always over-the-top, except when talking about the actual Holocaust). Here's the thing: How can Grayson's comments be out of line (which they were), and the GOP's comments here, here, and here (and that's just a start) not be?
What I'm asking is, how can the GOP House leadership cry foul with any credibility at all? That's all.
I'm with John Larson, in that Grayson really out to apologize, but I agree with this as well:
Asked if Grayson should be sanctioned if he doesn't apologize, Larson said, "If that's the case, we should have Ginny Brown-Waite, Tom Coburn and Louie Gohmert apologize for similar things that they said."
You know, I think Obama's remarks today about Iran were good, but I cannot get over the impulse that wishes he had been the one to say this.
Rod Dreher, on the state of conservatism today:
The conservative movement is herking and jerking like a zombie, dedicated to little more than frenetic gestures execrating Obama, and to regaining power. To what end? Given that they're birthing a conservative party whose instincts are dictated by loudmouths, reactionaries and crackpots, and overseen by cynics, it's dispiriting to contemplate.
Where can those who wish to think and debate clearly about a serious politics of the right go? The degenerate form of populism now dominant on the right loves to praise "freedom" – but it has no use for freedom of thought, or thinking much at all. In turn, increasing numbers of thoughtful conservatives have no use for it.
Read the rest.
This in keeping with the theme of promoting healthy discourse. I'm starting to become ashamed that TMV used to carry my stuff. Sigh.
In case you missed it, there is something of a panic over President Obama's decision to give a "back to school" message to the nation's school children. Some parents are planning to pull their children out of school, and certain school districts have taken issue. Now, my reaction to this whole affair is that it appears to be yet another outburst of mass hysteria, over what will most likely amount to nothing more than a harmless pep talk, with calls to "stay in school," "do your homework," and "serve your community." I've not heard the speech of course, and sure, it's possible that politics could be somehow injected into the speech, but how plausible is that? There has been some concern about the proposed cirriculum, but again, from what I'm seeing, the proposed lesson involved writng a letter in response to the speech, about how students can help the country (although apparently there may have been a wording issue, as the White House has walked back from some of this).
The most thoughtful critique of this I've heard so far is from Althouse, who ties it to a larger point about students being compelled (via compulsory education), to listen to the leader of the country. She argues that the students should be challenged to critically analyze the speech, and voices concerns about the level of deference Obama will receive.
If this were to be an actual policy speech, I'd share her concern, but I suspect, as I've said before, that this will be something more general--in fact, I think this will have less to do with what is said, than who's saying it. It's a message from the President! President Obama! A lot of this will involve Obama's still-relatively-high popularity, and the respect many have for him, and that bothers certain people.
The fact is, if this were any other President, this would be a non-story. I mean, it's not like this sort of thing hasn't happened before.
Oh, and one more thing, I think this is important to keep in mind:
It's worth noting that schools are, encouraged, not required, to air the speech. The Houston Chronicle reports that one Dallas school district is leaving the decision to individual teachers. Susan Dacus, spokeswoman for the Wylie school district, says parents who don't want their children to see it can opt out.
In an ironic twist, one Missouri school won't be airing the speech because of a lack of funding. Michelle Baumstark, spokeswoman for Columbia public schools, told the Columbia Daily Tribune, "We don’t have the funding or the equipment to support that type of broadcasting.”
ADDED: As Allahpundit, no fan of the President said:
One pap-filled 20-minute speech about working hard and serving others is so lethal a threat to tender minds that they have to be yanked off the premises for the day to shield them from it?
Sen. Ted Kennedy has died, at the age of 77, after his battle with brain cancer. I don't think I need to say how big a deal this is. It's the end of an era, and an icon has fallen. My prayers go out to his family. RIP.
ADDED: Now, I don't want to start anything, but you know that wise rule, about not speaking ill of the dead? Certain folks just refuse to play along. Appalling. Not surprising, but appalling.
This is an unmitigated disgrace. Shame on the Scottish "justice system" for letting this terrorist go. Shame. Obama needs to stay on top of this, and he needs to summon his public outrage.
Question: Since Americans were killed, don't we have power to intervene more directly here, to put a stop to this?
Added (Simon): Let us be very clear. Days before Christmas 1988, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi murdered 259 people whose only crime was to have boarded Pan-Am Flight 103. Two and a half minutes later, he mudered eleven people whose only crime was to have lived under the plane's flightpath, when its wreckage landed on their houses. Christmas trees, mince pies and sherry replaced in an instant with death and carnage. All told, 270 people lost their lives: Spouses. Siblings. Children. Friends.
Indicted for the crime in 1991, and finally brought to book more than a decade later, the court found not a shred in the record that left them any reasonable doubt as to al-Megrahi's guilt. He has never apologized, never expressed remorse, never even confessed culpability, despite his conviction surviving two appeals unscathed.
That this monster would have the gall to ask clemency would be apalling enough. That the request was granted is nothing short of an atrocity. I share Rafique's revulsion from the incomprehensibly cold-blooded, inhuman decision by the Scottish injustice minister to release this man (and to what even the Grauniad could not pretend was anything but a heroes welcome, at that) and from the soi-disant "compassionate" grounds that supposedly underpinned the decision. "Compassion"? The decision pulls the concept inside out, as Senator Kerry noted earlier. Where is the compassion for the families of the victims, who have reeled in shock and horror? When is the early release for the victims themselves?
What a mockery of justice for this man to be released to spend his last minutes in the comfort of his family - a liberty he stole from his victims and their families. MacAskill's statement conceded as much "al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days ... but that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days." Actually, it is, and we are left to wonder how a person who believes otherwise is morally competent to function as a "justice" minister. Such a release is all-but unimaginable in the United States, where the decision has ignited a firestorm of criticism from President Obama on down, and, reassuringly, it seems to shock the British conscience only slightly less, given the reactions of opposition leader David Cameron and Scottish Labor leader Iain Gray.
This decision will be a mark of cain on MacAskill for the rest of his political career - a career that should not be permitted to outlive the mass murderer he set free.
Added (Rafique): Made another small edit, as I felt the need to put justice system in quotes, as nothing resembling justice has come forth from the so-called justice minister.
Consider this story. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey writes a reasonable op-ed in the WSJ, criticizing Obamacare. I don't agree with all his points, but his argument is reasonable and thoughtful. Apparently, certain hysterical lefties have declared him a traitor, and have launched a boycott of Whole Foods. Hysterical.
This story gets more interesting, because Althouse wrote a blog post on this, and the not-so-moderate way the Moderate Voice handled this. Then, there was this, where the TMV took issue with being accused of endorsing a post on their own blog.
The way I see it, the boycott is totally irrational, as Mackey said nothing that deserves such an overreaction. Also, if you allow it on your blog, you're responsible for it--guest post or not. One needs to be mindful of those voices, even those you may not agree with, that may appear to affect your moderate reputation. Not to mention one's choice of language (the voice has to be moderate).
In other words, boycotting a store chain because the CEO wrote a dissenting op-ed isn't moderate. It's hysterical.
In short, Whole Foods is everything leftists talk about when they talk about “corporate responsibility.”
And yet lefties want to boycott the company because CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed that suggests alternatives to single payer health care? It wasn’t even a nasty or mean-spirited op-ed. Mackey didn’t spread misinformation about death panels, call anyone names, or use ad hominem attacks. He put forth actual ideas and policy proposals, many of them tested and proven during his own experience running a large company.
Is this really the state of debate on the left, now? “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”
As to that last point, for certain Lefties, I guess it is. Whole Foods seems to be the left-wing model of a good corporation, the anti-Wal-Mart, if you will. And then the CEO dissents from the party line, and the company is now evil, and must be destroyed?
This proves that irrational, ideological hysteria is a bipartisan disease.
Eugene Robinson, on how Obama may have laid a trap for himself in selling his plan:
But reform is being sold not just as a moral obligation but also as a way to control rising health-care costs. That should have been a separate discussion. It is not illogical for skeptics to suspect that if millions of people are going to be newly covered by health insurance, either costs are going to skyrocket or services are going to be curtailed.
The unvarnished truth is that services are ultimately going to have to be curtailed regardless of what happens with reform. We perform more expensive tests, questionable surgeries and high-tech diagnostic scans than we can afford. We spend unsustainable amounts of money on patients during the final year of life.
If the government says it has to control health-care costs and then offers to pay doctors to give advice about hospice care, citizens are not delusional to conclude that the goal is to reduce end-of-life spending. It's irresponsible for politicians, such as Sarah Palin, to claim -- outlandishly and falsely -- that there's going to be some kind of "death panel" to decide when to pull the plug on Aunt Sylvia. But it's understandable why people might associate the phrase "health-care reform" with limiting their choices during Aunt Sylvia's final days.
We should be having two debates. One should be about the obligation to ensure universal access to health care, which will directly benefit millions of struggling families and make this a better society. The other -- a more complicated, difficult and painful discussion -- should be about the long-term problem of out-of-control health-care costs, which would be a looming crisis even if President Obama had never uttered the word "reform."
Mickey Kaus has been arguing a variation of this point for a while, that Obama is making a mistake making this about cutting costs, rather than about full coverage. Long-term cost bending, is exactly that, long-term:
A debate on long-term cost control and end-of-life care--especially an emotional and acrimonious debate--is a highly useful debate to have. But it's not a useful debate to have right now. Right now it is killing Obama's universal care plans. ... And it wasn't a debate we had to have right now. It's a debate Obama has brought on himself by framing health care as an attempt to "bend the curve" of long term costs decades from now. He could have just said "Here's how I would guarantee health security for everyone. And here's how we're going to pay for it for the next ten years."
Yeah, his point makes sense to me. The idea is about coverage, right? A lot of thse cost-cutting measures seem so long-term, that it's hard for people to see the immediate benefit, and the confusion allows for irresponsible people to spread hysteria, with stuff like "death panels."
HT: The Daily Dish
You know what, I've come to a realization. I think it's clear that the town hall protests by the right are backed by lobbyists and party activists*. It's also true that many of these protests have gotten kinda ugly. Oh, and I also believe that a number of the attacks on the health care plan are boundless, hysterical, and also false.
That being said, the Democratic strategy of complaining about all this does nothing to actually get the bill passed. Right or wrong (and I guess I outed where I stand), the GOP strategy is working in some respects. Obama's numbers are going down. To be fair, there are many legitimate concerns about the health plan, and while I think certain people are stoking those fears to the point of hysteria, those fears need to be assuaged. Spending your energy complaining about bogus GOP arguments wastes energy that ought be spent countering those arguments.
Put simply, to complain about being punched in the nose looks like whining, and nobody wants to be the one who looks like they're trying to stop protests. The idea is to fight back, and win, by winning the argument.
*UPDATE: After being properly corrected by Dennis, and Theo, I felt the need to update this post a bit to admit my error, and painting those behind the protests as lobbyists. The fact is, while certain high profile people may be supporting these protests, it's not fair to paint the real people showing up as all being lobbyists. I screwed up on that score. Just wanted to add that.