I am not impressed. You may say I was set up not to be impressed simply because of my ideological preferences and the fact that Barack Obama is the antithesis of those preferences. But this has nothing to do with politics. No I don’t agree with most of what he stands for on the political scene, but that really has nothing to do with him acting like the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. And a photo op at Dover doesn’t fulfill the role. Nor does a substitute visit to Walter Reed when soldiers are hurting at Ft. Hood and 13 are dead.
Nor does an insensitive and tone deaf “shout out” prior to finally getting to the horrific news of Ft. Hood cut it either. The tragedy at Ft. Hood was a moment and a chance for a president, about whom the armed forces aren’t yet sure, to step up and assume one of the most important roles he has – that of commander in chief. And, frankly, he blew it. Even the liberal Boston Globe understood he’d blown it:
“It takes more than scripted eloquence for Presidents to connect with fellow Americans. It requires a visceral ability to grasp the scope of tragedy, calculate its impact on the national psyche, and react swiftly. Obama missed the first moment to show he understood how much it hurt.”
Even with that, he had a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of the military. There were a lot of hurting people at Ft. Hood who would have appreciated a visit from their CiC. Instead he left it to a former Commander in Chief to fulfill the role while he took “R&R” at Camp David for the weekend. As the Globe puts it, he seems to have completely missed the “scope of the tragedy” and its impact. More importantly he seems indifferent to his duties as CiC.
One of the best bloggers on the net when it comes to this sort of a subject is my friend Cassandra at Villainous Company. She has a must read essay in which she eloquently points out why Obama simply doesn’t “get” the military, and most likely never will. In my opinion, given what I’ve seen thus far, he appears to be totally unsuited to be the Commander in Chief.
Eloquence or style are no substitutes for leadership. An effective Commander in Chief leads. He doesn’t vote “present”. He doesn’t outsource his job. He doesn’t give it lip service. When those he’s leading are hurting, he’s there immediately. He acts like a leader, he empathizes like a leader and he makes decisions like a leader. And what he gains is one of the hardest things in the world to earn and keep – respect.
At the moment I have absolutely no respect for the Commander in Chief of this nation. And I suspect that feeling is shared by a very good portion of our military and military families. My title is a rhetorcial question. Unfortunately, given his performance so far, I’m pretty sure I know the answer.
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It is way to early to come to any conclusions about what happened today at Ft. Hood. What we do know is that 12 are dead – the shooter (MAJ Malik Nidal Hasan – a psychiatrist with the military there), a civilian policeman and 10 soldiers. 31 were wounded. Hasan was a convert to Islam and worked for 6 years at Walter Reed Hospital. It is reported that he received a bad Officer Efficiency Report and was transferred to Ft. Hood. Colleagues say he was a “loner” and against our presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He apparently was against being deployed but was scheduled to deploy at the end of the year. He was engaged with the chain of command trying to get the deployment canceled. He used two non-military handguns (9 mm) during his shooting spree.
There are reports of two other suspects in custody but what if any role they had is not known. At this point, they are being said to be held for questioning. (update: AP reports both have now been released, confirmed by Rep. John Carter who represents the district in which Ft. Hood lays. Rumor has it they had tired to stop the shootings.)
UPDATE: Shooter’s cousin says he has always been a muslim, not a convert. Claims Hasan underwent extreme harassment and wanted to get out of the military. His worst nightmare was being deployed. Says family is in total shock. Thinks impending deployment is what triggered this.
UPDATE II: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson says he was shooting people he knew.
UPDATE III: Rep. John Carter says Ft. Hood authorities have taken a 3rd person into custody. He also claims reports of automatic weapons fire at the scene of the shootings.
UPDATE IV: A bit of a shocker – Per Commanding General of Ft. Hood, shooter is alive and in custody.
More updates as they become available.
Here’s an interesting twist:
A U.N. human rights investigator warned the United States Tuesday that its use of unmanned warplanes to carry out targeted executions may violate international law.
Philip Alston said that unless the Obama administration explains the legal basis for targeting particular individuals and the measures it is taking to comply with international humanitarian law which prohibits arbitrary executions, “it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.”
Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s investigator on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, raised the issue of U.S. Predator drones in a report to the General Assembly’s human rights committee and at a news conference afterwards, saying he has become increasingly concerned at the dramatic increase in their use, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since June.
June. So the Obama administration has one of its favorite excuses – blame Bush – preempted.
And the administration’s response?
He said the U.S. response — that the Geneva-based council and the General Assembly have no role in relation to killings during an armed conflict — “is simply untenable.”
“That would remove the great majority of issues that come before these bodies right now,” Alston said. “The onus is really on the government of the United States to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary executions, extrajudicial executions are not, in fact, being carried out through the use of these weapons.”
You can’t help but appreciate the irony. They can, as would have the previous administration, stick with their claim that the UN’s Human Rights council has absolutely no jurisdiction or say in the issue (something I happen to agree with) and risk being branded “war criminals”, or they can capitulate to the “legal” argument and submit justification for using these weapons in combat against terrorists (thereby giving said council legitimacy and a say in how the weapons can and can’t be used).
Apparently the UN Human Rights council has yet to issue the same sort of warning to the Taliban who, when blowing up buildings in Pakistan and Afghanistan are, in fact committing “arbitrary executions” and “extrajudicial executions” with the use of their bombs.
But then, other than arbitrary in their application of anything (especially if it is a blow to the US) what would you expect from the UN?
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They’re shameless when it comes to building personal monuments to themselves or to boosting their re-election chances – they’ll even take funds designated for a military fighting two wars to do it:
Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops, including those fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an analysis.
Among the 778 such projects, known as earmarks, packed into the bill: $25 million for a new World War II museum at the University of New Orleans and $20 million to launch an educational institute named after the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.
Senator Tom Coburn expresses my sentiment in a much more moderated tone than I’m feeling right now:
Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, called the transfer of funds from Pentagon operations and maintenance “a disgrace.”
“The Senate is putting favorable headlines back home above our men and women fighting on the front lines,” he said in a statement.
Come on Senator – there’s an election approaching. Diverting money from training, fuel, maintenance and ammunition accounts to help their chances to retain power is much more important that the lives of our troops in combat.
Honoring a dead Kennedy certainly takes priority over teaching some young warrior how to avoid being killed in combat. Another museum in a key state is much more important than ensuring soldiers are able to maintain the equipment necessary to their survival. And, of course, they don’t need that much ammo – do they?
I’ll stop here, but my disgust for the political pigs engaged in this sort of looting knows no depth or bounds. They’d steal the coins off a dead man’s eyes if they thought it would help them politically. And that disgust extends to those who do the same thing without endangering our troops. It is just a matter of degree, not kind.
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Pakistan’s army is on the march against both the Taliban and al Qaeda in South Warziristan where there is a large concentration of both:
The Pakistani army pushed farther into a mountainous Taliban and al-Qaeda haven Sunday, as civilians continued to flow out of an area that has become a full-fledged battleground.
On the second day of a ground offensive in the restive border region of South Waziristan, the military said at least 60 militants and five soldiers had been killed. The Pakistani Taliban, which the government says has plotted a cascade of recent attacks on security forces from its base in the area, told the Associated Press that its fighters had inflicted “heavy casualties” against the army.
The fight in South Waziristan is a key test for Pakistan’s military, which is tasked with shattering a rising Islamist insurgency that has killed nearly 200 people in bombings and gunfights in the past two weeks. American officials, who have urged Pakistan to get tougher on militants operating on its soil, say the region is also a hub for militants who plan attacks on U.S.-led forces across the border in Afghanistan.
According to reports we’ve been asking for and encouraging the Pakistanis to take exactly this sort of action since the Obama administration has been in office.
Question: How long do you suppose the Pakistanis will commit to such operations and continue to push back against the Taliban and al Qaeda if we continue to dither about our commitment? Here we have a desired result in action. You’d think that would be extremely useful against the very target candidate Obama said we’d taken our eye off of with Iraq – namely Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Are we conducting a complimentary and supporting NATO operation right now? And if not, why not?
I’ll tell you why – the administration is instead worried about the results of a run-off election in Afghanistan and can’t manage to separate that from the supposed strategic goal that candidate Obama laid out as our purpose for being Afghanistan in the first place.
All things being equal, it would be wonderful to have a popularly elected government free of corruption and connected across the country with provincial and local governments. But what has that to do with that primary goal of defeating (i.e. eliminating) al Qaeda and those who support it who are now located between Kabul and Islamabad? Eliminate the threat, go home, and let the Afghan’s sort out who they want in charge and what sort of government they’d prefer.
In the meantime, we’re undermanned to do what we claim, or at least claimed, was our goal – kill al Qaeda and its supporters. We’ve finally seen Pakistan get off its collective posterior and do what we’ve been asking them to do for years and we’re unprepared to support the operation even though we’ve had 10 months in which to make a decision (IOW, why aren’ t we engaged in an operation that supports theirs?).
If Pakistan’s losses mount while we (and NATO) sit on our rear ends, how long do you imagine Pakistan will commit to proactive and costly offensive combat?
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It is all fine and good to have a discussion and even a debate about future strategy in Afghanistan. But probably not 6 months after you’ve announced your former strategy. For some reason, dithering has a tendency to be interpreted as a weakness, not a strength. In war, weaknesses are attacked and exploited. And that may be exactly what we’re beginning to see:
Several thousand foreign fighters have poured into Afghanistan to bolster the Taliban insurgency, the country’s defense minister said yesterday as he called for more international troops.
The remarks come as the United States debates whether to substantially increase its forces in Afghanistan or to conduct a more limited campaign focused on targeting al-Qaeda figures – most of whom are believed to be in neighboring Pakistan.
The minister’s comments hit on a key worry of the United States – that not sending enough troops to Afghanistan will open the door again to al-Qaeda. They also suggest that the Afghan government is nervous about the U.S. commitment amid talk of changing the strategy and a surge in violence in recent months.
This isn’t a Senate debate where you can take whatever time you need and if it’s not finished by the nearest recess, you put it off until you come back. Wars can’t be tabled. A war continues with or without a decision made by either side. And, in many cases in history, wars have been lost because decisions were delayed or not made in a timely manner.
The fact that foreign fighters are pouring in now has to be viewed in a particular context. You can’t snap your finger and produce “foreign fighters” in Afghanistan. They have to be recruited, transported, trained and then gotten to A’stan. So for the enemy to have these fighters showing up now would indicate, at least to me, that they have sensed some form of weakness in the American committment (and make no mistake – there is no NATO Afghanistan mission without the US) and they have been able to sell recruits on the idea that they’re about to turn everything around there and win. And note this: the Taliban won’t have any esoteric conversations about whether or not running us off is a “victory” or just “success”. They’ll trumpet to the world that they kicked our butt while they then barbarically subdue, punish and seek revenge on anyone who worked with us. They don’t care how it happens – force of arms or us just pulling out – it is still a victory. And everyone likes to be on the winning side:
“The enemy has changed. Their number has increased,” the defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, told lawmakers in a speech. He said that about 4,000 fighters, mostly from Chechnya, North Africa, and Pakistan, “have joined with them and they are involved in the fighting in Afghanistan.”
The longer the administration continues to dither, the easier it is for the radicals to sell their cause and claim the indecision by the administration indicates that, as they’ve always said, the US hasn’t the political will to finish much of anything that extends over a year or two. Bush would actually be seen as the exception.
Unless and until a decision is made and made rather quickly, recruiting should be good for the radicals.
And of course, good recruiting for them means more losses among our troops. Sure we usually have a high ratio of Taliban kills to every soldier we lose, but that’s not the point. The point is indecision emboldens the enemy and that ends up killing our soldiers.
There is absolutely no reason that a decision could not be reached within a week or two. One of President Obama’s primary jobs is that Commander in Chief. It’s time he started acting like one.
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President Obama claims to be dispensing with “straw men” arguments concerning A’stan:
President Obama told Congressional leaders on Tuesday that he would not substantially reduce American forces in Afghanistan or shift the mission to just hunting terrorists there, but he indicated that he remained undecided about the major troop buildup proposed by his commanding general.
Meeting with leaders from both parties at the White House, Mr. Obama seemed to be searching for some sort of middle ground, saying he wanted to “dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan,” as White House officials later described his remarks.
The problem is, that leaves some version of the status quo as a viable alternative, and, as every expert to include the Commanding General there has told us, the status quo isn’t working.
This is what I was talking about when I said he’s just as likely to dither for months making a decision and then make a decision in which he appears to be doing something while not even getting anywhere near to fully resourcing McChrystal’s request. Or said another way, he’ll send more troops, but only enough troops to keep A’stan from getting worse than it is now, but not enough to do the mission McChrystal has outlined.
That’s what he appears to be setting up here. Reading between the line, the implication is that he’s not going to give McChrystal all he wants and he’s building the case by attempting to introduce something less than what most see as the only two viable courses of action – fish or cut bait. All in or fold.
This is what I’ve been afraid of since his election. There’s little will, on his part or that of his party, to do what is necessary in Afghanistan. All the rhetoric about it being the “necessary war” was just that – rhetoric to beat his opponent and their party over the head with.
If that’s the case – then get our troops the hell out of there and deal with the long-term effects of doing that. The effects will be profound. But reinforcing failure, and that’s what I’m hearing here, is just not an option.
Calling the narrowing the choices to the two most viable options “straw man arguments” doesn’t make it so. Certainly Obama has the final say – but the only viable choices remain the only viable choices whether he likes that or not. Doing anything in between is a recipe for continuing failure and will be seen as trading blood for time – political time – because he doesn’t want to make the hard decisions required due to the political implications (I’ve been saying he’ll delay any profound decision, like pulling out, until his reelection is safely in the bag).
The one thing that’s different about the job of President is that when it comes to foreign affairs and the job of Commander in Chief, the people expect the President to put aside all political considerations except what is best for the US. His job is to act in the best interest of the country. We haven’t seen that yet in President Obama’s foreign policy and, unfortunately, I hold little hope as I watch the Afghanistan discussion unfold that politics will be divorced from the upcoming decision on our strategy there.
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This article by the UK’s Telegraph is typical of the poor journalism we’re subjected too anymore. The headline blares:
Barack Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan
The subhead claims that Obama and McChyristal’s relationship has been put under “severe strain” since a speech in the UK.
But when you get into the body of the article, here’s what you find (HT: Mudville Gazzette):
According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.
An adviser to the administration said: “People aren’t sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.”
The remarks have been seen by some in the Obama administration as a barbed reference to the slow pace of debate within the White House.
A military expert said: “They still have working relationship but all in all it’s not great for now.”
Some commentators regarded the general’s London comments as verging on insubordination.
Not once is Obama identified by name as being “furious” with McChrystal. As for the “insubordination” charge, I have no idea where they get the idea that dismissing a strategy as one he wouldn’t favor is insubordination. Especially since no one in his chain of command (no, the VP isn’t in the chain of command) has recommended it. However this is one of two placees in the article where a name is named:
Bruce Ackerman, an expert on constitutional law at Yale University, said in the Washington Post: “As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements.”
He added that it was highly unusual for a senior military officer to “pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy”.
What Ackerman contends isn’t true – generals often remark on strategy and what they think will and won’t work in their particular situation. That’s what they’re paid to do – assess strategies and pick the right one. The fact that he finds a particular strategy wanting doesn’t mean he’s attempting to apply pressure in public. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and in this case, as I understand it, he didn’t bring the subject up, he was answering a question.
But to the larger point – not one of these people seems to say anything that supports the headline or the contention in the sub-head. The Telegraph even goes to the extent of trying to make the 25 minute meeting with the president into something that was “awkward”, without anything to support that contention:
The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago’s unsuccessful Olympic bid.
Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.
Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, he told CBS: “I wasn’t there so I can’t answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views.”
I’m sure they did. As stated though, Jones wasn’t there so while it is technically true he didn’t “allay the impression” of an awkward meeting, he didn’t confirm it either. He said he didn’t know. He said he couldn’t “answer that question”.
This is a perfect example of a “journalistic” attempt to spread dissension, or at least claim it exits, where it isn’t clear it exists at all. Afghanistan is tough enough nut without manufactured rifts and dissent being thrown into the mix.
Of course the left has jumped all over this supposed bit of “insubordination” and the “rift” as a reason to get rid of McChrystal – something which would be useful to those who would prefer we not do what is necessary to be successful in the ‘necessary war’.
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Apparently, someone named John L. Perry posted a blog post at NewsMax about a military coup that was quickly taken down. Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee has the whole article and a disclaimer from Newsmax as well. It has, of course, set the left on fire. What Perry wrote deserves to be seen for no other reason than its absurdity. And while the left thumps the right over this “whack job”, keep in mind Perry’s biography says he worked for both LBJ and Carter Administrations and LeRoy Collins, a former Democratic Governor of Florida.
Here are the salient parts of Perry’s blog post:
There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.
America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it.
Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?
Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.
Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.
Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”
In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.
A non-violent solution to the “Obama problem”? It is called an election you idiot. You cut the rug out from under him by taking the majority in Congress away from the Democrats in 2010 and then you do a voter’s “coup” in 2012 and elect someone else to the presidency.
How does one think that a military coup would put us in a better place Constitutionally? He’s certainly done his best to dress up those who would be involved in such a coup as the second coming of the founding fathers, but it is much more likely that wouldn’t be the case if an actual military coup took place.
Look, I’m no happier with Obama than Perry, but a military coup as a solution? Heaven forbid.
The military coup nonsense is just a delusional fantasy. In fact I’d rate the chance of a military coup here on the same level as an inexhaustible and non-polluting energy source being found within the next 30 seconds. How this boob figures that it is “gaining possibility” is beyond me. Unless he’s polled the upper leadership of the military recently in such a way that allows him to discern this “gain”, he’s blowing this out his posterior. Certainly there may be many in the military who are not happy with Barack Obama. But that was also true when it came to George Bush. And Bill Clinton. But, the military is not about to engage in some vast conspiratorial effort to “restore and defend the Constitution” any time soon. They have a pretty full plate right now with 2 wars and all the other missions they carry on throughout the world.
There may indeed be a true Constitutional crisis at some point in our future where such a thing is actually contemplated, but this isn’t it.
I’m sure someone, in defense of Perry, is going to claim that this was all a farce and just something thrown out there in good fun to solicit a reaction. If so, then you have to wonder why it “disappeared” from Newsmax’s website faster than a bottle of beer in a frat house. It was a stupid post, with no basis in fact and injurious to Newsmax’s credibility. They apparently figured that out quickly and issued a statement in which support for the post is not at all evident (something TNR never did during the Beauchamp debacle – there by further tarnishing their reputation). Good for them.
Owens does wonder something I too thought about:
The simple fact of the matter is that author seems to have come unhinged, and for reasons perhaps structural to the site’s editorial process, the column made it to print without a sanity check by the editors.
Any bet that will change?
And you also have to wonder what a guy who lists work with three democratic administrations is doing writing blog posts for Newsmax. That and why he’s now so disillusioned with a Democratic president?
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It is decision time for our involvement in that country – i.e. whether we continue or whether we pull the bulk of our troops out.
As I said in another post, fish or cut bait. Or, in Texas Hold ‘em parlance, go all in or fold.
Some look at those two very stark options and point out that there are many other options in between. True. But, given how this war has gone, I think those are the only two viable ones. What we’re doing now, which falls squarely between them, isn’t working. And variations on that aren’t going to work any better.
It seems to me we have to either make a concerted and focused effort to again nation build (and all that entails with time, blood and treasure), or we have to decide to leave that up to the Afghan people and concentrate on al Qaeda hunting on a much smaller scale. That, of course, would be the “fold” option.
President Obama is rethinking the Afghanistan strategy he announced a mere 6 months ago in the wake of the recent Afghan election. The allegations of reported fraud have made the administration much less inclined to support the current Afghan government without dramatic changes. I have no problem with that reassessment if it is done with an eye on settling, soon, on one of the two options above. If you read what the Taliban are saying, the Karzai government is one of their best recruiting assets. The corruption and cronyism have isolated that government from the people. Of course, in counter-insurgency doctrine (COIN), the link between the people and their government is critical to success, and that link is only viable if the people support said government. That is increasingly not the case in Afghanistan.
That presents the type of problem that does indeed require reassessment of strategy. We can flood Afghanistan with troops, have them at a one-to-one ratio with the population and provide the security COIN requires. But if that population has no confidence in the viability of its own government, doesn’t support it and doesn’t consider those trying to topple it “the enemy”, the entire effort is doomed.
So essentially the choice facing the administration now is to nation build or withdraw. Withdrawal doesn’t necessarily mean we quit the fight against al Qaeda. But for the most part, it would mean quitting the fight against the Taliban. And I think we all know how that would end.
It is quite a moral dilemma and it is also not an easy decision. While going “all in” would be the politically unpopular decision here, it would most likely spare the world the spectacle of a Taliban takeover and the resulting barbaric vengeance they would inflict on the population. There is only one nation which will bear the blame in the eyes of the rest of the world even if most of the administration’s political base would support the decision. The US would again be charged with not finishing something it started. And that, as we’ve learned in the past, is something that other rogue leaders see as a weakness they can exploit. As usual it will be seen not as a weakness of our military, but, if they wait long enough, the eventual weakening of our political will.
Whatever decision the administration makes, it must avoid the status quo. That’s not working now and it won’t work in the future. Just as Iraq required a dramatic change in strategy to succeed, so does Afghanistan. If the decision is to continue with the current troop levels and a few cosmetic changes here and there, then the administration will be committing us to a strategy of failure. We owe it to our brave men and women there not to play political games with their lives. Whatever decision is made it must be made very soon, within the next month or so, and must be devoid of politics. Delays in making such a decision are not acceptable.
It is time for this administration to step up, make a decision and let the political chips fall where they may. Don’t put it on the back burner. The time is now to decide whether we’re going all in or we’re going to fold in Afghanistan. At a minimum, we owe our military that.
UPDATE: Well this is encouraging. The CINC hasn’t talked to his commander in Afghanistan in 70 days because, I guess, he’s been so busy. But, as it turns out, he has the time to fly off to Copenhagen and shill for the Chicago Olympics. And they still wonder why Democrats have such a great reputation when it comes to matters of national security.
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