Free Markets, Free People

Politics

Is This What “Public Funding Of The Arts” Means? (UPDATE)

For years the right has said that government has no business subsidizing art and for that same amount of time the left has claimed that government support is necessary to keep the arts alive. Of course some are of us are of the opinion that if “art” is sufficiently good, the private sector will gladly support it.

But what I assume both sides would agree on is that government support of the arts shouldn’t be abused and turned into government propaganda. Yet:

“…I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to take part in a conference call that invited a group of rising artist and art community luminaries “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda – health care, energy and environment, safety and security, education, community renewal.”

The quote comes from Patrick Courrielche at Big Hollywood and his post there documents his experience on the call.

Backed by the full weight of President Barack Obama’s call to service and the institutional weight of the NEA, the conference call was billed as an opportunity for those in the art community to inspire service in four key categories, and at the top of the list were “health care” and “energy and environment.” The service was to be attached to the President’s United We Serve campaign, a nationwide federal initiative to make service a way of life for all Americans.

Given the tone of the invitation, and the apparent concerns it raised, Courrielche called in. His concerns were validated:

The people running the conference call and rallying the group to get active on these issues were Yosi Sergant, the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve; Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote; and Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons.

We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.

Obama has a strong arts agenda, we were told, and has been very supportive of both using and supporting the arts in creative ways to talk about the issues facing the country. We were “selected for a reason,” they told us. We had played a key role in the election and now Obama was putting out the call of service to help create change. We knew “how to make a stink,” and were encouraged to do so.

Hard to argue, given this report, that the NEA isn’t now involved in a political role. Courrielche wasn’t the only one who was concerned by what he heard. Lee Rosenbaum was “creeped out” by the call she participated in as well. She validates Courrielche’s report and conclusions. Courrielche writes a followup post here.

The point, of course, is it isn’t beyond any politician, administration or government to use and abuse any program for its benefit. When you have a community organizer in the Oval Office, it appears they get abused is record time – nd it is clear, at least to me, that in this case the plan is to use the NEA for propaganda and political gain. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfect reason to give the NEA the political death penalty and, finally and forever, defund it.

UPDATE – This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on this subject either. MichaelW covered it back on August 27th when the first conference call was held. Since then there’s been a second (that’s the call Lee Rosenbaum talks about) in which the NEA and White House try a few tricks to give them “plausible deniability” against charges of collusion in a program to get NEA artists to create propaganda for the administration.

~McQ

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Revisiting Political History

A little reminder for those on the left who sniff at those uncomfortable about a politician addressing school children. It’s also handy for those who like to like to recall George H.W. Bush’s address to school kids and pretend like the left wasn’t bothered by that:

But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.

Of course that won’t happen in this case. Nor will this:

The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it “cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers’ money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. — while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters.”

And you certainly won’t hear Democratic politicans saying anything like this either:

“The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.'”

But you know, this is all a new bit of right-wing paranoia, isn’t it?

~McQ

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Bob Herbert – Now and Then

One of the more entertaining things to do is watch partisan political columnists adjust their outlook and opinion based on who is in power at the moment. The convolutions, contortions and outright memory lapses are something to behold. Bob Herbert is no exception to the rule as he demonstrates today. Apparently he’s upset with the right-wing crazies out there and is sure their dyspeptic mood and demonstrations signal the demise of our once great nation:

Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.

The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis.

Of course that wasn’t the case in good old says of 2007 when the anti-war protests were in full bloom and Herbert was sure that they signaled a new and wonderful resurgence of public activism that he felt, at least at the time, was so refreshing and so badly needed:

You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.

You can be sure that’s not the case with the present crew who Herbert gladly stereotypes. They obviously can’t at all love this country – especially if they’re carrying signs calling the president a Nazi. Of course for Herbert to have missed the abundance of signs calling the then president a Nazi on the “beautiful, sunlit day” in January of 2007, then his blinders were surely well in place.

The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.

Yet apparently the goal of the “birthers, deathers and wackos” Herbert denigrates in his latest couldn’t at all be that they too believe they have a right to petition Congress or that “their government would listen to them and respond”. Nope, they’re completely different than the smiling, expletive shouting anti-war crowd which made signs calling the president a Nazi a cottage industry. Obviously, unlike the anti-war/anti-Bush crowds of 2007, the “birthers, deathers and wackos” hate their country- right Mr. Herbert?

~McQ

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Is The Race Card Becoming Less Effective?

There’s a good bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on with the left since Van Jones resigned under pressure. They’re turning to some very interesting introspective analysis which isn’t at all complementary to the Obama administration.

But there’s one absolutely expected line of counter-attack that you could literally bet your house on emerging as expected. I give you the tried but not so true anymore “race card”:

“It struck me, why go after this guy? He is a minor player, he has no power, no budget, why take him? It’s because he looks like Obama and he has all those same attributes of being well-educated and he’s an electrifying speaker with an elite education,” said John Anner, a good friend of Jones and former chair of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an organization Jones founded in Oakland. “It seems to me that he is symbolic of what the Obama administration is and could be and that’s inspiring for me, but for some people on the right, it’s terrifying and threatening.”

It couldn’t be because he’s unaccountable and, to many, unacceptable based on his prior words and deeds, could it? Must it be because he “looks like Obama?” The fact he is “well educated and an electrifying speaker with an elite education” doesn’t mean he isn’t a radical who people don’t want associated with their government.

In fact he’s a self-described communist. Few Americans are going to be comfortable with a communist sympathizer having access to the White House policy making apparatus that may one day have a direct effect on their country. Especially one unaccountable to the people. Is that discrimination – you bet. But not because he “looks like Obama”. Because his ideas and ideology are diametrically opposed to those America was founded upon.

My guess is, if anymore are found with similar backgrounds in the Obama administration, the same sort of pressure will be brought to bear to dump them as well – and race won’t at all be a factor.

Of course Anner isn’t the only one pursuing that ridiculous argument. Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, also tossed it out:

So was the decision by the White House to treat the initial attacks not as part of an assault on the president but, instead, to allow them to be viewed as being about Van Jones. What we underestimated was the power of the fact that both Jones and the Barack Obama are black. Yes, the hysteria was about politics — I don’t think Fox News really cares about Jones’s ethnicity — but it was enabled by race. Calling Bush a “crack-head” is seen by a large part of America as worse than calling him “addict-in-chief” because crack is not just a drug — it is a drug used largely by black people. It reminds those Americans who are still uncomfortable with Barack Obama that we have a black president.

Don’t you just love it when those who claim not to know what makes the right tick, then zero in on precisely what they’re sure made the right react is it did in this particular case?

In fact, this is simply an attempt at rationalization. Apparently, in Pope’s world, using derogatory descriptions of a president he disagrees with is fine. But when there are consequences for doing so, it’s obviously because those objecting are racist. The remarks are ignored for the race of the speaker. In fact, the side he seems so determined to make racist is objecting because the term used was derogatory regardless of the race of the speaker or the race of the target.

Pope needs to learn the meaning of the term “racialist” and how making everything about race causes it to lose the power it once had. When every set back and failing is because of race, soon the accusation looses all meaning. As each group accused of racism does a self-assessment and finds the accusation to be frivolous, the power the accusation might have the next time it is used is forever diminished.

Reasonable people understand it is entirely possible to disagree completely with a president and his agenda without once caring what race the president might be. But you have to be a grownup to admit that. Screaming racism is so much easier. And you don’t have to examine your own failings when you play the race card.

Ironically, the opposition should welcome its use, because each and every time the race card is played in situations in which it is obviously not a factor, it loses more and more of its effectiveness and what little power it has left.

~McQ

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The Importance Of Wednesday’s Speech

Charlie Cook, one of the more respected political analysts, has a piece in the National Journal that patiently explains what the left and Democrats still don’t seem to understand – they won, but they didn’t win what they think they won.

In fact, they won much less than that. “Change”, as defined by many independents who put Barack Obama and the Democrats in office, had little to do with expanding government. And within a span of a few months, the entire political dynamic changed, but apparently the left missed it:

Independent voters — fired up by the war in Iraq and Republican scandals — gave Democrats control of both chambers of Congress in 2006. Two years later, independents upset with President Bush and eager to give his party another kick expanded the Democratic majorities on the Hill. Late in the campaign, the economic downturn, together with an influx of young people and minorities enthusiastic about Obama, created a wave that left the GOP in ruins.

That was then; this is now. For the seven weeks from mid-April through the first week of June, Obama’s weekly Gallup Poll approval rating among independents ran in the 60-to-70 percent range. But in four of the past five weeks, it has been only in the mid-to-high 40s. Meanwhile, Democrats and liberals seem lethargic even though Republicans and conservatives are spitting nails and can’t wait to vote.

Why? Cook explains the basics of what has happened:

While political analysts were fixated on last fall’s campaign and on Obama’s victory, inauguration, and first 100 days in office, two other dynamics were developing. First, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression scared many voters, making them worry about their future and that of their children and grandchildren. And the federal government’s failure to prevent that calamity fundamentally undermined the public’s already low confidence in government’s ability to solve problems. Washington’s unprecedented levels of intervention — at the end of Bush’s presidency and the start of Obama’s — into the private sector further unnerved the skittish public. People didn’t mind that the head of General Motors got fired. What frightened folks was that it was the federal government doing the firing.

Many conservatives predictably fear — and some downright oppose — any expansion of government. But late last year many moderates and independents who were already frightened about the economy began to fret that Washington was taking irreversible actions that would drive mountainous deficits higher. They worried that government was taking on far more than it could competently handle and far more than the country could afford. Against this backdrop, Obama’s agenda fanned fears that government was expanding too far, too fast. Before long, his strategy of letting Congress take the lead in formulating legislative proposals and thus prodding lawmakers to take ownership in their outcome caused his poll numbers on “strength” and “leadership” to plummet.

These fears haven’t been allayed one bit. In fact, they’ve been ignored completely as Democrats continue their approach to the issue of health care. Americans are telling them, in every poll and every townhall meeting, to back off the direction they seem to be insisting on taking. One of the implications in Cook’s assessment of why Republicans were kicked out in 2006 and again in 2008 was a growing frustration with the deafness of the Repubicans. They weren’t listening. They moved ahead with their agenda and never seemed to consider what their constituents were saying.

The Democrats are in exactly the same sort of loop. They’ve finally got the power, they’ve either misinterpreted their mandate or are simply ignoring the people for the chance to pass what they’ve long wanted to pass and are very close to paying a huge political price for doing so. Cook addresses that point:

With 14 months to go before the 2010 midterm election, something could happen to improve the outlook for Democrats. However, wave elections, more often than not, start just like this: The president’s ratings plummet; his party loses its advantage on the generic congressional ballot test; the intensity of opposition-party voters skyrockets; his own party’s voters become complacent or even depressed; and independent voters move lopsidedly away. These were the early-warning signs of past wave elections. Seeing them now should terrify Democrats.

If you take an objective look at the situation under which the Republicans lost their power, Cook’s formula was precisely how it played out. If you take an equally objective look at how this situation is forming up, you can indeed see what Cook is talking about repeating itself for Democrats.

And that brings us to the Obama health care speech on Wednesday – many are calling it a “make or break” speech. I’m of the opinion that it is more likely to be too little too late. Popular support for any bill is trending down. Popular support for the Democrat’s version(s) has been trending down. Obama’s approval ratings concerning health care have been falling.

Unless Obama has some startling new ideas, never before discussed which will be introduced and promise to be pleasing to both sides, he’s stuck with attempting to repackage and spin the same old tired arguments which have, to this point, been pretty well rejected.

Wednesday’s speech could indeed still be a “make or break” speech, but not for health care. Instead it may make or break Democratic support (depending on the President’s stance on the public option) and sound the death knell for Democratic Congressional control and, possibly, the presidency. It is indeed an important speech – but not for the reasons Democrats think.

~McQ

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Townhall Protesters Winning Public Relations Battle

Despite being called “brownshirts”, “un-American” and a “mob” of “astroturfers”, a Rasmussen poll indicates the public believes the townhall protesters to be a genuine reflection of the concerns of their neighbors:

Forty-nine percent (49%) have a favorable opinion of those opposing the health care reforms at town hall meetings. That’s up eight points from 41% a month ago. Thirty-five percent (35%) have an unfavorable view of the town hall protesters, unchanged from last month.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) now say the town hall protesters are citizens reflecting the concerns of their neighbors. That’s up ten points over the past month.

Thirty percent (30%) believe the protests are phony efforts drummed up by special interest groups and lobbyists.

Those are phenomenal numbers – within a month, the favorables for the protesters move up 8% despite an organized effort to demonize them while those who see the protesters unfavorably remains both flat and in the minority.

Another encouraging sign is the fact that most of those polled think that Congress members ought to shut up and listen:

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters nationwide say that it’s more important for Congressmen to hear the view of their constituents rather than explain the proposed health care legislation. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% hold the opposite view while 7% are not sure.

The desire for Congress to listen may stem from the fact that voters believe they understand the legislation better than Congress.

Apparently Americans are in the mood to remind Congress members it is they who are the hired help and it is time they remembered it.

People ask, “what is the utility of a poll like that”? It is a temperature check, a mood indicator, a warning, if you will, that whatever is being contemplated by legislators and the president had best be checked against this trend. It isn’t a favorable trend for what they want to do and the utility comes in realizing that an tailoring something which won’t see them ushered unceremoniously out of office in a year or so.

Like, for instance, ramming something through that their constituents don’t like, but the party base does. The point to be taken here is if the protesters are the tip of the iceberg and most feel they truly represent the feelings of their neighbors, what do you suppose might happen in November of 2010 if legislators disregard the very strong signals being sent?

The president’s speech next Wednesday should be very interesting given these polling indicators. Will he continue to plow ahead trying to force a square peg in a round hole (and pay the political consequences) or will he bow to political reality and radically modify and shrink his goals for health care insurance reform?

~McQ

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Big Brother Has Such A Nice Smile!

Is anyone else even slightly creeped out by this upcoming presidential address to our kids and grandkids?

Maybe its just me but there’s something just not quite right about it all. Oh, I suspect he’ll be very careful about what he has to say and probably keep it pretty general in tone and nature. But there’s just something about a politician addressing young children without an alternate or dissenting voice that smacks of, oh I don’t know, some novel I read years and years ago.

Its "for the childern"

It's "for the children"

In fact, I’m pretty sure they made a movie of that book.

You know, it’s one thing for a teacher to use a politician’s words or deeds in class as an example of some point they’re trying to make in a lesson. But it is quite another to have a captive audience with no choice as to whether they listen or watch sitting in front of TVs because a politician decided that would be a good idea.

Maybe it’s my cynical nature that’s coming to the fore. Who knows, this may be nothing but a “hey youngsters, good luck in school and try to do your best” speech. But then I wonder why, if that’s so, he assumes the right to make such a speech best left to moms and dads. Of course he did tell us this week to make sure we wash our hands, sneeze in our sleeve and stay home if we’re sick. So addressing real children after treating us all like children isn’t a real stretch.

The real reason there’s a growing creep factor to all of this is that not only does he presume to have the right to address our kids, his speech has a lesson plan. It’s one thing to have a politician give a speech and everyone go, “ok, that’s nice” and get back to work. But it is entirely creepy when that politician has a lesson plan sent out to accompany the speech. For the pre-K to 6th grade group the plan suggests pre-speech questions like: “Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?”

Now that doesn’t tend to border on indoctrination or anything does it? “Obey you young skulls full of mush. Elected officials are good. Listen to them. Question authority? Not till you get to the 7th grade.”

7th – 12th graders get a little more sophisticated lesson plan than do the little guys. And guess who it is all about?

Short readings. Notable quotes excerpted (and posted in large print on board) from President Obama’s speeches about education. Teacher might ask students to think alone, compare ideas with a partner, and share their collaborations with the class (Think/Pair/Share) about the following: What are our interpretations of these excerpts? Based on these excerpts, what can we infer the President believes is important to be successful educationally?

Yeah, you see, this seems to be more than “hey youngsters, good luck in school and try to do your best”, doesn’t it?

After the speech, the 7-12 crew will have a “guided discussion” in which questions like, “What is President Obama inspiring you to do? What is he challenging you to do?”, will be pondered.

And the poor little tykes in preK to 6 (preK?)? Well they get the full cult of personality treatment:

Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:

What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What would you like to tell the President?

Boy, you know what I’d like to tell the President if I was in one of those classes?

Leave our freakin’ kids alone. And don’t ever assume you have either the right or privilege of addressing them about anything ever again without our permission.

But, you know, that’d probably be some sort of overreaction or something. After all, I’m sure his intentions are sweet and pure and good and he only want’s to be our national daddy. And anyway, I don’t even have a lesson plan.

~McQ

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Afghanistan: Political Will Or Political Cynicism?

For all the rhetoric about Afghanistan being “the ‘good’ war” and where we should be concentrating the fight that we heard during the campaign, it really comes as no surprise to me that politicians, the chattering class, and the liberal left is now pitching abandonment of the effort there just when we are seriously considering that which is necessary to turn the fight around.

The problem?

As usual it has to do with political will.

The new commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has done his assessment of the situation and has rendered his report.

“The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort.”

Read that carefully – two words in particular are aimed primarily at one particular sphere of influence – the political. What McChrystal is saying to the political community is, “I think we can be successful if we follow the revised strategy I’ve set forward, but without the “commitment and resolve” from the political community to see this through, it will all be for naught.”

Anthony Cordesman, who was involved in McChrystal’s assessment, delivers what I would characterize as a pretty succinct and honest appraisal of why we’re in the situation we’re in now:

The most critical reason has been resources. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money or leadership necessary to win, effectively wasting more than half a decade.

Our country left a power vacuum in most of Afghanistan that the Taliban and other jihadist insurgents could exploit and occupy, and Washington did not respond when the U.S. Embassy team in Kabul requested more resources.

The Bush administration gave priority to sending forces to Iraq, it blustered about the successes of civilian aid efforts in Afghanistan that were grossly undermanned and underresourced, and it did not react to the growing corruption of Hamid Karzai’s government or the major problems created by national caveats and restrictions on the use of allied forces and aid.

It treated Pakistan as an ally when it was clear to U.S. experts on the scene that the Pakistani military and intelligence service did (and do) tolerate al-Qaeda and Afghan sanctuaries and still try to manipulate Afghan Pashtuns to Pakistan’s advantage.

Further, it never developed an integrated civil-military plan or operational effort even within the U.S. team in Afghanistan; left far too much of the aid effort focused on failed development programs; and denied the reality of insurgent successes in ways that gave insurgents the initiative well into 2009.

Like it or not, Afghanistan has been the second priority when it came to resources. Turning it around is going to take both time and more resources – something, if you read the pundits and politicians today, many are not willing to do.

Cordesman says that “most experts” agree that US troop levels in Afghanistan need to be increased by “three to eight more brigade combat teams”. But he also stresses that those BCTs would primarily be engaged in training Afghan troops and making them “full partners rather than tools”. The need for that training is past critical and was highlighted as a problem when 4,000 plus Marines pushed into Helmand province and only 600 Afghan troops (around a battalion) were able to participate.

However Cordesman’s last point about civil-military plans is just as critical and just as on-point. These programs are critical and lacking. A big plus up in that area is required to turn the situation around.

Militarily, what we must do is “take, hold and keep the Afghan population secure”. Classic COIN.

Just as important but glaringly lacking at the moment is the other and equally important side of the process:

[S]ecure local governance and economic activity to give Afghans reason to trust their government and allied forces. They must build the provincial, district and local government capabilities that the Kabul government cannot and will not build for them. No outcome of the recent presidential election can make up for the critical flaws in a grossly overcentralized government that is corrupt, is often a tool of power brokers and narco-traffickers, and lacks basic capacity in virtually every ministry.

Hamid Karzai is nothing more than the mayor of Kabul in reality. One of the critical tasks we faced and overcame in Iraq was teaching Iraqis at every level how to build those necessary government capabilities and then link them all together in a single functioning entity. While certainly not perfect, it provided a decent basis for governance that they’ve been able to assess and refine as they’ve gained experience.

That task has yet to be done in Afghanistan.

And it may never be done either.

Why?

Because the “good war” that the left claimed was legitimate and necessary to fight is suddenly neither.

We’re now treated to daily editorials and op/eds wondering if Afghanistan is Obama’s Vietnam or whether we find ourselves in yet another “quagmire”.

And it is reported that even conservative commenter George Will is preparing to come out against our continued presence there, rationalizing such a pull-out with a foolish solution (his column is now available):

“[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.”

Of course such a strategy will secure neither Afghanistan or Pakistan and certainly do nothing at all toward eliminating the al Qaeda threat. Instead it would give the organization a much freer hand in both countries.

Politicians have also begun to weigh in with rationalizations for pulling out of Afghanistan that can only be characterized as ignorant. Take Sen. Russ Feingold who claims he was for the war before he decided now to be against it. And, per Feingold, if we only listen to him, we can have our cake and eat it too:

We need to start discussing a flexible timetable to bring our brave troops out of Afghanistan. Proposing a timetable doesn’t mean giving up our ability to go after al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Far from it: We should continue a more focused military mission that includes targeted strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, and we should step up our long-term civilian efforts to deal with the corruption in the Afghan government that has helped the Taliban to thrive. But we must recognize that our troop presence contributes to resentment in some quarters and hinders our ability to achieve our broader national security goals.

Of course Feingold’s solution expects the Taliban and al Qaeda to remain quiescent and cooperate with his plan by leaving the population, the government and our “long-term civilian efforts” alone after we pull our troops out and Afghanistan unable to defend itself.

There are other political moves afoot as well as Cordesman points out. Speaking of the realities of the Afghanistan situation and the required support necessary to change it successfully, he says:

Unfortunately, strong elements in the White House, State Department and other agencies seem determined to ignore these realities. They are pressuring the president to direct Eikenberry and McChrystal to come to Washington to present a broad set of strategic concepts rather than specific requests for troops, more civilians, money and an integrated civil-military plan for action. They are pushing to prevent a fully integrated civil-military effort, and to avoid giving Eikenberry and McChrystal all the authority they need to try to force more unity of effort from allied forces and the U.N.-led aid effort.

And his conclusion, based on that is as true as it is unacceptable:

If these elements succeed, President Obama will be as much a failed wartime president as George W. Bush. He may succeed in lowering the political, military and financial profile of the war for up to a year, but in the process he will squander our last hope of winning. This would only trade one set of political problems for a far worse set in the future and leave us with an enduring regional mess and sanctuary for extremism. We have a reasonable chance of victory if we properly outfit and empower our new team in Afghanistan; we face certain defeat if we do not.

It will be interesting to see how the Obama team reacts to the McChrystal report. If, as Cordesman suggests, he attempts to put off a decision by caving into the pressure to have Generals Eikenberry and McChrystal provide a series of dog-and-pony shows outlining “a broad set of strategic concepts”, then I’d conclude that the political will to carry the mission to a successful conclusion is likely not there.

What we’ll instead see is a series of these sorts of delays used to push a decision on commitment further and further out until it is politically safe for the administration to pull the plug. That, of course, would be 2012 with a second term safely secured. If my cynical prediction is correct, you’ll see the effort in Afghanistan given enough support to keep it from collapsing but really not furthering the effort toward success.

If that is indeed how it plays out, then politicians will be trading the lives of our soldiers for time to successfully secure their political future. That is both immoral and totally unacceptable.

Afghanistan is a salvageable. But it will take a long time, a full commitment to the mission, patience and above all, political will.

If the political will is not there, the administration owes it to our troops to do its “cutting and running” now, and let the political chips fall where they may.

If, instead, they string this thing out until it is politically acceptable to do that, they deserve to be banished to the lowest level of hell, there to toil in agonized perpetuity for putting politics above the lives of our soldiers.

~McQ

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Dodd: Obama Must “Step Up”

Politico carries a story today quoting Sen. Chris Dodd saying President Obama needs to “step up” and give Congress “more of a framework to work with on health care reform”.

Or translated into common language that everyone can understand, Dodd is saying it is time for Obama to “step up” and lead.

There’s a problem, however – Obama has never led anything. He’s not a leader although he’s in the ultimate leadership job. His background, as many pointed out ad nauseum during the campaign, isn’t one of leadership. And when he was questioned about that fact, his claimed his successful campaign for the presidency proved his leadership abilities. If that’s not an acknowledgment of a paper thin leadership resume, I don’t know what is.

It has become even more obvious in this health care debate that he lacks the attributes of a leader. His first reaction to opposition was defensive. He and many in Congress attacked those who opposed him (and that continues today).

He then went into campaign mode, not understanding that doing so doesn’t constitute leadership on an issue. Unlike a leader, he’d literally outsourced his signature agenda item to Congress. Then, without apparently realizing it, his statements during his staged townhalls were diametrically opposed to what was actually in the House bill. It ended up hurting his credibility further.

Other examples of his lack of leadership experience and skills have been evident as well. He’s been dismissive of those who oppose him, preferring to wave away or ignore their criticism. He’s rarely involved himself in the nuts and bolts of legislation thereby leaving it to the liberal leaders of Congress to fashion the legislation in their own image, not his. Consequently he’s not seen as a strong leader even by his own party – thus the comment by Dodd.

I’ve heard people say that some people are born leaders. If that is true, Barack Obama isn’t one of them. Charismatic, intelligent and charming?

Yes.

A leader?

No.

My years in the military have convinced me that the vast majority of good leaders are made, not born. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I never served with one. However I have watched the development of good solid leaders throughout my career. In fact I was a part of the process, as it is the job of all leaders to train and mentor the next generation of leaders.

From the raw material of recruits and junior officers to Command Sergeants Major and Generals, these leaders were trained, tested, mentored and tested again. To gain the top rank they eventually earn they met the tests and gain the leadership experience necessary at every level to move on up the ladder one rung at a time.

Barack Obama has never been developed as a leader nor has he had to endure the tests a leader must endure. While I’m sure he’d deny it, he’s led a privileged life in which his charm, intelligence, charisma and a good helping of guile have been his primary means of advancement. And his political career has been perfectly tailored to take advantage of those attributes. Centered in the legislative branch where those are valued assets, he’s never been tasked to lead. Leadership in those venues is only vested in a few and with his short tenure at each level, leadership responsibilities were never vested in him. In general, it is one of the reasons that Senators rarely make good Presidents.

So he comes by his lack of leadership honestly – it is simply not something which was necessary in the track his life has taken to this point – but now finds himself in a real dilemma

He’s not a leader.

He really doesn’t know how to be a leader.

But he pursued and won a job that demands a set of skills he, to this point, doesn’t possess. That’s why reversion to what he knows – campaign mode – is his natural answer to “stepping up”. Given the attributes he does have, he feels that if he can just get in front of the media and the people, he can use his charm, charisma, intelligence and guile to convince them to back his agenda just as he was able to do during the election cycle.

What he doesn’t seem to realize is that’s not leadership. His days of uncontested speech loaded with glittering generalities and factual inaccuracies are over. “Feel good” transitions into “make good” when the presidency is won. Instead of talking about what can be, he’s now stuck with talking about what is. And “what is” can be fact checked.

He’s disconnected, not seeming to understand that it isn’t Congress’s job to read his mind and churn out legislation to match his desires. Instead it is his job to work with Congress to make that happen. He seems to want to reign, not lead.

As it stands now, Dodd is asking for something that Obama hasn’t the experience or ability to deliver. Of course Obama’s surrounded by smart advisers who must also understand this problem and are most likely working diligently to find some way to correct it. But again experience says leaders aren’t born or made overnight. And the presidency is far and away much to critical and demanding a job for someone to first be learning what leadership is all about and how to apply it.

~McQ

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Thoughts On The Left And Ted Kennedy’s Death

Ted Kennedy is being feted by the left as a liberal icon, the liberal lion of the Senate and the new reason for passing health care insurance reform. Within a few weeks we’ve seen Democrats and the left shift from cost containment (blown away by the CBO) to appeals to religion (blown away because religion doesn’t rely on the state) to the passing of Ted Kennedy. One supposes they believe the emotional argument Kennedy’s death makes will swing support to their side that reason and facts wouldn’t.

There’s one problem with that – although Kennedy may have been “much beloved” among the Senate, the people of Massachusetts and the liberal left, I see no indication that such feelings translate outside of those circles. Certainly not enough to have the public finally throw up its hands and say “oh, the heck with it, let’s pass this travesty for Teddy”.

Let’s make the point again – he was a liberal icon. He was the liberal lion of the Senate. Neither of those mean a whole bunch to folks outside of those relatively small groups.

So that means that Democrats risk “Wellstoneing” this attempt at using Kennedy’s death to push their legislative agenda. If you’re unfamiliar with the public reaction to a memorial to Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) upon his untimely death in an airplane accident, Democrats turned the memorial into an unseemly partisan pep-rally which backfired badly on them. They tried to use Wellstone’s death to rally support for a Democratic successor. It was a pretty sad spectacle and in the end, a Republican Senator emerged as the winner.

I say they “risk Wellstoneing” the Kennedy death because it isn’t clear yet that Democrats have learned and internalized that lesson. They may have. But as I’ve observed the Dems over the years, it seems they always overreach. And recently they’ve done a very, very poor job of reading public sentiment. Oh, and did I mention, they’re obviously desperate right now? Given that, I think they may very well do the same sort of thing again with Kennedy’s death.

An interesting, but unpersuasive argument emerging on the left is that reminding them of the Wellstone fiasco is bad form. Kennedy’s death, apparently, is different and, as I’ve heard any number of them say, he’d be the first to suggest that his name and memory be exploited for political gain.

I think that may be what they truly believe, but even with obvious media support to push the meme, I don’t believe Ted Kennedy has the political heft the left thinks he has. And that sets up precisely what the left needs to avoid – an effect similar to that of the Wellstone memorial, although it will most likely unfold in a different manner than did that event.

Meanwhile, we’re being treated to the beginnings of the exploitation of Kennedy’s death and the overreach for which the left is so famous. As an example, consider liberal talk radio show host Mike Malloy’s recent views on Kennedy:

Good evening, truthseekers, Mike Malloy here, thanks for tuning in…you know as well as I know that the death of Senator Ted Kennedy is the death of a man, absolutely, and everything he was to the people in his extended family, but we also understand it’s the death of an era, one of the remaining, if not THE remaining lynchpin of liberalism in this country is gone.

Aand you know what the term lynchpin means. So with the death of Ted Kennedy last night, liberalism in this country has lost its champion; the person who, in the modern era, personified liberalism to a greater degree than anyone in Congress; I think that his death heralds the beginning of a very, very very dark period in this country.

I remember feeling that way in 1963 and in 1968-when his two brothers were murdered by the right wing in this country.

Lee Harvey Oswald (a communist sympathizer) and Sirhan Sirhan (an Arab Nationalist) have never been considered to be part of the right-wing except, perhaps, in the most twisted of leftist conspiracy theories. But Malloy, who ironically welcomes “truth seekers” isn’t about the truth. It’s about using scare tactics and the left’s favorite boogey man. Of course to do that Malloy must engage in the rewriting of history. His “very, very, very dark period in this country”, presaged by Kennedy’s death, must have right-wing villains. The implication, of course, is that his feelings now, comparable to his feelings when Robert and Jack Kennedy died, can be laid at the feet of the right wing. Case closed.

And so it goes. Expect much more of this in the next few weeks as the desperate left pulls out all the stops, including those of decency and propriety, to push this monstrosity of a health care insurance bill through on the back of a dead Kennedy. As I said, Orwell would have a field day with this stuff.

~McQ

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