Interesting “read between the lines” column by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post today. In it he relates his sojourn in New York’s Hamptons on Long Island. As he describes it, “[t]he Hamptons is where the Democratic energy, money and intellectual firepower of Manhattan goes for R&R. It’s just not another beach.” Or said another way, it is an enclave of the East Coast liberal elite.
So given that fact, and frankly it is pretty indisputable, you’d believe there’d still be a lot of support for Barack Obama – given the alternative. Yes?
Over the Labor Day weekend, I went to a number of events in the Hamptons. At all of them, Obama was discussed. At none of them — that’s none — was he defended. That was remarkable. After all, sitting around various lunch and dinner tables were mostly Democrats. Not only that, some of them had been vociferous Obama supporters, giving time and money to his election effort. They were all disillusioned.
It’s taken them 3 years to become disillusioned, but per Cohen, they finally are. And what are they disillusioned about? The very same thing we’ve harped on for 3 years. The fact that Obama isn’t a leader and certainly not the guy this country needs in charge in this time of crisis. The difference is we knew that before he ever took office:
I expected more than a few people to defend the president. No one did. Everyone — and I do mean everyone — expressed disappointment in him as a leader. In that area, they thought he was a bust.
And this wasn’t something that was anticipated given his thin resume and his lack of ever being in an actual leadership position previous to the White House?
You know, at times I wonder about the supposed elite in this country. As is obvious in the case of Barack Obama and the wool he pulled over the eyes of the rich and powerful on the left, critical thinking is apparently not a requisite skill for making money. That’s further demonstrated by the fact that they then handed over gobs of it to a political novice with no leadership experience and precious little experience in much of anything of worth when it comes to governing.
But here we are. And now they’re “disillusioned”.
Richard Cohen wrote a nasty little piece the other day in which he essentially declared American exceptionalism a myth. There is no such thing, according to Mr. Cohen. We’re all really a bunch of dummies living in a dysfunctional society, because, you know, we were mean to the American Indians once upon a time and we had slaves, or something. Oh, and too much religion.
Michael Moore, on the other hand, finds us to be just a bunch of hypocrites and blathers on about how killing Osama (even though Moore is obviously pleased he’s dead) was a forfeiture of our principles (something Ron Paul apparently agrees with Moore about).
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we’re not like them. We’re Americans. We roll different."
As I’ll explain later, Moore hasn’t a clue of what he’s talking about – nor does Cohen.
Interestingly, Moore makes this point when talking about the killing:
I know a number of Navy SEALs. In fact (and this is something I don’t like to talk about publicly, for all the obvious reasons), I hire only ex-SEALs and ex-Special Forces guys to handle my own security (I’ll let you pause a moment to appreciate that irony). These SEALs are trained to follow orders. I don’t know what their orders were that night in Abbottabad, but it certainly looks like a job (and this is backed up in a piece in the Atlantic) where they were told to not bring bin Laden back alive. The SEALs are pros at what they do and they instantly took out every adult male (every potential threat) within a few minutes – but they also took care to not harm a single one of the nine children who were present. Pretty amazing. This wasn’t some Rambo-style operation where they just went in guns blazing, spraying bullets. They acted swiftly and with expert precision. I’m telling you, these guys are so smart and so lethal, they could take you out with a piece of dental floss. (And in fact, one of my ex-SEAL guys showed me how to do that one night. Whoa.)
The raid, despite Moore’s blathering and Cohen’s nonsense actually points out why Americans are exceptional. Here’s what CBS News had to say about the details of the raid:
The SEALs first saw bin Laden when he came out on the third floor landing. They fired, but missed. He retreated to his bedroom, and the first SEAL through the door grabbed bin Laden’s daughters and pulled them aside.
When the second SEAL entered, bin Laden’s wife rushed forward at him — or perhaps was pushed by bin Laden. The SEAL shoved her aside and shot bin Laden in the chest. A third seal shot him in the head.
Read that very carefully. Very slowly.
“The first SEAL through the door” did what?
Risked his life to protect the daughters of a mass murderer we’re at war with plotting to kill even more Americans in the future.
And the second SEAL? He didn’t spray and pray, he shoved aside a woman, saving her life, and went precisely after the target.
I don’t dispute Moore’s point about what the SEALs were told to do. I concluded that immediately (and I talk about that on our latest podcast). Had they been told to capture him, he’d right now be cooling his heels in an “undisclosed location” and not enjoying his vacation at all.
Moore thinks we let our principles down when we killed him. I can only say that comes from a very warped idea of what our principles are. Justice isn’t a process – it is a result.
Moore puts this out there as an example of what we should have done:
Hideki Tojo killed my uncle and millions of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and a hundred thousand other Americans. He was the head of Japan, the Emperor’s henchman, the man who was the architect of Pearl Harbor. When the American soldiers went to arrest him, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The soldiers immediately worked on stopping his bleeding and rushed him to an army hospital where he was saved by our army doctors. He then had his day in court. It was a powerful exercise for the world to see. And on December 23, 1948, after he was found guilty, we hanged him.
When he was captured, did anyone say “justice has been served?” Nope, that happened when, after his show trial (anyone – was Tojo going to be exonerated or left to live?) -actually, a military tribunal -, he was hanged.
Then and only then was the the term “justice has been served” used. Moore concludes:
A killer of millions was forced to stand trial. A killer of 4,000 (counting the African embassies and USS Cole bombings) got double-tapped in his pajamas. Assuming it was possible to take him alive, I think his victims, the future, and the restoration of the American Way deserved better. That’s all I’m saying.
The resulting justice was the same – both died. However, here is the key point: One after a show trial and AFTER a war had ended (same with Nuremberg), the other at the hands of his enemies DURING a war which he started and was still fighting. If you can’t figure out the difference in those situations, then you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer. That’s the part Moore and his ilk always forget.
As for American exceptionalism – well you saw a small example of it in the raid demonstrated by that first SEAL in the room. Our armed forces demonstrate that exceptionalism daily as they fight the Taliban and terrorists. It comes from the culture in which they were raised.
I’m reminded of the story Oliver North likes to tell about the young Navy Corpsman in the battle of Baghdad:
By God, if that’s not "exceptionalism" I don’t know what the hell is.
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Richard Cohen finds the apogee of hypocrisy with a op/ed penned today which is entitled "Barack Obama, introduce yourself".
Er, Mr. Cohen, that was the job of you and your ilk years ago – to introduce us to the man who would be president by doing your job of digging into his background and laying out the pros and cons of his qualifications – or in the case of Mr. Obama, lack thereof.
Anyway Cohen takes on the pundits and their suggestions about what Obama should do to recover from his tanking poll numbers. After mentioning quite a few, he says something that actually struck me as a good point, something many of us have said for a while:
All these are nifty suggestions and some could make a really exciting panel discussion at Brookings.
Or a late night discussion in a dorm room somewhere among idealist kids who’ve never really had to deal with the real world. As I listen to some of the nonsense spouted and written by the punditocracy, that’s the impression I’m constantly left with.
But back to the point – Cohen takes on the usual comparison that eventually wends its way into the “Brookings” like discussion – Obama v Reagan at the same time in their presidency and with basically the same poll numbers. For a change, that comparison is rejected and Cohen explains his reasons – most of them make sense.
However, what I am again left with is the obvious feeling that we should have known all of this well before the man in office won that office and that people like Cohen are to blame for that not being the case. Cohen reminds us that even Reagan’s political enemies found him likeable and a man of consistent principle. Obama, on the other hand, isn’t “unlikable”, but he doesn’t have the depth, warmth or history that Reagan had at this point in his presidency.
To that point, Cohen says:
What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions, as far as they’re concerned, he hasn’t. He went for health care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn’t. He’s been cold to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. American’s know Obama’s smart. But we still don’t know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he’s done, they have to know who he is. We’re waiting.
What an incredible confession. Who is “we” Mr. Cohen? And where were you and your kind when the vetting process was supposed to take place. Why are you still waiting for an introduction? Why didn’t you do your job?
We’re waiting as well – still waiting – for an answer to that last question.
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It can’t be hate or racism because both of these guys are huge Obama supporters:
Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief.
Those are pretty strong words, again alluding – no not alluding – flat out stating that there has been a whole lot of rah, rah going on and no leadership exhibited. And it is WaPo’s Richard Cohen uttering them. He goes on to describe the incident at the G20 meeting which he calls one that had “a faux Cuban missile crisis quality to it”. Lots of drama and stern visages, but not much substance as the leaders revealed something their countries had known about for years and only did so because Iran had made it known the previous week.
Cohen then advises:
For a crisis such as this, the immense prestige of the American presidency ought to be held in reserve. Let the secretary of state issue grave warnings. When Obama said in Pittsburgh that Iran is “going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice,” it had the sound of an ultimatum. But what if the Iranians don’t? What then? A president has to be careful with such language. He better mean what he says.
Indeed. And as we all know, the Secretary of State has been missing in action. If there is TV face time to be had, this president is going to elbow his way to the front. And that’s something else Cohen is tired of – seeing him on the tube. He says we should see much less of him. Frankly I agree, but am hoping he ignores the advice and continues to over-expose himself.
Cohen has also caught on to the “tell ’em what they want to hear at the time and then change your mind later” rhetoric that is common with Obama:
The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” — and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan — and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees — and then again maybe he would.
What Cohen is dancing around actually saying is something which was said of Bill Clinton, “he’s a particularly good liar”.
Cohen ends his lament with this:
Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation — “Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . ” — and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence — meet it or else.
Obama lost credibility with his deadline-that-never-was, and now he threatens to lose some more with his posturing toward Iran. He has gotten into a demeaning dialogue with Ahmadinejad, an accomplished liar. (The next day, the Iranian used a news conference to counter Obama and, days later, Iran tested some intermediate-range missiles.) Obama is our version of a Supreme Leader, not given to making idle threats, setting idle deadlines, reversing course on momentous issues, creating a TV crisis where none existed or, unbelievably, pitching Chicago for the 2016 Olympics. Obama’s the president. Time he understood that.
But he doesn’t. He doesn’t at all. He has no reason to understand that because he has no experience in the type job he now holds. He’s a firm believer in his ability to persuade in a job that, like it or not, requires leadership and the use of power, intimidation and action.
And that brings me to the second of the dissillusioned – Marty Peretz at The New Republic’s “The Spine”:
The secretary of defense, Robert Gates, revealed two hush-hush secrets on television this morning.
1. that Iran intended to develop nuclear weapons. No sh*t!
2. that the matter of closing Guantanamo was “more complicated than we thought.” Surprise, surprise.
The first of these revelations is especially significant. What does it say about the president’s adventures in sympatico diplomacy? This is hard to say: but I believe it’s an utter failure.
And why is that? Because international politics is a form of anarchy, and that sort of an approach is seen as a sign of weakness to be exploited. So Iran, as it usually does, will make all the right noises at the appropriate time to try to lessen sanctions, but whether successful or not, it will continue to pursue its nuclear goals. As for Gitmo – has Obama learned that posturing is much easier than governing yet? The answer is no. In his UN speech he lauded himself for “ordering Guantanomo closed” on his first day and then a few days later it is announced that it won’t close on his extended deadline.
That is a perfect example of what Richard Cohen sees as problematic with this presidency. Obama considers the fact that he “ordered” something done to be an accomplishment. The rest of the world won’t consider it one until Gitmo is closed. He doesn’t seem to understand that difference.
See health care reform. Heck, see just about anything.
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