-- Hillary Clinton, to an Iraq War veteran at the Democratic presidential candidates' debate in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 16, 2007
As an ex-military man, I regard the '08 presidential race, to a large extent, as a cattle call audition for the role of commander in chief of America's military. Since the GOP shows no sign of purging itself of the neoconservative influence, voting for a Republican would be an exercise in redefining insanity. So I've been watching the Democratic race with great interest, and found the November 16 debate in Vegas most interesting.
Many thought Hillary came out as the big winner in Vegas, but barring some sort of epiphany on her part, she's lost my confidence for good. She went out of her way to slip in that line about Iran's Revolutionary Guard having had a hand in killing American troops--she'd already answered the young veteran's question.
As historian and journalist Gareth Porter decisively argued in September 2007, "The administration has not come forward with a single piece of concrete evidence to support the claim that the Iranian government has been involved in the training, arming or advising of Iraqi Shiite militias." And as he illustrated more recently, the U.S. tactic of detaining Iranians in Iraq on "suspicion of carrying out or planning attacks against Iraqi security forces" then releasing them when they prove to be "of no continuing intelligence value" has become yet another political embarrassment of the administration's preposterous Gulf region policies and strategies.
Why Hillary is so willing to go along with the administration's Iran fable is something of a mystery. She either knows something she's not telling us, or she's fallen for the disinformation racket Dick Cheney's Iranian Directorate gang has been running, or she's willing to grab onto any fiction that gives the perception she's strong on security. If she's that secretive and/or that gullible and/or that insecure in her ability inspire confidence in America's defenses, there's very little difference between her and George W. Bush.
Hillary was not, however, the only Democratic candidate at the Vegas debate who sounded like a George W. Bush wannabe.
False Assumptions, False Facts, False Choices
Roughly halfway through the debate, CNN's Campbell Brown introduced the subject of President Pervez Musharraf suspending Pakistan's constitution on the premise that it was necessary to preserve his country. She then asked Joe Biden, "Is it your view that there are times when the security of the United States is more important than the way a key ally, like Musharraf, disregards freedom and disregards democracy?"
Biden launched into one of his signature diatribes. He made sure everyone knew he had personally spoken with Musharraf, and that Musharraf had called Biden, not the other way around, that's how important Biden is, and if you didn't think that made Biden important enough, Biden had also talked to Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and here's what he'd do with the Pakistan policy if he were president of the U.S. of A,, and blah, blah, blah…
He finally wrapped up his response with, "…I know there's more to say, Campbell. I appreciate you asking me the question, and I'm sorry I answered it. I know you're not supposed to questions based on what I..."
At that point, mercifully, Wolf Blitzer cut him off, but Biden had already performed his standard act in entirety: indulged in shameless self-aggrandizement, said something dumb, tried to blame a journalist for his own ineptness, and set new standards in political irony by apologizing for answering a question that he never came close to answering. In all, Biden managed to sound even more like Bush than Hillary did, but the piece of resistance in Bush apery came from Chris Dodd.
Dodd accurately observed that the Bush administration has ""has stepped all over our own constitutional processes," but in addressing the question of security versus constitutionality, he revealed a major flaw in his own cognitive processes.
"Obviously, national security, keeping the country safe," comes first, he said. He might have been okay if he'd stopped there, but he continued. "When you take the oath of office on January 20, you promise to do two things, and that is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and protect our country against enemies both foreign and domestic. The security of the country is number one, obviously."
The presidential oath is contained in Article II of the United States Constitution. Here's how it actually reads in its entirety:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Period. Exclamation point. End of sentence. End of oath. That business about protecting and defending against foreign and domestic evildoers is in the military enlistment oaths, and the president is a civilian, remember Senator Dodd?
Dodd seems like an honest guy. He probably just got the oaths confused in his head--he did, after all, serve in the Army Reserve. But he's also a lawyer; one who says that as president, the FIRST thing he'll do after being sworn into office is "restore the Constitution." How's he going to restore the constitution if he can't keep straight what the damn thing says? What's he going to do, hire another lawyer to read the Constitution for him? As it is, Dodd appears to already be in the mindset of basing his constitutional authority and priorities on things that don't appear anywhere in the Constitution, and we've had more than enough of that recently.
Of the other candidates who got a chance to speak on the security versus constitutionality issue, the best responder was Barak Obama. When Blitzer asked, "Is human rights more important than American national security" Obama replied, "The concepts are not contradictory, Wolf."
Jesus, Larry, and Curly; why didn't all the candidates give that answer?
Can anyone other than George W. Bush and his merry madmen imagine any possible reason why the head of the mightiest nation in the history of mankind, a nation that spends more on defense and spy gizmos and homeland bureaucracy paraphernalia than the rest of the world combined, should have to choose between protecting his country's security and its cherished founding principles?
And is Barak Obama really the only presidential candidate who realizes that's a choice he doesn't need to make?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and Military.com. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available April 1, 2008.