Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who Wants To Be a Commander in Chief?

All you have to do to sound smart in a right wing bar is start every sentence with "Neal Boortz says…" and all it takes to be a political wit is to say "Hillary" out loud.

I for one am fatigued of hearing earnest discussion by the professional and sandlot punditry alike about whether or not Hillary forgave Bill for Monica because it was a good career move, or if she faked crying like a girl on camera, or if she can take it like a man, and of hearing her blamed for every societal ill from inflation to illegal immigration to fluoridation (Ice cream, Mandrake. Children's ice cream!) and just about everything else. I'd really like the discussion about Hillary to focus on whether or not she'd make a good president.

I happen to think she wouldn't make a good president at all, but not because I'm afraid she might show a little too much cleavage at her inauguration. I'm convinced she would make a wholly inadequate commander in chief of our military, and after two terms of Bush the younger, that's something we simply cannot endure.


As I said a few weeks ago, I view our current presidential race as a cattle call audition for the role of commander in chief. The trick to wading through a slate of candidates the size of this one is to begin by eliminating everyone who's obviously not right for the part.

From the top, I can scratch the leading GOP hopefuls, the holy trinity of theocons who hope to exploit misdirected religious fervor to support their neoconservative foreign policies. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were conspicuous Christian Soldiers from the get go. John McCain joined their ranks when he aired the Christmas ad that Mel Gibson could have directed, the one showing young Lieutenant McCain, tortured prisoner of war, looking like You-Know-Who after they pulled Him down off the you-know-what.

But even if we take the Messiah handle away from him, McCain comes up short in the CINC department. Yes, he's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee forever, but being on the SASC doesn’t make one competent on security matters. Joe Lieberman has been on the committee for donkey's years too, and what he understands about military art you wouldn't notice if he stuck it under your right eyelid. Moreover, everyone must (or at least should) admire and respect McCain's heroism in the service of our country, but let's face it; being a prisoner of war doesn’t teach anybody how to run one.

But McCain's chief flaw as a prospective war chief is that he was foursquare in favor of Mr. Bush's Iraq surge strategy, and what's more, he thinks it's working. That makes him an even poorer choice for commander in chief than Hillary.

Clausewitz 101

Based on her January 13 appearance on Meet the Press, Hillary (or one of her staffers) seems to understand Clausewitz's admonition that "The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes." I'm not convinced, though, that a cursory understanding of On War will be sufficient for Hillary to keep Pavlov's Dogs of War in their cages. I'm especially uncertain whether she has what it takes to get Trumanesque with a MacArthur class American Caesar like General David Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq.

In the December 13th interview, Tim Russert posed a hypothetical: If Petraeus reports to Congress in March and "says the surge is working, that reconciliation started in a big way yesterday when the Iraqi parliament said that former members of the Saddam government can participate in new government, don't pull 35,000 troops out now, keep them there for at least the remainder of the year, would you be open to that?"

Hillary shot back, "No, and here's why, Tim." She continued strongly for a time, asserting that the surge was "explained and rationalized as giving the Iraqi government space and time to make the hard decisions that they needed to make." But then she wobbled off into kinda/sorta country, mentioning how 2007 was the "deadliest year for American troops" and "that the large part of the reason that we're seeing the Iraqi government do anything is because time is running out" and yada, yada, blah, blah, wimp, wimp, wimp.

What she should have done immediately was mulch Russert from his hairline to his Adam's apple for asking such a stupid question, and told him the issue of extending the surge was irrelevant because the 35.000 extra troops will be all home by this summer come hell or Hezbollah. That was in the plan when the surge began in January 2007. It can't last any longer without doing seed corn damage to the Army.

Then she should have ripped Russert a new exit ramp for suggesting that allowing minor government clerks to go back to work constituted a "big way" toward political reconciliation.

Last but not least, she should have told Russert—and the rest of the world—that as president she wouldn’t let David Petraeus dictate Iraq policy any more than Harry Truman let Douglas MacArthur call the shots in Korea.

But she didn't do any of those things. What's more, when Russert challenged her on her 2002 vote approving the Iraq invasion, Clinton gave her standard non-answer: "I made it very clear that my vote was not a vote for preemptive war. I said that on the floor, I said it consistently after that. It was a vote to put inspectors back in to determine what threat Saddam Hussein did in fact pose."

Let's take a look at what the bill actually said. Its title was "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. Do you think it's possible Hillary didn't read that part of it, or that she misread it, and thought it said "Resolution to Authorize Putting Inspectors Back In?"

Then there's the part of the bill called "authorization" that says "The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq."

How on earth does Hillary think she didn't vote for the war? Was it a matter of what her definition of "authorize" was? If so, that goes beyond Clintonesque. It's downright Bushwacky.

No matter how vehemently she denies it, Hillary bought the Bush team's narrative on Iraq back in 2002, and now she's vested in their Iran fable.

At the November 2007 Democratic candidates' debate in Las Vegas, she tried to bully a young Iraq War veteran into agreeing that "the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has assisted the militias and others in killing our Americans and in maiming them." In a February 2007 address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), she echoed the administration's boo noise about Iran's nuclear program, and emphasized the "urgency to the necessity to doing everything we can to deny nuclear weapons to Iran."

The claims about Iranian culpability in attacks on American G.I.s started about the same time as the surge, and the administration has yet to provide a stick of credible proof to back those accusations. And we don't need to do anything at all to deny nuclear weapons to Iran because, as we all know now thanks to the latest National Intelligence Estimate, it denied them to itself.

One can only conclude that Hillary is a closet neocon or that she's so afraid of being cast as weak on security that she'll give them whatever they want to keep them from calling her a girly girl on AM radio and Fox News.

In either case, I'm sorry, Senator, but you didn't pass the audition. Next Democrat, please, and remember everyone, we're only seeing singing CINCs today. If you're a dancing CINC, you need to come back tomorrow.


Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) will be available April 1, 2008.


  1. Anonymous12:21 PM

    Clauswitz would ask what we expect to gain politically and economically from our Iraqi occupation. Politically, we have become a pariah in the eyes of the world. Economically, we have spent our national fortune and borrowed so heavily from China and the Saudis that our money is on the verge of collapse if not already over that edge. It is time to support our troops by bringing them home. It is time to elect a president capable of making sane monetary decisions and corageous enough to do so. My candidate is Ron Paul.

    Jeff, I appreciate the priviledge of posting here and I would also appreciate hearing your thoughts on the subject.

    Very respectfully,
    ADCS USNR-R(ret)

  2. The Reality Kid12:29 PM

    Three semi-related comments -

    1) Your imagined slap-down by Hillary of Tim Russert was so on-point, well, it made my nipples hard.

    2) Hillary is a poor choice for President (and Commander-in-Chief) because she is every bit a warmonger and beholden to the powers that be (and the pursuit of empire) that Bush is (not to mention the very definition of a which-way-is-the-wind-blowing-today? politician).

    3) How tragic, that in the year 2008, you feel compelled to rate presidential candidates by their abilities to serve as military commander-in-chief. Humankind really hasn't come that far in the last 1,000 years, now have we?

  3. MME,

    I'm very glad to have you here. I'd say the Bush administration expects to gain what it always expected to gain: permanent bases in the heart of the ME and control of the region's oil.


    No, we haven't come that far, have we?


  4. wkmaier2:18 PM

    Interesting commentary Jeff, thanks. I don't have much to add, except that I can't envision ever again voting for a candidate with an R after their name, even for local councilperson (I didn't vote for our current Caesar, having the left the party long ago).

  5. EdNSted3:33 PM

    RK said:

    "Humankind really hasn't come that far..."

    I had exactly the same thought the first time I read Niccolò Machiavelli.

  6. Wk,

    The first Dem I voted for was Kerry, and I wasn't all schoolgirl about him. Now, I can't imagine voting R again.


    Nicco wrote the neocons' playbook.


  7. Sorry, as insightful as I find your comments, I've got to disagree with you about whether Hillary was voting to invade Iraq when she voted for the Authorization Bill (despite the bill's name).

    Like Hillary, I went to law school, and I believe what she was doing was taught us in First Year Negotiations: she was voting to maximize the President's negotiating position. After all, our Fearless Leader had said that invasion was a last resort. Had the Senate not voted the authorization bill, Bush would not have had the threat of force behind his demands (as assine as they were, in retrospect, but that's another issue.)

    I've seen Clinton react to protect negotiating positions in other contexts, such as when she said that she would not have immediate direct talks with the leaders of Iran et al. and called Obama naive for saying he would. Again, First Year stuff.

    Love your blog.

  8. I can appreciate what you're saying, Gloria, but I still come down to if you vote yes for a bill that says a president can go to war, you shouldn't be surprised when he goes and does it. ;-)

  9. So, Jeff, are you saying that you approve of a President who lies to the United States Senate about seeking a second and clear authorization at the UN to attack another country regarding dangerous weapons and then reneges when the commission sent by the UN reveals that the President's assertions are bogus? How do you feel about supporting candidates for President who approve (w)hole-heartedly about that President's actions? I'd take Clinton over fools and knaves like that in a heartbeat.

  10. Gotta Blame Somebody Dept.:

    A good friend heard this in WalMart awhile back. An older man with his wife along shopping was trying to find some khaki pants. Two different brands, marked identical sizes, fit completely differently. Mislabelled or whatever, it didn't matter -- the man blamed Bush. Seriously, loudly, the way grumpy older people do.

  11. Anonymous5:28 PM

    Bush IS the problem. If the bush does not fit into thre kakhis the same way, then the bush is the problem!



  12. Vic,

    I'm no sure where you're comment is going. If you suspect I approve of Bush, you haven't been around this site too much. ;-)


    Not sure where you're going either. It's grumpy to blame Bush for Iraq?

  13. I'm so glad you are not one of the severely over populated horde of "Blame Bush" for everything crowd.

    Killer Hillary has just as much Blood on her Hands as Bush. She abdicated her responsibility on a Question of War and left it to an unelected Marionette. A question to ask her - Do you believe the American people deserve an Up or Down vote on a Question of War?

    A question we will not hear anybody from the MSM ask her(or anybody else for that matter). Just like the MSM does not mention the Louisiana Caucus being held today.

    In the final judgment I believe, While We are not all Guilty, We are All Responsible.

  14. Anonymous6:46 PM

    I gave to dispute gloriasolideo position on Hilary. The best spin on her take on Hilary's vote is that Hilary totally misread Mr. Bush, in fact catastrophically misread him. So I agree with Jeff, it is unlikely Hilary will handle Petraeus much better. Hilary would at best believe she could use his presence as a bargaining postion, (eyes roll).


    ps: sorry about the anonymous, but i'm working on a green card and don't dare voice my opinion

  15. LOL, Al. And who's writing the test on the Constitution you have to pass these days? ;-)

  16. EdNSted10:14 AM


    I don't know if you've already seen this article but I ran across it this morning I thought I'd pass it along...

    The Army's Other Crisis
    Why the best and brightest young officers are leaving
    by Andrew Tilghman

    "But the problem isn't one of numbers alone: the Army also appears to be losing its most gifted young officers. In 2005, internal Army memos started to warn of the "disproportionate loss of high-potential, high-performance junior leaders." West Point graduates are leaving at their highest rates since the 1970s (except for a few years in the early 1990s when the Army's goal was to reduce its size). Of the nearly 1,000 cadets from the class of 2002, 58 percent are no longer on active duty."


    "Kapinos will probably make a great Washington lawyer. But rarely does anyone suggest that we'll need more gifted, dedicated, and seasoned Beltway attorneys in the twenty-first century. When the government struggles with its most elemental challenges—identifying geostrategic goals and designing the tactical missions to achieve them—it turns in part to its four-star generals. The generals who will appear before Congress in twenty-five years are in the Army right now. They're junior officers, probably captains. And keeping them in uniform might be the Army's most important mission."

  17. I've been tracking this issue, Ed. Thanks for the link to this story.


  18. Anonymous10:52 AM


    Sadly, there isn't one. (A potential CINC I mean), among the active candidates in either political party.

    The woman candidate, who, without any shame whatsover, uses her "gender" to score votes, is becoming increasingly known, (thanks to our last ex-president's campaigning) as "wife of."

    And,I don't think any of the "front runners" are closet neocons. They are all openly "fundamentalists" or openly "corporatists."

    Nobody's in the closet--- if you open the door.

    Since Mrs. Clinton is running on her "experience" and not as a first year law student, one would think she would read, (or have someone else read,) and give her an Executive Summary, on any legislation on which she is required to cast a vote.

    True. Mr. Obama didn't vote for the war. However, he has continued to vote to fund the war.

    What to do? What to do?

    For the first time in my life, I'm having the slightest regret that my ancestors moved here FROM Canada.

    It's becoming more and more difficult to find some positives in being American.



  19. MM,

    I think we'll be stuck with another least of evils choice.


  20. True (with respect to "least of evils").

    I think the determinative evidence (which no one has bothered to acquire on either parties' candidates) is who they would nominate (if elected) to Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and Ambassador to the United Nations. The choices for these three posts speak louder than any sound bite ever will.

  21. Hi Jeff, another fine post here.

    Did Hillary really say "I made it very clear that my vote was not a vote for preemptive war." ???

    I'll have to take your word for it since I absolutely refuse to pay for corporate advertising on cable and through the misinformation of the pundit showz also.

    I must agree with you on this:

    "Nicco wrote the neocons' playbook."

    Although the latest translation came through Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys (Rummy, Cheney).

    Dude, you gotta read this book:

    The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

  22. Nunya,

    The quote comes straight from the transcript. And I cut and paste those things so I don't screw them up.

    Thanks for the link.


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