Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Cruising the Web

The Bob Gates memoirs holds revelations that are both unsurprising and shocking. Did anyone really doubt that President Obama had political reasons motivating his decisions on pulling out of Iraq and winding down our operations in Afghanistan? Besides partisans and his aides, don't most people recognize that Joe Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Don't we all agree with his assessment of Congressional hearings where Congressmen beat up on administration figures when he writes, I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.” Sounds about right to me even when I agree with the Congressmen. Such have cameras in the hearings room wrought. The contempt that Gates shows for Harry Reid is clearly merited. Did anyone really doubt that Obama and Hillary Clinton took positions on the Iraqi surge based on their political motivations, rather than concern for what would be best for the country?

But still, this is all rather surprising to have someone who was in the room as decisions were made and options discussed be so frank in his characterizations of what he observed is insightful. But I agree with Charles Krauthammer that it is shameful for President Obama to order his own surge in Afghanistan when he didn't believe in the effort is shocking.
“As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his,” Mr. Gates wrote. “For him, it’s all about getting out.”
He ordered men into battle, men who died and came back maimed without believing in his own orders and without saying much at all to the American people about why he was doing it. Remember that this is the war that Obama argued in the 2008 campaign was the "good war," the war we should be fighting. As Bob Woodward writes,
Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.”

Chris Cillizza realizes how Bob Gates' recounting of a conversation between Obama and Hillary Clinton about how they both acknowledged that their opposition to the Iraq surge was based on their political calculations could come back to bite Hillary in 2016.
Gates writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”
I'm sure that no one is surprised that they both took positions on American security and military efforts based on political considerations, but now we have a reputable eyewitness to her coming right out and admitting it. And, as Cillizza writes, this conversations fits right into the image that many have of Hillary.
But, remember this is Hillary Clinton we are talking about. And, the criticism that has always haunted her is that everything she does is infused with politics -- that there is no core set of beliefs within her but rather just political calculation massed upon political calculation. Remember that she began slipping in the 2008 Democratic primary when her opponents seized on an overly political answer on giving drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants during a debate in late 2007.
Joel Kotkin details how political and economic power are becoming more and more concentrated in the federal government just as public distrust of such power has been growing.

Ross Douthat explores the limitations to liberal populism. Josh Kraushaar criticizes President Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio for the little that they are doing or planning to do to increase the supply of quality schools for the underprivileged.
Yet, those railing against economic inequality are doing very little to offer an educational pathway for children to rise out of poverty. De Blasio has declared war against charter schools in New York City, proposing to stunt their growth in the city by threatening to stop offering them free rent. More brazenly, the Obama Justice Department filed a lawsuit against a Louisiana program designed to allow poor students to pick alternatives to their failing public schools. It's on par with the administration's hostility to school choice: One of the first moves the Obama administration made was trying to shut down the popular D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, providing vouchers to city students to attend private schools.

Yup, that California high-speed rail boondoggle continues to be a disaster.

Walter Russell Mead ponders the "world's biggest losers" from 2013. His assessments are perceptive, albeit quite depressing.