The Washington Post reported overnight that when it comes to U.S. efforts to combat Islamic State terrorists, President Obama and military leaders aren’t necessarily on the same page.
Flashes of disagreement over how to fight the Islamic State are mounting between President Obama and U.S. military leaders, the latest sign of strain in what often has been an awkward and uneasy relationship.
Even as the administration has received congressional backing for its strategy, with the Senate voting Thursday to approve a plan to arm and train Syrian rebels, a series of military leaders have criticized the president’s approach against the Islamic State militant group.
It’s hard to say with confidence just how widespread the disagreements really are. For that matter, even among those military leaders voicing disagreement, there’s a variety of opinions.
For his part, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday that Pentagon leaders are in “full alignment” and in “complete agreement with every component of the president’s strategy.”
And that’s fine, but let’s not forget that it’s not really their call. Pentagon leaders don’t actually have to be in “complete agreement with every component of the president’s strategy.”
NBC’s First Read noted yesterday, “Remember the battle cry of some Democrats during some of the darkest days of the Iraq war – that Bush and Cheney were not listening to the commanders? Well, given where all the military leadership is on this strategy, it is now Obama, the Democrat, who is open to criticism that he is not listening to his commanders.”
But there’s no reason to necessarily see that as “criticism.”
I understand the political dynamic. In theory, many may like the idea of military decisions being made by military leaders with military expertise.
But the American system is designed a specific way for a reason. As NBC’s First Read went on to say, “Of course, again, it is Obama that is commander-in-chief. Not anyone at the Pentagon.”
That’s exactly right. The fact that the president and some military leaders disagree is fine. The fact that elements of this debate are unfolding in public is healthy in a democracy. The fact that Congress has heard different positions from various officials within the executive branch is valuable as part of a broader debate.
All of this should be seen as a feature, not a bug, of a nation exploring the possibility of war. Military leaders can bring the president options, and in response, the president will give those leaders orders. When our system is working well and as intended, the scope of those orders will be shaped in part by Congress, which is supposed to be directly involved in authorizing the use of military force.
The fact that some military leaders may disagree with Obama is not a sign that Obama is wrong – or right. The president in this case may not be listening to his commanders, but in our system, they’re required to listen to him.
As Rachel explained on Tuesday’s show, “The military makes military recommendations to the president and the president decides whether to accept them or not. That is not a scandal. If they recommend something to him and he says no to that, that’s not a scandal. That’s actually a America. That is our system of government. It’s one of the best things about it. That’s sort of a whole civilian-control-of-the-military thing and how that works…. This is like first day of What’s America Class.”
It’s a fair point to say Democrats were critical of the Bush/Cheney White House for failing to listen to commanders during the height of the crises in Iraq, but it seems to me those criticisms were based on (a) the fact that some of these military were giving the White House good advice that wasn’t being followed; and (b) the fact that Bush said he was listening to his commanders, even when he wasn’t.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 19, 2014
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Democrat Chad Taylor could vacate his ballot spot in the Senate election, creating a two-man race between Republican Senator Pat Roberts and ex-Democrat-turned-Independent Greg Orman. That’s a victory for Kansas Democrats who believed that Orman has a much better chance of unseating Roberts than Taylor did, and it’s a setback for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who tried to block Taylor from removing his name.
Kobach is running for re-election against Republican-turned-Democrat Jean Schodorf. Ordinarily, a race like this would be irrelevant in national politics, but Kobach is a crusader against illegal immigrants—and, by extension, most immigrants not of European extraction—and has used a minor state office to rewrite Kansas’s voting laws. He has long been associated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization founded by a proponent of eugenics and population control and funded in part by the Pioneer Fund, an organization founded to promote “race betterment.” He is also quite effective, and even brilliant, at what he does.
Kobach, who is now 48, grew up in Topeka. He went to Harvard, where he studied under Samuel Huntington, who at the end of a long and glorious career, had become obsessed himself with the threat that immigrants from the south posed to American civilization. Kobach wrote a prize-winning senior thesis on the efforts during the apartheid era of South African business to evade the effects of sanctions. He got a law degree from Yale and returned to Kansas where he practiced law in Kansas City and taught law at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.
In 2001, he joined the Bush administration, first as a White House fellow and then as an aide to Attorney General John Ashcroft, where he helped devise the national security visa system that required Muslims and Middle Easterners to register and be finger-printed. (It was suspended in 2011 because it had proved both ineffective and discriminatory.) In 2003, he returned to Kansas City, where he ran for Congress against Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore. He called for keeping out illegal immigrants and making English America’s official language. He lost, but six years later ran for secretary of state on a platform of preventing immigrant voter fraud.
In the meantime, Kobach had become the senior counsel for FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. He remains today their senior counsel. With FAIR, Kobach helped write Arizona’s highly discriminatory immigration law, which required police to demand proof of citizenship from anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally and advised other states, including Alabama, that have passed similar legislation. He also filed suit to prevent Kansas, Nebraska, and California from offering in-state college tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, and he has defended laws in Nebraska, Texas, and Pennsylvania that would make it illegal to rent to undocumented immigrants.
In his 2010 campaign for secretary of state, he promised to stamp out voter fraud. (Kobach has been able to come up with one case—from 1997—that involved fraud by an undocumented immigrant.) After Kobach was elected, he got the Kansas legislature to pass and Governor Sam Brownback to sign a law that allowed him to rewrite the state’s election registration laws. Kobach adopted rules requiring all new registrants to show documented proof of citizenship to obtain Kansas registration. At the polls, all registered voters had to show photo identification.
In the run-up to this year’s election, Kobach was able to disqualify almost 20,000 new registrants because they hadn’t proven their citizenship. These had to include many people (including a 92-year-old woman who appealed her denial) who for one reason or another didn’t have passports or birth certificates on hand. Kobach’s ruling created a weird two-tier system, where Kansans who had national voter registration, which only requires a registrant to swear that he or she is a citizen, could vote in congressional or senate selections, but unless they had a Kansas voter registration, which requires proof of citizenship, could not vote in a state or local race.
There are, of course, anti-immigration nuts who don’t care about any other issues or about politics in general, but Kobach is also an avid partisan who was chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. His rulings on voter registration appear equally designed to help Republicans and to eliminate an alien presence in American life. His attempt to keep Taylor on the ballot—and his subsequent threat to force the Democrats to replace him on the ballot—reflects a diehard partisanship that shows little concern for legal niceties. In 2012, he even justified an attempt to keep Obama off the Kansas ballot on the grounds he had not proved his citizenship. And he is also a hardline rightwinger on the welfare state (he wants to remove Kansas entirely from the purview of the Affordable Care Act) and on guns, championing a law that has made guns produced in Kansas not subject to federal regulation. (He is a shareholder in a new Kansas gun firm aptly called Minuteman Defense.)
Kobach is running again on his attempt to stamp out voter fraud, and enjoys the enthusiastic support of anti-Obama stalwart Ted Nugent. “The Leftists and commies are working overtime to defeat him in this year’s election,” Nugent warned. Kobach’s opponent, Schodorf, is a former Republican state senator who was ousted in the 2010 primary by a more conservative challenger backed by Brownback and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Chamber of Commerce. She switched parties to run against Kobach. Schodorf has never run statewide before, and faces a two-to-one Republican edge in registration in a race that voters don’t normally pay attention to, but she has been running even in the polls and could benefit from the snafu over keeping Taylor on the ballot.
If Schodorf does win, it will be a victory for American democracy and not simply the Democratic Party. Kobach is that bad. To be sure, there has always been a case to be made for better controlling American borders and for discouraging entry by undocumented workers, but Kobach’s position, like that of FAIR, edges into the dark corners of nativism. And his attempt to manipulate state election laws is quite simply an attempt to subvert the democratic process. Here’s to his defeat and banishment from elected office.
By: John B. Judis, The New Republic, September 19, 2014
“Busted!”: McCain And Graham Were Dead Set Against Boots On Ground Before Insisting On U.S. Ground Troops To Fight ISIL
Some excellent recall and reporting from both Steve Benen and Amanda Terkel who remind us that it was just a few short months ago that “The Boobsey Twins”—John McCain and his BFF Linsey Graham—insisted that neither would be in favor of sending American ground troops to the fight against ISIL.
That, of course, was before the two decided to do a 180 on their positions, arguing that President Obama has, yet again, given away the store and endangered the very existence of his countrymen by embarking on a policy of no American boots in the war against the Islamic State.
Yesterday, Senator McCain rose to speak on the floor of the United States Senate where, in his now trademarked brand of righteous indignation, the Senator asked, “Why does the president insist on continuing to tell the enemy what he will not do? Why does the president keep telling the people that are slaughtering thousands, ‘Don’t worry, we will not commit ground troops’?”
I don’t know, Senator McCain—but it might just have something to do with your advice, given just three months ago, wherein you argued that boots on the ground was not an appropriate strategy for the President to pursue.
On June 13th, during an appearance on “Andrea Mitchell Reports”, Senator McCain said,
“I think you have to explain to the American people what kind of a threat that an ISIS takeover of Iraq would pose to the United States of America. Can you imagine a caliphate or a center of violent Muslim extremism dedicated to attacking the United States, the consequences of that? That has to be explained to the American people.”
The Senator continued, “I do not envision a scenario where ground combat troops are on the ground…. I would not commit to putting Americans boots on the ground.” (Watch the video.)
Not one to let down his side of the partnership, recall Senator Lindsey Graham’s meltdown on Fox News this past Sunday, as discussed in my article, “How Lindsey Graham Succumbed To The Tactics Of Terror And Embarrassed His Nation” where Graham argued that it would require a United States fielded army to defeat the ISIL army. Senator Graham’s problem, in addition to his concern that we are all going to die here at home if we don’t take the war on the ground to ISIL, is his belief that the President is “outsourcing” our security to regional ground troops when we should be doing it ourselves.
And yet, on June 10th of this year—just three days before McCain’s appearance with Andrea Mitchell—Senator Graham informed a Fox audience that, “I don’t think we need boots on the ground. I don’t think that is an option worth consideration.”
So, what has happened between the Boobsey Twins position in June and their conversion as set out this week?
Could it be the gruesome beheadings performed by the brutal and sadistic ISIL troops?
Not likely. While these actions may have mobilized and strengthened the American public’s desire to take military action against ISIL, these horrible events have absolutely no impact on the military strategy to be employed in the battle.
There is but one thing that has changed in the months that brought about the conversion of McCain and Graham—Barack Obama agreed with their strategy put forth by McCain and Graham.
Apparently, when The Boobsey Twins formulated their initial approach/attack, they failed to consider the possibility that Obama might just see it their way, take their advice, and make it clear that American ground troops were not to be a part of the plan.
While it would be disingenuous on my part to suggest that I am shocked and awed by yet another stark turnaround by McCain and Graham, one cannot help but wonder exactly what it takes for the public to realize that these two are playing us for suckers and have little concern for anything beyond their own standing and political influence—even if it is to the detriment of their country.
Shameful…really, really shameful.
By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, September 19, 2014
At The Atlantic, Molly Ball has penned a long profile of Arkansas Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, and it confirms pretty much all my negative instincts about the dude. Here’s her summary of the real meaning of his famously dazzling resume:
From the time he was a teenager, Cotton has been nurtured and groomed by conservative institutions—scholars, think tanks, media, and advocacy groups—to be the face of their political crusade. Pure, upright, and ideologically correct, he is their seemingly flawless mascot. (Conservatives would surely argue that a potent network consisting of regular academia and the mainstream media nurtures left-wing candidates.) And now he is finally on the cusp of achieving the platform consummate to his talents, a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Cotton’s special status as the not-so-secret superstar of the GOP’s future isn’t just attributable to the resume or to his intellectual or political talents (the latter, in fact, are suspect when it comes to actual voters). A lot of it is about the way in which he manages to be a True Believer in the most important tenets of all the crucial Republican factions. He’s adored by Neocons, the Republican Establishment, the Tea Folk, the Christian Right, and most of all by the Con-Con cognoscenti that draw from both these last two categories. He will immediately be a national leader if he’s elected to the Senate, perhaps succeeding Jim DeMint as the guy who is in charge of keeping the pressure on the party to move steadily right on every front. (One might think Ted Cruz performs that function, but he’s a bit too clearly self-serving).
Ball puts a lot of emphasis on what we can learn about Cotton from his college thesis, which she gained access to in an exclusive. I’d say it mostly confirms what we already know: the man believes America has drifted from an inflexibly perfect ideology down the road to serfdom and conquest via the willingness of politicians to follow rather than lead the greedy masses who look to government to compensate for their moral weaknesses.
[The thesis] is in keeping with the rigidly idealistic persona, and the starkly moralistic worldview, he has exhibited since he was an undergraduate. It is a harsh, unyielding, judgmental political philosophy, one that makes little allowance for compassion or human weakness.
It’s especially revealing that this Man of Principle is campaigning in Arkansas as a generic Republican, counting on the partisan leanings of the state and midterm turnout patterns to give him a Senate seat that a more candid presentation of his views might endanger, even in such a conservative state. I don’t know that it would matter to most Arkansans that they have the power to make or break Cotton’s career as a smarter version of Jim DeMint, but they do.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 18, 2014
Mark Sanford’s heralded engagement to Maria Belen Chapur is apparently over. The rep. from South Carolina released the news to America through a Facebook post. That’s how Chapur found out, too.
Gallantry has been in especially short supply this month. Prominent American men have been roughing up their women in spectacularly public ways — ranging from coldly calculated mind games to a knockout punch.
September opened with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s unsuccessful attempt to swat away felony charges by making his wife take the entire rap for rampant corruption. The governor’s lawyers smeared Maureen as “manipulative,” “unpredictable,” “deceptive” and, most famously, a “nut bag.”
For a taste of the media response, Google “Maureen McDonnell under the bus.”
McDonnell had long touted his traditional values, pasting pictures of his photogenic wife and children on every available surface. His master’s thesis was on family breakdown and contained the line, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”
Guess family values week is over.
To think, many Republicans had put McDonnell on their list of potential presidential candidates.
As for Sanford, an antiseptic breakup note marked the latest in a series of callous behaviors toward women and just plain weirdness. Recall that as South Carolina governor, Sanford sneaked off to Argentina to visit Chapur, a TV journalist there, for nearly a week. He told his staff that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and could not be reached. Recall that his disgusted wife threw him out of the house and initiated divorce.
To pretty up the adulterous activity for his socially conservative voters, Sanford framed the affair as an unstoppable joining of soulmates. He promised to put aright the perceived wrong by marrying Chapur. And he layered on top of that an inspirational journey of redemption, starring himself.
“I’ve experienced how none of us goes through life without mistakes,” he said in a campaign ad when running for Congress. “But in their wake, we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”
Two years went by, and Chapur eventually demanded an actual wedding date, which he wouldn’t make.
“I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she told an interviewer. “He made the engagement thing four months before the elections.”
The ex-wife is now trying to restrict Sanford’s visits with their 15-year-old son. She also wants the court to order the congressman to have psychological counseling and take anger management classes.
True to form, Sanford is now blaming his ex-wife’s custody fight for his inability to wed Chapur. Don’t blame the ex-wife, Chapur responded.
To think, many Republicans had put Sanford on their list of potential presidential candidates.
To be clear, narcissistic abuse of women is hardly a Republican monopoly. Consider the Democrats’ 2004 vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards — who declared devotion to his cancer-ridden wife on the campaign trail while fathering a child with a tawdry filmmaker.
Between the McDonnell and Sanford stories emerged the video of football star Ray Rice punching his girlfriend, now wife, cold in an elevator and then dragging her limp body out. The now-former Baltimore Ravens running back saw no need to blame the woman for provoking the attack. She did it for him.
Say this for the Rice assault: It was straightforward brutality. It happened in a moment and without burdening the public with baroque explanations. The victim knew exactly what had happened to her, once she came to.
But what are Rice’s prospects of getting a second chance? The practitioner of psychological cruelty tends to be slicker than the man with the fist. And the businessmen running the NFL are a tougher sell than the electorate.
Meanwhile, September isn’t over.
By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 18, 2014