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“Frightening Crackpot Ideas”: How Not To Respond To The Secret Service’s Challenges

The recent revelations surrounding the Secret Service have been as stunning as they are frightening. As much as Americans like to think of the Secret Service as the elite professionals when it comes to protecting the nation’s leaders, a series of controversies have taken a toll on the agency’s reputation.

With that in mind, the Washington Post ran an opinion piece yesterday on recent developments from Dan Emmett, whose c.v. seems quite impressive: he’s served in the Secret Service Presidential Protective Division, the CIA National Clandestine Service, and the Marines.

But Emmett’s prescription for what ails the Secret Service was unexpected: “While Congress has not declared war on ISIS and al-Qaeda, U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq – as well as the threats of radical Islamist groups against Americans and our country – make it clear we are indeed at war. In wartime, we must call on our military forces to assist the Secret Service in protecting the president and White House against attack.” He added that “combat troops” could have prevented the recent fence-jumper from entering the White House itself.

But even more striking, Emmett wants to see Julia Pierson, the current Secret Service director, ousted and has someone specific in mind to replace her.

Pierson should be replaced and the next director should come from outside the Secret Service, with the deputy director remaining an agent. In this role, a true leader, not a bureaucrat, is needed. Someone like Florida congressman and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West would be perfect for the role. West has successfully demonstrated that he possesses the leadership skills of a combat officer as well as managerial and diplomatic skills of a congressman, exactly the traits needed in the next director. Highly competent and beholden to no one in the Secret Service, he would be a superb director.

There was no indication that this was intended as humor. Indeed, a Fox News host quickly endorsed the idea this morning.

I’m not sure why the Washington Post published this, presumably on purpose, but it’s an unusually horrible idea.

To be sure, there’s literally no chance that White House officials would consider West for any official role in any part of the executive branch. Given his rhetoric, I’m not even sure he’d be welcome as a tourist.

That said, let’s not forget that Allen West, a former one-term congressman, can generously be described as one of the nation’s more frightening crackpots. It’d take a while to pull together a Greatest Hits collection of the Republican’s most unhinged moments, because there are just too many to choose from – including his instence last week that the U.S. military start disobeying wartime orders from the Commander in Chief, whom he considers an “Islamist” determined to help Islamic State terrorists create a Middle Eastern caliphate.

Anyone who looks at this guy and thinks of the phrases “diplomatic skills” and “highly competent,” might be confusing him with someone else with the name Allen West.

As for the notion that the military should be in charge of protecting the president and the White House, I imagine there are security experts who can speak to this with far more authority than I can, but from a layperson’s perspective, it seems like an awkward combination of skill sets. The military is exceptionally good at defeating an enemy on a battlefield, but soldiers are not trained to protect civilians on American soil.

Emmett’s piece added that during World War II, “Combat forces were brought in to protect the White House and other government buildings from German and Japanese attack. Troops armed with M1 Garand rifles and Thompson submachine guns were posted at the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and the White House. Anti-aircraft emplacements were set up around the White House as well.”

I can appreciate why ISIS militants might seem scary, but there’s no reason to draw a parallel between counter-terrorism missions and WWII.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 1, 2014

October 2, 2014 Posted by | Secret Service, U. S. Military | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Round Of Conservative Complaints”: Even A Response To Ebola Can Apparently Be Politicized

President Obama traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta this week to unveil an ambitious U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, including money, materials, and military and health personnel.

It’s one of the most aggressive responses in U.S. history to a disease outbreak. Michele Richinick reported that “as many as 3,000 military personnel will assist in training new health care workers and building treatment clinics in the countries affected by the disease,” and some of our financial resources will be used to “construct 17 new treatment centers, each with 100 beds, and 10,000 sets of protective equipment and supplies to help 400,000 families protect themselves from the epidemic that is spreading exponentially.”

A day later, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, announced plans to establish “a new on-the-ground mission in West Africa to coordinate the struggle against Ebola,” while the World Bank Group issued a report warning of a “potentially catastrophic blow” to the economies of countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Given all of this, it seems like an odd time for conservative media to start a new round of complaints.

Right-wing media are using President Obama’s plan to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as another opportunity to attack him. Conservatives are calling the president a “hypocrite” because he’s sending “more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS”; labeling the plan “arrogant” because of problems with HealthCare.gov; and accusing him of trying to “change the subject” by “fighting a really bad flu bug.”

It was former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) who equated the Ebola virus with a “really bad flu bug.”

Rush Limbaugh added, “We are sending more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS or other Muslim terrorists…. I didn’t know you could shoot a virus. Did you?”

For what it’s worth, there’s a credible argument to explain why a military component should be part of the response to an outbreak like this. Julia Belluz had an interesting piece on this yesterday, noting the larger debate.

Obama has repeatedly referred to the threat of Ebola in security terms, arguing the virus could cripple the already fragile economies in the African region. He’s made the case that this will have consequences for not only the security of countries there, but also for nations around the world – even if the virus doesn’t spread beyond Africa.

For examples of this war-like mentality, look no further than the president’s address, delivered Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta: “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us. So this is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security – it’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic. That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.”

It’s a fairly easy argument to make. There are critics of the “securitization” of these public-health crises, but in countries facing “potentially catastrophic” economic and destabilizing conditions, it’s not hard to imagine unrest and possible violence.

The point is not to “shoot a virus”; it’s to create conditions in which people who contract the virus can receive care.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 18, 2014

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservative Media, Public Health, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’ll Be Waiting A Long Time”: The Illusory Conservative Campaign For The “Right” Minority Voters

I’ve been pretty harsh about the racial aspects of Team Chris McDaniel’s argument that the MS GOP SEN runoff was “stolen” from him. But let’s bend over backwards to be fair and adopt Dave Weigel’s interpretation of what hyper-conservatives mean when they complain about the “wrong kind” of appeals to African-Americans:

The Tea Party, a movement that helped elect Allen West to Congress and helped make Herman Cain—Herman Cain!—a presidential contender, and wants to elect Mia Love to Congress in Utah, believes that conservatives can win black votes while remaining conservative. When West talks about escaping “the liberal plantation,” that’s what he means. The “racist” party is the one that wins black votes by promising largesse, and the colorblind party aims to win them by talking free markets and social values.

Taking this seriously, of course, means ignoring the thousands of dog whistles blown during the endless Tea Party efforts to demonize “looters” and “food stamps” and “voter fraud”–and of course, the first African-American president. There’s no binary choice on the table either to offer minority voters “largesse” or to attack their integrity, work ethic, and even patriotism for participating in federal programs when they qualify for them. The whole “plantation” meme beloved particularly of African-American conservatives is an ongoing insult bordering on a blood libel, which is why you don’t find many African-Americans supporting Allen West or Herman Cain.

But intentions aside, if conservatives are waiting for the “right” kind of Republican appeal to attract the “right” kind of minority voters, they’ll be waiting a long time. The simple fact is that the already-meager Republican share of the minority vote has been steadily sliding since the GOP began its latest lurch to the Right. George W. Bush won 11% of the African-American vote and 44% of the Latino vote in 2004. In 2008 John McCain won 4% of the African-American vote and 31% of the Latino vote, and in 2012 Mitt Romney won 6% of the African-American vote and 27% of the Latino vote. That’s a pretty calamitous decline, and any conservative unwilling to admit that endless GOP attacks on “redistribution” and “illegal immigrants” and “welfare” has nothing to do with that is either dishonest or smoking crack.

Check out the language in this tweet over the weekend from McDaniel campaign manager (and state legislator) Melanie Sojourner, made in the course of saying she’d never endorse the “race-baiting” Thad Cochran:

Throughout my campaign and since I’ve repeatedly made comments about how I felt the Republican Party was doing itself a disservice by not reaching out to conservative African-Americans. Where I’m from, in rural Mississippi, I grew up knowing lots a [sic] God-fearing, hard-working, independent conservative minded African-American family’s [sic]. On the McDaniel campaign we had two young men from just such family’s on our staff.

Sojourner’s idea of “outreach” seems to be to wait for minority voters to develop sufficient character to vote for the GOP exactly as it finds it today. That presumably means accepting conservatives have been right all along–dating back to Jim Crow–about the evil nature of the Welfare State and a federal government large and strong enough to support civil rights laws.

Do people like this really believe in their heart of hearts they’re being “color-blind?” I cannot peer into their souls, but it’s no more or less plausible than the constant complaints from southern white conservatives I heard growing up that segregation was good for both races. Lord knows anything’s better for African-Americans than being consigned to the plantation of dependence on Washington for help in feeding one’s kids and gaining access to health care and keeping open threadbare public schools and securing the right to vote. Perhaps if the GOP becomes even more conservative the great minority voting breakthrough will finally occur.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 8, 2014

July 9, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Minority Voters, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet The GOP’s New Black Friend”: What Exactly Does Mia Love Represent For The Republican Party?

When Allen West was defeated in the 2012 election and Tim Scott was appointed to serve out the term of retiring South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, that left Republicans back where they had usually been in the past, with not a single black Republican in the House of Representatives. This is something they aren’t particularly pleased about, which is why in the coming year you’re going to be hearing a lot about Mia Love, a candidate from Utah’s 4th district. Barring some shocking scandal, come November she’ll be bringing that number from zero up to one, and she’s going to become a right-wing celebrity. Mia Love is the Republicans’ New Black Friend.

You may remember Love from the 2012 Republican convention, where she gave a not-particularly-memorable speech. She couldn’t beat Jim Matheson, the conservative Democrat who represented the district, despite the fact that Mitt Romney won there by a 37-point margin. But now Matheson has just announced that he’s retiring, which makes Love’s election in what was supposed to be a rematch all but certain. So get ready: Mia Love is going to be the most famous Republican House candidate in the country. She’ll be on Fox News more often than Sean Hannity. She’ll be touted by all the conservative radio hosts. I’m betting they’ll put her on the cover of National Review. Because that’ll show those liberals.

I guess the question conservatives might ask is, “What’s wrong with that?” Lots of politicians are elevated by their party because of something that their personal story is supposed to represent. But the question is, what exactly does Mia Love represent for the Republican party? It’s not like she’s the first of a coming wave of black Republican leaders, and certainly not female black Republican leaders. That isn’t going to happen. It’s not like she is a harbinger of a change in the Republican approach toward African-Americans and other minority groups. Maybe she’ll turn out to be some spectacular talent who will rise to untold heights, but she hasn’t yet shown that she’s that, either.

Conservatives might also say, “Didn’t liberals love Barack Obama because he was black?” It’s true that Obama’s race was part of his appeal to the left. The difference is, first, that it was only part of it, while you could probably ask a hundred Republicans what they know about Mia Love and 99 of them would only be able to tell you one thing. But more importantly, in 2008 the elevation of an African-American presidential candidate was a genuine reflection of liberal values and history. Liberals are the ones who have always advocated for civil rights and continue to do so. Their party is the multicultural, multi-ethnic, multiracial one. They did want Obama’s nomination to say something about themselves, but it was something true. What do conservatives want Love’s election to say about them?

I suppose it’s possible that blacks (and members of other minority groups, too) will see all the attention Love will get and say, “Hmm, maybe those Republicans are changing.” Or they might think just the opposite, that they’re trying way too hard with her, and its a kind of tokenism that only reinforces their basic problem. That being said, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the GOP making Mia Love a star. There are black female conservatives out there—not many, but some. It’s only questionable if they try to use her election as evidence for an assertion that is otherwise without support, like “We’re not just the party of white people.” When nearly nine in ten of your voters are white, you are. Even if you elect one black Republican from Utah.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 20, 2013

December 21, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No, Chris Lane Is Not Trayvon Martin”: Right Wing Media Prefers To Hide Behind A Veil Of Intentional Ignorance

The white conservative media believes it has its own Trayvon Martin in the case of Chris Lane, an Australian baseball player who was killed in Oklahoma, where he had been studying, by three black teenagers in an apparently random act of violence (note: there’s actually some question as to the race of one of the three teens, the driver, who faces lesser charges).

Rush Limbaugh called it “Trayvon Martin in reverse, only worse.” The Drudge Report, where black-on-white crime always gets top billing, has been prominently featuring news about the case for several days. Former Tea Party congressman Allen West weighed in, tweeting, “3 black teens shoot white jogger. Who will POTUS identify w/this time?”

Jesse Jackson tried to extend an olive branch, tweeting that he was “Praying for the family of Chris Lane.” But armed with that, Fox News is now demanding that President Obama weigh in, just as he did for Martin’s case. “I thought it was at least good of Jesse Jackson to step up,” Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade said today. “I haven’t heard anything from Al Sharpton [or the White House],” he added. His colleagues agreed.

(For what it’s worth, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday that he wasn’t familiar with the case.)

As the right sees it, the president’s silence confirms the narrative shared by everyone from Glenn Beck to Allen West to Maine Gov. Paul LePage to Sean Hannity — that Obama is racist against white people, and that the media is, too, or at least duped into doing the bidding of allegedly racist black leaders like Sharpton, or something.

It’s incredible that in 2013 we’re really arguing about this, but from Henry Louis Gates to Travyon Martin — when the conservative media made George Zimmerman the Real Victim of the supposed anti-white lynch mob — we should expect nothing else. And it’s equally striking, yet also not particularly surprising, that Fox and Limbaugh and the rest really don’t seem to comprehend why the Trayvon Martin case became a thing.

It’s not that difficult to understand so we’ll spell it out: It was not only that a light-skinned Zimmerman killed an unarmed black teenager — but also that police didn’t do anything about it. The killing was horribly tragic, as is Lane’s senseless murder, but if Zimmerman had actually been arrested for the shooting, the sad reality is that far fewer Americans would know his name. But that’s not what happened. Instead, police let Zimmerman go under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. It smacked of institutional, state-sponsored racial favoritism of the worst kind. It was only after public outcry that state prosecutors took over the case and pressed charges. Some could argue that Zimmerman didn’t need to be convicted for justice to be done, but he did need to stand trial.

Likewise with Henry Louis Gates, the famed black professor who was arrested while he was trying to get into his own home in Cambridge, Mass., after he misplaced his keys. That’s not how police are supposed to operate, and that’s why Obama weighed in.

Lane’s murder is an entirely different matter. It’s disgusting, but the police did their job. They arrested three suspects, and vowed to try to throw the book at them. That’s how it’s supposed to go. Murder is sadly quotidian in a gun-soaked America, and this is, sadly, another, if particularly senseless, one.

If you want to actually understand race relations in this country, you need to understand the difference between these cases. But the right prefers to live behind a veil of intentional ignorance where the only kind of racism that exists today is black people disliking white people.

Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, August 22, 2013

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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