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“Casting Himself As The Leader Of The GOP”: Donald Trump Wants You To Believe He’s The Commander-In-Chief In Waiting

After all the sturm und drang of the last few days of Donald Trump’s feud with Fox News—Trump again invoked the word “bimbo” about Megyn Kelly and exchanged insults with the network brass—the “special event” he organized as an alternative to Thursday night’s Republican debate turned out to be a surprisingly dull political rally dressed up as a celebration of patriotism and military service. But perhaps boredom was the point all along.

As Trump constantly reminds us, he leads in all of the polls. Another debate would have been risky, opening himself to attacks from his rivals—notably Ted Cruz, his closest challenger in Iowa. So the fight with Fox allowed the real estate magnate to duck the debate, draw more attention to himself, deprive the other candidates of needed media oxygen, and hold a safe event where he could bask in the valor of veterans. To be sure, Trump couldn’t resist a few of his old favorite jabs, like calling Jeb Bush “low energy.” But his event lacked the electric confrontation that has characterized the GOP debates. In contrast, the debate across town on Fox was more substantive and revealing about the candidates (and their flaws).

But the seventh Republican debate may have been pointless without Trump—that’s his gamble, anyway. Trump is casting himself as the leader of the GOP even before the first vote has been cast, and did so by assuming the role of commander-in-chief in waiting. Surrounded by vets in a room draped in American flags, and feted by rivals like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee (who hurried over after appearing in the undercard debate), Trump served as the master of ceremony of an evening celebrating the beneficence of himself and his rich friends, all of whom are allegedly donating money for veterans (although it appears the money will be funneled through Trump’s personal foundation).

Trump isn’t the only candidate to use patriotism and veterans for political gain recently—see Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz—but it’s striking how strong these themes have become. He presents himself as the champion of the vets, and he’s holding up their sacrifice and suffering as a model of American greatness, which he wants to restore. His chief claim to be president is that he’ll be tough: the sort of fighter these men deserve. Of course, this Trumpian narrative elides his deferments during the Vietnam War and mockery of John McCain’s suffering as a prisoner of war. But Trump is not one to let past behavior stand in the way of current claims.

Thursday night was the last major event before the Iowa caucus on Monday, when we’ll find out whether his strategy of playing it safe paid off. It’ll be up to the voters to decide whether Trump is really the frontrunner, or just the man who used polls to pretend he was the king of the world.


By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, January 29, 2016

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Commander In Chief, Donald Trump, Veterans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Governors As Mini-Presidents”: Being A Governor Is Not The Same As Being The Commander In Chief

In a Sunday Show appearance mainly given notice as indicating his apparent eagerness to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, Martin O’Malley did something that is sadly common but ought to be mocked out of existence: pretending that being a governor is not only an adequate but a complete preparation for the presidency. Get this (from JP Updates‘ Jacob Kornbluh):

O’Malley, who came as close as he can to announcing a 2016 presidential run, cited Maryland’s state sanctions on Iran’s economy under his tenure as one example of how he had already slowed Iran’s rush towards acquiring a nuclear bomb. Maryland had “passed some of the earliest and strongest sanctions against Iranian nuclear development of any state in the nation,” he asserted.

C’mon, give me a break. This is the foreign policy equivalent of the exceedingly annoying tendency of governors to take personal credit for national economic booms, like a child in a car seat pretending to drive his parent’s automobile. I say this as someone that worked for three governors and have had opportunities to closely watch many others–including O’Malley. I like and admire these people, as a group, far more than Members of Congress. But in trying to counter Washingtonian prejudice against politicians who aren’t performing in the Big Top, they sometimes go too far.

O’Malley isn’t remotely as egregious on this score as Scott Walker, who is rhetorically trying to reshape the world in the image of the view from his window in Madison. But he still ought to cut it out. He’s been a two-term big city mayor and a two-term governor. He’s qualified to run for president by any reasonable standard. But the idea that if elected he can smoothly move into the Oval Office and assume the responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief without some culture shock is simply not credible. That’s true of Very Senior U.S. Senators, for that matter. Truth is, there is only one putative candidate for president who is entirely acclimated to the foreign policy challenges of the presidency, and in my opinion, that should offset a lot of the carping we hear about her lack of specific “accomplishments.”

In any event, governors should stop trying to project themselves as mini-presidents. Being a governor is a big job, and an important job, and a job that tells you a lot about its occupant’s qualities. But it’s really not the same thing.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 30, 2015

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Commander In Chief, Governors, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The President Decides”: The Difference Between Military Commanders And The Commander In Chief

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

September 20, 2014 Posted by | Commander In Chief, Pentagon | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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