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“Et Tu, Leon?”: Continuing The Tradition Of Those Who Feel Ungrateful Besmirching Of A Presidency Is A Mere Patriotic Duty

So let’s say you’re a former congressman, CIA director and Secretary of Defense. You (and probably a ghost or two) have been noodling with a memoir for a long time. You’re finally out of office and want to make some dough and remind people you’re still a big deal. You know that in the heat of a midterm election that’s supposed to be a “referendum” on your former boss, and with much of the world focused on U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East, you can get a lot of attention and sell a lot of books by biting the hand that fed you and criticizing the president. Do you hold back for a while until said president is out of office, as Vice President Joe Biden suggested everyone should do? Or do you cash right in?

Well, we know Leon Panetta decided to cash right in. He didn’t go far out of his way to advertise his book as a devastating expose of a weak and America-endangering president, but he’s doing interviews that lend themselves to the impression that he thinks Obama erred grieveously by failing to leave combat troops in Iraq and fight for higher defense spending. And thus, as WaPo’s Dana Milbank points out in a column that excoriates Panetta for “stunning disloyalty” to Obama, his book was seized upon immediately by Republicans–notably Bobby Jindal, who was doing a big Let’s Give the Pentagon A Lot More Money speech the day before the book came out–as evidence of their national security case against the 44th president.

Now as Milbank admits, Panetta (like Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton before him) probably thinks of his service to the current administration as just the capstone of a career that was in full flower when Barack Obama was still in middle school. As it happens, Panetta is treated like a living deity out here on the Central Coast, which he used to represent in Congress. But his current work revolves around the Leon Panetta Institute for Public Policy, which mainly hosts lectures and seminars featuring big-name has-been Beltway Movers and Shakers who engage in Bipartisan Discussions of the Issues of the Day. I suppose a little extra street cred from Republicans owing to book tour interviews that sadly dismiss Barack Obama as out of his league doesn’t hurt this post-political legacy-building.

I doubt I’ll actually read Panetta’s book, but those who do can perhaps check my impression that Leon went deeply native at the Pentagon and continued the deplorable tradition of Secretaries of Defense who just can’t stop rattling the cup for more money for the ravening beast. If so, I suppose his current carping is in the bipartisan tradition of those who feel ungrateful besmirching of a presidency is a mere patriotic duty to ensure no occupant of that office forgets his extraconstitutional duty to the Empire.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, The Maddow Blog, October 7, 2014

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Defense Budget, Dept of Defense, Leon Panetta | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Foolish And Bellicose”: The Failure Of The Anti-Hagel Campaign

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense was really never much in doubt, despite the clamorous complaints of a few vocal conservatives. Still, Hagel’s likely confirmation has gained additional support in recent weeks that make his success all but certain. Despite the concerted efforts of a few outside Republican interest groups and a steady stream of hostile coverage from conservative media outlets, Hagel has received the public support of numerous former national security officials, diplomats, and retired military officers, as well as securing endorsements from several senators even before his hearing began today. Excluding members of the Bush administration, Hagel’s nomination has been endorsed by every living former secretary of defense and secretary of state. Faced with an unprecedented campaign of character assassination and misrepresentation in the media, Hagel has become a rallying point for Americans across the political spectrum interested in greater prudence and restraint in the way the U.S. acts overseas.

While it shouldn’t make a difference to the final outcome, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s threat to put a hold on Hagel’s nomination until outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta testifies on the Benghazi attack is a reminder that issues that are mostly irrelevant to Hagel’s competence to run the Defense Department have dominated the debate over this appointment. Hawkish Republicans have argued that then-Sen. Hagel’s relatively mild dissent on issues related to Israel and Iran disqualify him for the job. However, most of these have no bearing on the responsibilities Hagel will have at the Pentagon, and those that do should increase the public’s confidence in Hagel rather than undermine it. This has underscored the overwhelmingly ideological nature of the campaign against him, which has had more to do with policing what current and future politicians can say on foreign policy than it does with selecting the right people to serve in the Cabinet.

So it appears that the anti-Hagel campaign has failed. The Democratic defections that conservatives coveted never materialized, and this week, the first Republican, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, announced his support for the nomination. The anti-Hagel campaign has mainly managed to waste its donors’ money, and it has made the politicians that have sided with it appear foolish and bellicose, and all for the sake of “taking a stand” against a nominee who, lest we forget, is a Republican.

Still, at least 15 Senate Republicans have declared their opposition to Hagel or are reported to be leaning in that direction, which reflects just how committed a large number of the party’s leaders still are to a hard-line foreign policy vision that has brought the GOP and the country nothing but woe for the last decade. The failure of the anti-Hagel effort could be a final straw that breaks the hold that the worst hard-liners have had on the party, but so far, there is not much evidence of that. In the meantime, the message that most people will receive is that leading Republicans have learned nothing from their past failures and seek retribution against those in their party that have.

After all, Hagel was one of the few national Republican figures who saw the potential pitfalls in Iraq before the invasion, and later came to recognize the full extent of the folly of the U.S. war there. Most of his Republican colleagues in Washington have still not fully reckoned with the disastrous decision to invade in 2003, and to make matters worse, they insist on holding Hagel’s skepticism about the wisdom of attacking Iran against him. Each charge they make against Hagel for being too “soft” on Iran bounces back on them and marks them as the reflexively, dangerously aggressive people that they are.

The good news for the country is that a competent and qualified nominee for the Defense post will almost certainly be approved by the Senate in the near future. Unfortunately, a large number of Hagel’s fellow Republicans have done their best to use this confirmation process to inflict even more damage on their party’s battered reputation on foreign policy and national security. Hagel’s nomination should have been a chance for Republicans to start repairing the party’s image in the eyes of the public. They are well on their way to squandering it.


ByDaniel Larison, The Week, January 31, 2013

February 3, 2013 Posted by | Dept of Defense, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“End Of A Traditional Marriage?”: Republicans And The Military No Longer BFF’s

Republicans are adept, as we know, at taking a piece of existing conventional wisdom, finding one (usually totally irrelevant) fact that seems to reinforce it, and spreading that talking point far and wide. Take defense. The piece of c.w. is that Republicans are pro-military and Democrats anti. Then they find a technically true but meaningless fact, like the assertion often made by Romney and Gingrich on the campaign trail that our Navy is at its smallest size since 18-something and of course this is all Obama’s fault because, naturally, he hates the Navy. The part they leave out, of course, is that the reduced fleet size and slower “build rate” are part of  the Navy’s own strategic plan.

Which brings us to the Law of the Sea Treaty, currently being held up in the Senate by a few Republicans. The United States is not yet party to this convention, but groundwork to join had been laid by leaders from both parties over a number of years. George W. Bush supported joining. Far richer than that, though, is the fact that the then governor of Alaska in 2007 said: “I want to put my administration on record in support of the convention as the predicate for asserting sovereign rights that will be of benefit to Alaska and the nation.” But that before she flowered, shall we say, into the creature she is today.

Now, of course, because Obama supports joining, the treaty is an assault on American sovereignty. Heather Hurlburt, a leading expert on military matters, writes that joining the convention “is supported by all the current Pentagon brass, six former Secretaries of Defense and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, five former commandants of the Coast Guard, eight former Chiefs of Naval Operations.” I guess they’re all communists or at least Trilateralists.

The Hurlburt article I link to above is well-worth reading as she lays out five areas in which today’s conservatism is actively thwarting Pentagon planning and goals, from the aforementioned treaty to the jailing of terror suspects to the question of war with Iran and other matters. One of those is alternative energy, on which the story gets even weirder.

The Pentagon is the biggest user of fossil fuels in the world. Hurlburt refers to one estimate that every gallon of gas used in Afghanistan needs seven gallons to get it there. Reasonably, the Pentagon would like to reduce its bill. It has a green initiative. Uh-oh! Green? You know that’s trouble!

Here, read David Roberts of Grist, who explains how Republicans in Congress are trying to pass laws that would prevent the Pentagon from using less-expensive fuels, but force it to use more expensive fuels (coal-to-liquid technology). He concludes:

So, let’s pause and review. The Republican position on military fuel choices is as follows: Congressional restrictions are an “unacceptable precedent” when they prohibit dirtier fuels, but necessary when they prohibit cleaner fuels. Also, it is unacceptable for the military to pay more for cleaner fuels, but necessary for it to pay more for dirtier fuel.

Part of this is their debt to Big Dirty Energy, but most of it is just ideology. It’s just a party gone mad with opposition and hatred. Which isn’t exactly news, but bears repeating and repeating in all its guises and forms.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 24, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Dept of Defense | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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