Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, December 1st, 2009.


Dana Milbank Is an Ass

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Obama Administration

Today President Obama is scheduled to announce sending more troops to Afghanistan. I have withheld criticism of this until I hear what the plan is, exactly. But I have misgivings, to say the least, and I’m sure many of you do also.

So what does Dana Milbank focus on in his column today? He thinks we lefties are supposed to be upset because the speech will be delivered at West Point.

Wow, that’s so like … not an issue.

One of the common complaints of George W. Bush’s presidency was his tendency to politicize the military and turn troops into props. The man seemed to make more appearances before military audiences than Bob Hope did. But now Obama is antagonizing many in his party with an expected announcement that he is sending more troops to Afghanistan, and, to rub it in, he’s making the announcement at one of Bush’s favorite military locations: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — the very birthplace, seven years ago, of the Bush Doctrine.

I had massive issues with the Bush Doctrine. The fact that it was announced at West Point was not one of those issues. It seems appropriate to announce a military action at a military venue. If the policy involves troops, let troops be present at the unveiling.

What I hope President Obama will never do is dress himself in some kind of quasi-military uniform, whether a flight suit, a bomber jacket or an army windbreaker, as Bush did. That was utterly inappropriate. The two presidents who really were West Point graduates never wore anything military as President. The President is a civilian, and he represents civilian authority.

But the President also is Commander in Chief, and it is appropriate for him to visit military bases and address troops. If he never did that, it would be an issue, especially at a time when troops are in combat.

Milbank writes, “Obama’s flirtation with military imagery should be of concern to his allies on the left, who are already unhappy with the hawkish direction his Afghanistan policy has taken.” Addressing troops is not necessarily “use of military imagery.” It can be, under some circumstances (See: Bush in flight suit, U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, “Mission Accomplished”). But the mere fact of addressing troops is not “use of military imagery.”

Interestingly, the only person Milbank actually quotes as objecting to Obama’s speaking to troops is … Glenn Beck.

Two weeks ago, Fox News’s Glenn Beck played an image of Obama speaking in front of uniformed troops and complained: “I’m sick of it, especially when it comes to the soldiers. They are not props.”

No, but they are citizens, aren’t they? And Milbank, please stop assuming what we lefties “should” be concerned about.

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Onward Christian Convicts

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Obama Administration

Joe Conason adds some more background to Mike Huckabee’s pardon habits:

Huckabee has proudly declared on many occasions that he disdains the separation of church and state, insisting that his strict Baptist piety should serve as the bedrock of public policy. Nowhere in his record as governor was the influence of religious zeal felt more heavily than in the distribution of pardons and commutations, as his own explanations have indicated. During those years he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor during the previous four decades, many of them surely justified as a response to excessive penalties under the state’s draconian narcotics laws. But others were deeply controversial, especially because so many of his acts of mercy appeared to depend on interventions by fellow Baptist preachers and by inmate professions of renewed Christian faith.

Yet Mike Huckabee chose to execute Frankie Parker sooner, because Frankie Parker made the mistake of converting to the wrong religion.

I think it is important to call the public’s attention to Frankie Parker’s story. One might assume Gov. Huckabee was just gullible, or soft. But the way he handled Frankie Parker’s request for commutation reveals something much more sinister about the governor — that he had no compunction about exercising the worst kind of religious favoritism.

If Huckabee had simply not intervened in Parker’s sentence and allowed the execution to go ahead as scheduled, it wouldn’t have been so blatant. But Huckabee took the trouble to make the execution date six weeks sooner. And he did this even as Mother Teresa and many Buddhist monks and priests, including the Dalai Lama, wrote requesting that Parker’s sentence be commuted. I think that says something really ugly about Mike Huckabee.

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