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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22 Comments

21 Comments

  1. joanr16  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:04 am

    Wow… this is just sad. Neither Milbank nor Beck (well, he’s a given) seem interested in the content of what either president had or has to say.

    And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like most of what Obama has to say. Poor guy is damned either way… cleaning up Bush’s mess.

  2. uncledad  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:26 am

    Milbank, (the whole of today’s media it seems) should stick to subjects he is capable of understanding like the Tiger Woods story.

  3. Swami  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:27 am

    And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like most of what Obama has to say.

    Ditto here! I’ll be listening to Obama with the same ears that I’d listen to an Encyclopedia Britannica salesman.

  4. Crazy About Urban Planning  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:33 am

    What a bizarre column. Why do the righties have to be so darn petty? Does anyone remember Sean Hannity calling out Obama for ordering Grey Poupon Mustard on his cheese burger? The guy can do no right. I hope we weren’t this bad to President Bush because it just gets under my skin and it is not constructive…

  5. Bill H  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:37 am

    Well, I do have a problem with it. It is a Bushian setting in that it is selected to assure an enthusiastic, cheering reception to his announcement that is sure to be poorly received by any audience other than military.

  6. Sam Simple  •  Dec 1, 2009 @11:44 am

    Conservatives have a very annoying habit of presuming to know what and how liberals think. They are almost always wrong. It gives them a straw man to flagellate, since their own arguments tend to be so poorly reasoned. Beck’s comment reflects the fatuous notion that only conservatives are patriotic. But the hard right-wing so often mistakes militarism with patriotism. They are NOT the same. The Founding Fathers certainly didn’t confuse the two.

  7. JAck Ace  •  Dec 1, 2009 @1:04 pm

    Milbank is a skull & boners flunky!

  8. Rick Massimo  •  Dec 1, 2009 @1:15 pm

    It almost goes without saying that Milbank does not give a single example of a Democrat, or anyone on the left, or anyone at all, who is specifically upset that Obama is making this announcement at West Point.

    I didn’t even know he was doing it at West Point. I also didn’t know that Bush first set out his kill-’em-all doctrine at West Point.

  9. joanr16  •  Dec 1, 2009 @2:01 pm

    It is a Bushian setting in that it is selected to assure an enthusiastic, cheering reception to his announcement that is sure to be poorly received by any audience other than military.

    Obama also has to go on TV tonight, and tomorrow face the criticism of people from all points on the political spectrum (as opposed to Bush, who was always praised from the Right). And unlike his predecessor, Obama may actually hear some of this criticism. So there’s a big difference, really.

  10. Bushwhacked  •  Dec 1, 2009 @2:18 pm

    Looking over a few things in Dubya’s ’02 West Point speech a few things occurred to me:

    “West Point graduates of the 1940′s saw the rise of a deadly new challenge, the challenge of imperial communism, and opposed it from Korea to Berlin to Vietnam and in the cold war from beginning to end. And as the sun set on their struggle many of those West Point officers lived to see a world transformed.”

    …substitute “Terrorism” for “Communism” and here we have the perfect way to perpetuate the cold war mentality. War without end amen.

    “Our war on terror is only begun. But in Afghanistan it was begun well.”

    ..and it was the perfect segue into Iraq which has the oil which is what makes the world go round.

    Was this speech the birth of the “Bush Doctrine?” Was it where Dubya’s handlers decided that it was now okay to shoot first and ask questions later? Justification because “We didn’t care for the way the guy on the other side of the bar room was looking at us.”

  11. Pat Pattillo  •  Dec 1, 2009 @2:20 pm

    This is so clearly a figment of his imagination that is crafted at some level to justify his pre-existing stereotypes. But isn’t this happening all over on all sorts of topics? They cry “it’s the Left!” when it is the majority and the center. So he only marginalizes himself with these myopic fantasies…gives us something to write and talk about.

  12. felicity  •  Dec 1, 2009 @3:18 pm

    Milbank, Spillbank, Mudbank…Like Plato said, “man is a two-legged animal without feathers” and I add he’s a two-legged animal without feathers and with predictable behaviors. When problems facing us are too big for us to solve, too big to digest and analyze, we turn our attention to the minor, the small, the easy. We buy houses with less thought than we buy toasters.

    So, it’s easy to write an entire article on the venue chosen for Obama’s speech but just try to construct and write about a solution to the debacle called the war in Afghanistan.

  13. Daphne Chyprious  •  Dec 1, 2009 @8:53 pm

    Milbank should return to Whoseecallit Theatre and continue his transmissions from there. It was less embarrassing than this column.

  14. uncledad  •  Dec 1, 2009 @9:32 pm

    “I hope we weren’t this bad to President Bush because it just gets under my skin and it is not constructive…”

    An interesting question, Answer: Bush got what was coming to him (hopefully he’ll get more-like some time in the clink), he sent 4,500 soldiers to their death in Iraq for no fucking reason. The criticism at the time was not meaningless and petty like the tripe these plastic bobbleheads spew about Obama. Unfortunately the useless crew of media types that deliver information to the masses will always seem unconstructive; they are being that way on purpose.

    Much of the criticism from the left I’ve heard about the pending escalation is in my opinion unwarranted (no point in even considering the crap from the right). Obama campaigned on the idea that the Afgan war was the one worth fighting. I’m not sure it is, infact you can pretty much guarantee that at least 2.5% or close to one thousand of the thirty five thousand getting shipped over are not coming back and another 10% or thirty five hundred are coming back all fucked up. In my opinion that is too high a price for what is likely to be an unsuccessful attempt at saving what will end up being an ungrateful nation. So I can disagree with the decision to send more troops but I have to confess that this war was part of what I and fifty three percent of us voted for.

    I’m onboard with the war tax that sounds like a good idea to me, paying the bill will end this thing quickly with bipartisan support!

  15. biggerbox  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:02 pm

    And here I thought the birthplace of the Bush Doctrine was Dick Cheney’s rear end. Really, West Point. Who knew?

    If one wanted to discuss the plan for American military effort and direction over the rest of Obama’s term, where better to do so than a place where the very people who will be involved in making that plan a reality are? Perhaps Milbank thinks we lefties would have preferred the speech to happen at a nursery school?

    He is truly, truly an ass.

  16. uncledad  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:21 pm

    Wow I missed the speech. Sen McConnell say’s we should pay for the war with the remaining stimulus money! Curious, not too political? Listening to the speech replay. Did he just say the word homeland? Were fucked.

  17. Doug Hughes  •  Dec 1, 2009 @10:50 pm

    As a vet, I can say there is NO place more appropriate for a speech on war policy than West Point. As a vet, I would suggest that most of the cadets are not so afraid of dying in war, as they are in dying needlessle, pointlessly, squandered by bad leadership. At least now there is a mission. After hearing the speech, I am unconvinced BUT I liken the situttion to football. What makes a play that’s called by the coach a great play – is the execution on the field. If it works, it’s genius. If the QB gets sacked, it was a stupid call.

    The play has been called. Obama has the authority, constitutionally as CinC. I have reservations about the call. I had reservations about the surge in Iraq and I was wrong. I won’t participate in discussions about why the plan won’t work or why I won’t support it. I will offer ideas about what needs to be IN the plan for it to work or why a firm timetable is a good idea.

    There’s plenty of smart folks out there whose ideas I greatly respect. If I could hope for a format of responses from critics it would be ” I disagree but if this can work at all it needs…” Because anyone can boo from the stands.

  18. erinyes  •  Dec 2, 2009 @6:07 am

    http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/25263

    Obama gave birth to a monster last night.
    God Bless America!

  19. joanr16  •  Dec 2, 2009 @9:54 am

    Re: style, I think it was appropriate that we saw the faces of the WP cadets as Obama delivered his address. Recall that Bush never let the cameras get close enough that we could look into the eyes of the young people he was sending to kill and die for “us” (i.e., Halliburton and Big Oil).

    Re: substance, that’s where I ended up yelling at the teevee. The Iraq surge was successful?! Really, young’un? Come on now, the Iraq surge was pure flashbang, providing cover so our troops could slip away quietly. The only way anyone can count the surge successful is if they discount the hundreds of Iraqi deaths still occurring monthly and weekly, from sectarian and political violence (which didn’t exist before we invaded). We made that mess, and we’ve walked away from it because there’s no way we can fix it.

    Which is what I know in my heart will happen in Afghanistan, after another phony “surge.”

    Heavy, heavy sigh.

  20. Swami  •  Dec 2, 2009 @10:55 am

    The only way anyone can count the surge successful is if they discount the hundreds of Iraqi deaths still occurring monthly and weekly, from sectarian and political violence

    Mustn’t forget the 400,000 monthly unemployment checks/love offerings we’re giving to our Sunni brethren. Money talks nobody squawks ( until the payments run out).

  21. Sam Simple  •  Dec 2, 2009 @12:35 pm

    Obama’s speech last night makes me very discouraged about any hope for a sane American foreign policy and for reining in an out-of-control military-industrial complex. The American people are being hornswaggled into believing that al-Qaeda is an army or something and that sending in the military is the only solution. Let’s get one thing straight – al-Qaeda is NOT an army. They don’t own one single tank or howitzer, they do not wear uniforms and rarely gather in groups of more than 10 or 20. I liken al-Qaeda more to the Mafia. They are an organized crime syndicate. We don’t use the U.S. military to bomb places where we think the Mafia may gather or lurk. We don’t shoot Hellfire missiles into neighborhoods where Mafia members might live. Why do we do this for al-Qaeda? The best ways to root out Al-Qaeda is the same way we root out the Mafia – infiltrate the organization. Raid their lairs with small, highly skilled teams of commandos. Use electronic surveillance to precisely target their leaders. Obama and Bush’s approach is like using a wrecking ball to kill a pesky mosquito.

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