GETTING OFF THE TRAIN

In these past months, since August, as ISIS and politics and Russia and an election crashed on our shores one after the other, America chose – via its media – to concentrate on the story of Michael Brown’s death.

Without in any way making light of the issues surrounding Brown’s killing, the media and the administration managed once more to deflect our attention from what actually mattered to what, in the long run, IS the long run, a problem that cannot be solved overnight and may take another two hundred years to ratchet down, sand, and paint beautifully: race relations.

While we hesitate to declare this just another nervous administration’s attempt at bread and circuses to keep us entertained and off-balance, certainly to keep us from considering the real, large, life-threatening problems that surround the country daily, underneath the drumbeat of publicity and interviews and injustice habitually done to minority groups by their police, a real crisis was overshadowed, outshouted, dispatched with an ease that was both nearly indecent and certainly insulting.

We lost our third Secretary of Defense in six years.

Having read and reviewed for Amazon the memoirs of Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, and astonished as we were by Mr. Hagel’s resignation, we had been given more than enough evidence to understand that this was more likely to be the butt end of his career than its glorious conclusion.

What we had read indicated that the White House had never placed its full trust in any of the past three Defense secretaries. Nor was it likely to. The men and women surrounding the president, almost all without military experience of any kind, were smugly determined that they knew the best paths to peace and progress abroad. Not for them a new idea or vision that would disturb what they had so far created which, in a word, was nothing.

No one, in or outside the White House, has been able for six years to focus and explain exactly what our foreign policy is. Not the president, no Congressional leader, and certainly no one below the rank of president has been allowed to speak clearly and directly to us of what to expect, its costs in materiel and manpower, forget about dollars and cents. Even the ever-ebullient Joe Biden has had his chain pulled tight.

Secretary Gates’ memoirs were direct and heart-felt. We could agonize with him over intramural battles within the Defense Department and at the White House. And his empathy, sorrow, and dismay at having to send US armed forces to their deaths was real and moving.

Secretary Panetta’s memoirs were lighter, far more pragmatic, and only slightly less engaged. If he had trouble with the White House inner circle, he shrugged and came back at the problems another way. Until it was clear there was no other way.

We doubt we will have a memoir from Secretary Hagel. (A) He’d been had. (B) His realism would be in direct conflict with the president’s pie-in-the-sky diplomacy. (C) He’s not vindictive. And (D) most importantly, he knows a warrior doesn’t cry. His teeth may have been worn down from clenching, but his jaw line is as straight as ever.

This may be too bad. Hagel has a reputation for saying it as he sees it. This is one major reason he was dismissed. To read or listen to his views on the ins and outs of White House cliquedom and their impact on the military progress made or not made in Iran, in Syria, in Afghanistan – not to mention the purported slewing of US interests towards the Pacific Rim — would be dynamic, and for once put to rest the idea that the President has surrounded himself with competent advisors.

We think this is where the train stopped. For us, at least. The fiction that Mr. Obama has collected men and women of good will and high experience should once and for all be exploded. What he HAS done is surround himself with like-minded theoreticians with whom he not only agrees, but whom he purposely promotes. The real powers in that circle are today still unidentified, not subject to congressional grilling, and what they deal with is hidden under the rubric of national security. Which is to say, no one knows and no one is GOING to know why or how or when.

This is not government by the people for the people. It is instead government hidden from the people by the very men and women sworn to uphold transparency and honesty in government. These people are appointed, not elected, or even run past the various Senate committees. (Regardless of their individual worth, none of them would probably have been approved by Congress, anyway.)

Obama’s talent is in making speeches, than whom no one is better. He can make noises that elevate and enchant and energize. What he cannot do is govern.

As the saying goes, that tears it. We’re out of here.

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2 thoughts on “GETTING OFF THE TRAIN

  1. Much like President Obama, we all have strong underlying prohibitions and goals which guide and direct us. Without them, we could never accomplish anything. Most leaders, however, have their prohibitions and goals tempered with reality on the climb to power.

    Unfortunately for the President, his climb was too rapid to allow for tempering. Sadly, his climb was also too swift to allow for an appreciation of politics as a contact sport, which, for better or worse, is the way we temper our Presidents. Is it any wonder he now demands that reality, not to mention alternative approached to solving complex problems, not interfere with his underlying preconceptions?

    I want so badly for President Obama and all our Presidents to be successful leaders. I fear, though, that his ship, as well as President George W. Bush’s, sailed unprepared. This marvelous nation has survived worse but is ready for better.

    Your column was masterful. Many thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thanks, Mike. This IS all too sad. But, as one friend asked, where does one go now? I guess all we can do is hope and wait, and hope especially that the troubles by which we’re surrounded don’t get worse.
      JN

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