Monday, October 20, 2014


In watching television news, I find myself experiencing more and more frequently a moment of stunned silence.

Just now, while getting ready to pick up my son at school, I turned on CNN and watched a senior correspondent report that government officials had been saying that the besieged Syrian city of Kobani was of no importance. It was, she quoted them as saying, "just a spot on the map." But now all that has changed, she went on to say, "because ISIS wants it, and we don't want them to have it."


(The ellipsis represents my moment of stunned silence.)

It is the fact that the enemy wants a city or town or bridge or anything that makes it important! Gettysburg was just a spot on the map, until the enemy wanted it. Passchendaele was just a spot on the map until the enemy wanted it. El Alamein was just a spot on the map until the enemy wanted it. It is not the place, but the enemy's intention to occupy that place that makes it a military objective.

Yet the senior CNN reporter dutifully recounted the inane proposition that Kobani, which has been under attack for weeks, is only now of military importance "because the enemy wants it."

Does anybody know anything anymore? Will public officials and media personalities say anything, no matter how stupid and pointless and misleading, as long as someone in authority has said it to them first? Where has this vapidity come from?

Recently, the head of the Centers for Disease control, a respected physician, was asked by a Congressional panel whether it was possible to contract Ebola from someone sitting next to you on a bus. He replied, No, you can't get Ebola from someone on a bus. He then went on to add that, if you are sick with Ebola, you should not get on a bus, because you could give it to someone else.


You can't get Ebola from someone on a bus, but you can give Ebola to someone on a bus?! And the media dutifully reported this. Not dismissed it, not laughed at it, but passed it on to the public. It makes you want to scream.

We didn't used to be this way. As I recall, public officials and news people used to say things that actually contained some truth, or at least some common sense. Or perhaps I'm just mis-remembering or being romantically nostalgic. But wasn't making patently false and contradictory statements what got Richard Nixon fired? Wasn't that what Watergate was all about: the fact that our leaders could not just look us in the eye and lie or say something transparently stupid, and get away with it? When did that change?

As always, I think, it comes from the top. President Obama has lied about so many things so many times and gotten away with it so often, that everyone who works for him or reports on him simply falls into line. Another lie? Go on, they'll buy it. Another contradictory declaration? Why not? They're not smart enough to know the difference.

The president's most recent statement on Ebola made it clear to me at least that he has no idea what he is talking about, and, to my relief, at least one national news commentator had the courage to say so publicly. While insisting that he would not impose a travel ban on people from the affected countries, Obama repeated the inane assertion that doing so would just make things worse. For whom? For us?! Keeping a deadly disease for which there is no vaccine out of the US will help protect us, not threaten us! A six year old could tell you that. We do not allow health care workers who have had contact with an Ebola patient to get on an airplane and travel anywhere. Why should we allow foreign nationals from the affected countries to get on airplanes and come here?

But Obama mouthed what is now the party line (a line written for him, no doubt, by some aide) that a travel ban would make it harder to get medical personnel and supplies into West Africa. Let me put this in capital letters so no one can misunderstand: NOBODY IS SAYING BAN MEDICAL AID FLIGHTS! That would be foolish, and would make things worse. Simply stop issuing visas for the US to people living in the affected countries. That way, no matter what country they travel to on the way, they would not be able to get from there to here. Is that clear enough, Mr. President?

It is insane, even criminal, for the State Department to continue to issue visas to people from countries which are experiencing an Ebola epidemic. But John Kerry, bumbler that he has proved to be as Secretary, is no doubt merely following the line spouted by Obama, who, himself, has doubtless not even examined the stupidity of it, just as he did not read his intelligence summaries on ISIS.

And what of the 3600 US service members who are being sent to West Africa? They have been given four hours of training in infectious disease (which is four more than the new Ebola Czar has), and yesterday, a government official hinted that they might come into contact with infected people, contradicting previous assertions. What happens when they come back? They will be quarantined for twenty-one days, yet the World Health Organization says that the incubation period may in fact be sixty-one days. So we may have dozens, perhaps hundreds of at-risk people being released into the population with forty days of incubation period left. And from the president on this critical question? Nothing. Because he does not know; because he cannot lead; because he is clueless.

Meanwhile, America is, apparently, just a spot on the map, which the enemy - either or ISIS or Ebola, or both - wants. That makes us a target. And I for one do not want them to have it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Oaths of Office

We are now at war again, and again in the Middle East. I reflect with great melancholy that this nation has been at war, hot or cold, in one place or another, the entire length of my lifetime. Now comes Barack Obama, who was elected on an oath of getting us out of war, easing us into his second. Does anyone remember Libya, and the pathetic precedent of "leading from behind"? In that war, there were only four casualties (still unaccounted for), and in this one, in which Obama swears to use air power alone, he hopes there will be none.

Obama, it seems, believes that it is OK to get into a war, so long as no one gets hurt. Well, that is just stupid. Every military expert I have heard has said that his strategy to deal with ISIS will not work, that air strikes alone will not work, that ground troops are inevitable. Yet Obama continues to swear to us, right up to the eve of an election, that no American ground forces will be involved. Keep in mind, of course, that the Pentagon has admitted to the presence of some 1600 American troops on the ground already, which raises the question: How many boots on the ground constitute 'boots on the ground'? Clearly, in Obama-math, it is not 1600. Is it 2000? 5000? 16,000? He will not say; and he will not say because, I think, he does not know, or want to know.

I am reminded of one of the more macabre moments in the Nixon Administration when, having been assured solemnly by Tricky Dick that there were no American ground forces in Laos, we learned that the bodies of American servicemen were being retrieved from that country. Nixon sent out his press secretary, the hapless Ron Ziegler, blandly to inform the public that "Those reports do not contradict the president's statement." The corpses be damned; believe the president!

Apart from all the violated oaths and broken promises, our truth remains that Barack Obama emerged from the boondocks of Chicago politics with nothing but a smile, a Harvard degree, and a catchy slogan. But now that Hope and Change have revealed themselves to be haplessness and chicanery, can we all not just admit that the president is clueless, has always been clueless, will always be clueless? That in six years in office he has learned nothing, that he has no more executive skills or ability to lead now than when he assumed office? That a quip once made about Ronald Reagan is true of Barack Obama: His learning curve doesn't. But, you say, Gwyneth Paltrow thinks he's super, and should have dictatorial powers.

I rest my case.

In the last century, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury predicted that we would eventually reach a state of perpetual war. This would be so in order to justify increasing government power and subversion of individual liberty, and to cover for the scurrilous incompetence of pseudo-leaders. Well, my friends, does it not seem that the dire-est predictions of yesterday's science fiction have become our reality? And does it not appear now that the darkness the literary pessimists described is crowding around us even as I write? Someone observed that Obama is the president that Richard Nixon dreamed of being, and I agreed with the observation. Now, however, I would go farther, and say that Obama is the phenomenon that Orwell and Bradbury feared: amiable incompetence coupled with corruption, hubris, deceit, and unconcern.

I think it is only when the twin crises of ISIS and Ebola become one; that is, when ISIS begins using virus as a weapon of war, that the great mass of our citizenry will finally stir itself into active consciousness that our purported leaders are failing in their most basic Constitutional duty - to keep us safe. In the meanwhile, Barack Obama remains president, still grinning, still lying, still in over his head, and having repeatedly broken the most important promise of all - his oath of office.

The Real Crisis is Confidence

I have been silent on all of the events of recent weeks, simply because there has seemed to me no point in commenting on them. Things in this country stumble and stagger from bad to worse, with no hint of leadership in sight and no sense of direction. However, yesterday came the straw that finally broke the back of my silence.

I told my twelve year old son that President Obama had succumbed to public pressure and appointed someone to head the national effort to prevent the Ebola virus from erupting inside America. I asked him what he thought the minimum qualification for such a person should be. "He should be a doctor," he replied. "A doctor who specializes in what?" I asked. "Infectious diseases," he said.

I then told him that the man Obama had chosen for this critical post has neither qualification; in fact, he is a political hack, a vice-presidential staffer and lobbyist, with absolutely no background, experience, or expertise in any field of medicine or public health.

I put it to you that if a bright twelve-year-old can see that a doctor specialist ought to have been chosen for the job of "Ebola Czar," why couldn't the President of the United States see it? I have argued here since 2009 that Barack Obama is incompetent (and he has demonstrated this fact to anyone who has been paying attention), but this goes beyond incompetence; this is idiocy. Dangerous idiocy.

The only rationale that I have heard for this inexplicable choice came from one of the president's few remaining defenders. "They trust him at the White House," she said. Well, the problem it seems to me is not whether they trust one another at the White House, but whether we trust them. Judging by every single poll one could cite, that is the real problem, and this appointment has only made it worse.

And now, it seems, this Ebola Czar, whose unpreparedness for power rivals that of Nicholas II, will report, not to Obama, but to Susan Rice! This is the same Susan Rice who stated on national television that the Benghazi attack was prompted by a video (since proved untrue), and stated on national television that Sgt. Bergdhal served with honor and distinction (since proved untrue), and stated on national television that the Turkish government had agreed to allow us to use their bases to fight ISIS (immediately proved to be untrue). Fecklessness reporting to fatuousness -- that should inspire confidence in the American public.

(And today we learn that the president called an Ebola summit at the White House... and the new Ebola Czar did not attend. The idiocy becomes imbecility.)

I could catch myself up, I suppose, by pointing out the ISIS debacle, in which the president dismissed the savages as amateurs only to find them within months the single greatest terrorist threat we have ever faced. And then, in typical fashion, he put the blame for his ignorance and inaction on his intelligence agencies, which, as it turns out had been warning him about ISIS for two years. We then learned that Obama, who said himself that his greatest failing is laziness, had not been reading his intelligence briefings. In other words, he had not been doing his homework, which is something I would never tolerate in my twelve-year-old. 

I could remind my readers that after an American journalist was beheaded on television by these same amateur whiz-kids, that Obama took a moment from his Martha's Vineyard vacation to issue a pro-forma expression of outrage, and immediately resumed his round of golf. And that during the ISIS buildup, when they were occupying a third of Iraq, he launched into a series of political fundraisers, which seems to be his instinctive response to any crisis.

I could mention, too, that we did, in fact, have what is being called an Ebola Czar (or Czarina), in a Dr. Nicole Laurie, an official of the federal government charged with preparedness for something just like Ebola, who has not been seen or heard from since the crisis started. What we do know about her is that she detoured money intended to find an Ebola vaccine to the company of a Democratic donor for research into smallpox. 

The level of corruption, incompetence, callous indifference, and hubris in the Obama Administration is stunning. What other president would have been allowed to get away with this, with the collusion of the mainstream media? What chief executive of any country in the world that was not actually exporting bananas and cocaine could remain in office given this woeful track record? 

In Britain, and in other parliamentary systems, there is such a thing as a vote of No Confidence. Such votes are taken when events have overwhelmed the government to such an extent that the public no longer has confidence in its ability to lead. I submit that that moment has now arrived in this nation, and, had we the ability to take a No Confidence vote, Obama would be back organizing on the South Side of Chicago from whence he came (and what evidence do we have that he did even that effectively?)

But our Founders, in their wisdom, and, I suspect, in their desire for greater stability in government, did not invest us with the power simply to vote the emperor out of office when he was revealed to have no clothes at all. And so, the best we can hope for is that the Republicans take control of the Senate, resulting in total gridlock in government, and in this way, prevent Barack Obama from doing any more damage than he has already done. 

Then, after a sterile and frustrating two years, we can put him out to pasture on the golf course, which is what he seems to prefer anyway.