car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page

Categories

Whatever.

The Los Angeles Times:Hillary Clinton blows name of next Russian president [27 Feb 2008]

So naturally late in the Ohio debate when it came time for the trick question,the kind of TV interview question that got George W. Bush so much unwanted,embarrassing and prolonged attention in 1999 when he couldn’t name the president of Pakistan,Tim Russert claimed later that he looked at both candidates Tuesday night as if to say,‘Who wants this one?’And Clinton seemed to respond. So he asked Clinton first.

The question concerned Russia’s so-called presidential elections Sunday to pick a successor to Vladimir Putin. Russert wanted to know what Clinton could tell the world about this new president.

In her 204-word response Clinton worked in how he’d been hand-picked by Putin,how Russia’s political opposition has been suppressed and how she’d been critical of the Bush administration on a wide variety of issues regarding Russia.

Then,Russert pounced:“Who will it be? Do you know his name?”

Chances are you don’t know his name. But then you’re not running for president. We’ll never know if the name was known by Obama,who is running for president,because Russert chose to put Clinton on the spot. And she blew it. Although the official transcript partially covers up her mistake. It has Clinton replying,“Medvedev —whatever.”

What a tape actually shows the senator said was,“Meh,uhm,Me-ned-vadah —whatever.”

 

26 February 2008

 

“Whatever.”

 

The Heritage Foundation:Russia on the March:The Return of Red Square Parades [11 Feb 08]

As Yogi Berra once said,“This is déjà vu all over again.”On May 9,heavy military equipment will once again roll down Moscow’s Red Square for the Victory Day military parade. Tanks,missiles,and 6,000 troops will be joined overhead by Su-27 and MiG-29 fighter aircraft and military helicopters. The last time Moscow saw such a display of military hardware on Red Square was in November 1990,before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The world should take notice of Russia’s increasing militarism. The parade is designed to generate nostalgia among the Russian people and to signal to the U.S.,NATO,and Russia’s neighbors that Russia’s power is back.

This is yet another indication from the Kremlin that the so-called “power”ministries and agencies are the bedrocks of the Russian Federation—not democracy,open society,a multiparty system,free media,fair elections,constitutional liberties,and the separation of powers.

Russia’s rearmament,the parade,its global maneuvers,and its new weapon systems are designed to make others respect Russia as well as deter NATO and the U.S.,which Putin sees as a hegemonic superpower seeking to harm Russia. Russia wants to signal that it again has the military means to counter both perceived strategic threats,such as the U.S. missile defense system,and conventional military challenges,such as NATO expansion and the West’s superior air power. Fanfare communicates Russia’s intentions to tilt the global “correlation of forces”in Moscow’s favor and encourages Russia’s neighbors to do its bidding and not to challenge its security or its interests.

Russia is back on the world stage with all the attributes of power,including wealth and military might,for all to see. The next U.S. administration will have its hands full dealing with a resurgent Moscow.

07 May 2008


Whatever.


The International Herald Tribune
:Putin’s presidency to end as protege Medvedev takes Russia’s top office [07 May 2008]

Dmitry Medvedev will become the third president of the Russian Federation Wednesday,in an elaborate modern ritual that should remind the world of his country’s czarist roots and 21st century wealth.

The 1993 constitution stipulates that the president takes the oath of office “in a ceremonial atmosphere,”and there’s little risk Medvedev’s invitation-only inauguration on the grounds of the Kremlin will fall short of that demand.

Medvedev is scheduled to stride into an opulent throne room in the Grand Kremlin Palace around noon after an honor guard enters with a folded Russian tricolor and the presidential flag,according to Russian officials and state-run media.

Czar Alexander II’s coronation ceremony was held in the palace in 1856,the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Medvedev’s inauguration will be followed Friday by a Victory Day parade celebrating the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II,with tanks and missile launchers rolling across Red Square for the first time since the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse.

While the military parade will evoke memories of Soviet military glory,the inauguration ceremony will be more reminiscent of imperial Russia’s grandeur.


 

Whatever.

The Washington Times:Russia Revives Cold War Aircraft

Russia’s venerable Tupolev Tu-95 bomber is a gigantic,lumbering and slow behemoth that flies with turbine-driven propellers. It has an engine technology the U.S. Air Force wouldn’t have been caught dead with since before 1950. So how come it poses a formidable strategic threat to the United States and its NATO allies in the 21st century?

The giant Tu-95 (NATO designation:Bear) was one of the signature aircraft of the Cold War. It played center stage again in the past month along with the vastly faster and more formidable Tupolev Tu-160 White Swan (NATO designation:Blackjack) in the largest strategic exercises the Russian air force has conducted in nearly a quarter century.

During the exercises,code-named Stability-2008,Tu-95MS Bears fired live air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM). It was the first time since 1984 –and just the second time in history –the giant aircraft had done that in any exercise.

But those cruise missiles are what have given the Tu-95 an unlikely but formidable new lease on life in the 21st century. Russia’s KH-55 ALCMs (NATO designation:AS-15 Kent) are very good indeed. They fly three times as fast as their American counterpart,the venerable Tomahawk ALCM. The Tomahawk is subsonic,but the KH-55 can fly three times as fast. It has a maximum speed of more than 1,900 miles an hour,Mach 2.8,at sea level,and a range of 2,000 miles. That means that if the KH-55 AS-15 Kents are launched outside U.S. legal airspace in a surprise attack,they could hit any target anywhere in the United States when fired from off the Eastern Seaboard or the West Coast.

It certainly is true that the slow old Tu-95MS Bear,with a cruising speed of less than 500 mph,would be easy pickings for U.S. air-superiority fighters defending the homeland. They even would have been shot down like giant flies 46 years ago if the Cuban Missile Crisis had escalated to a thermonuclear showdown between the superpowers.

Nevertheless,the long range of the KH-55 AS-15 Kents means the Tu-95MS Bears have been transformed once again into a formidable strategic weapons system –vastly more dangerous than they were in the 1950s,when they were the best the Soviet Union had to offer.

Today,Tu-95s can fly holding-pattern patrols 1,500 miles to 2,000 miles away from any prospective targets along the U.S. East and West coasts and far beyond the range of any homeland-based U.S. Air Force fighter squadrons.

Yet by staying airborne,any one or two TU-95s at any time can remain invulnerable to U.S. land- and submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles targeted on Russian Strategic Missile Forces bases or Russian air force bases. Their cruise missiles are vastly more difficult to intercept than a conventional intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) because they do not fly in straightforward and easily predictable ballistic flight paths. Nor do they have limited in-flight maneuvering and evasion capabilities that the most modern Russian ICBMs such as the Topol-M have.

Instead,cruise missiles are programmed to fly along the contours of the Earth –flying around or up and over mountains and hills or even following the course of rivers. Therefore,they are far more difficult to intercept,especially because they also are programmed to fly very low,confounding the most sensitive and effective U.S. radar systems that are designed to enable ground-based midcourse interceptors to home in on and destroy ICBMs in midflight.

Each Tu-95 can carry and launch as many as six KH-55 ALCMs. They are far cheaper and easier to maintain and operate than the huge,supersonic Tu-160 Blackjacks,and the Kremlin has far more of them.

According to a recent report from the RIA Novosti news agency,the Russian air force operates no fewer than 40 Tu-95MS Bears,compared with just 16 Tu-160 Blackjacks.

Add up all these advantages,and it looks as if the Tu-95 may be around for a few more decades yet.

24 September 2007
 


Whatever.

The Australian:Russian warplanes fly over US carrier [13 Feb 2008]

WASHINGTON:Two Russian Tupolev 95 Bear bombers overflew a US aircraft carrier in the western Pacific at the weekend,prompting US fighter jets to scramble,a defence official said yesterday.

US fighter planes intercepted the Russian bombers flying unusually close to the aircraft carrier in the western Pacific.

The official said one Tu-95 buzzed the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz twice,at an altitude of about 610m [2000 ft],while another circled about 91km [50 nautical miles] out. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because the reports on the flights were classified as secret.

The incident on Saturday,which never escalated beyond the flyover,comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Russia over US plans for a missile defence system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Such Russian bomber flights were common during the Cold War,but have been rare since.

The bombers were among four Tu-95s launched from Rusia’s Ukrainka air base,about 1000km [621 miles] northwest of Vladivostok,in the middle of the night,including one that Japanese officials say violated their country’s airspace over an uninhabited island south of Tokyo.

US officials tracked and monitored the bombers as two flew south along the Japanese coast,and two others flew farther east,coming closer to the Nimitz and the guided missile cruiser USS Princeton.

As the bombers got to about 800km [497 miles] out from the US ships,four F/A-18 fighters were launched from the Nimitz,the defence official said.

The fighters intercepted the Russian bombers about 80km [50 miles] south of the Nimitz.

At least two US fighters trailed the bomber as it came in low over the Nimitz twice,while one or two of the other US fighters followed the second bomber as it circled.

The official said there were no verbal communications between the US and the Russians and that the Pentagon had not heard of any protests being filed. Historically,diplomatic protests have not been filed in such incidents as they were so frequent during the Cold War era.

This is the first time Russian Tupolevs have flown over or interacted with a US carrier since 2004.

11 February 2008
 


Whatever.

11 August 2008
 


Whatever.

The International Herald Tribune:Russia test-fires ballistic missiles [12 Oct 2008]

Russia test-fired long-range ballistic missiles Sunday as President Dmitri Medvedev pledged to build up the country’s armed capabilities.

The military fired a Topol intercontinental missile from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwest Russia at a target thousands of kilometers away in the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. Submarines in the Okhotsk Sea near Japan and the Barents Sea launched ballistic missiles that reached northern Russia and Kamchatka,the state broadcaster Vesti-24 reported.

“This shows that our shield is in order,”Medvedev said Sunday at Plesetsk. “We will build up our armed capability,which means we will acquire new weaponry while also launching traditional ballistic missiles.”

The purpose of the Plesetsk test launch was to confirm the viability of the Topol rocket,which has been in service with Russian forces for 20 years,Vesti reported. The Topol,with a range of 10,000 kilometers,or 6,200 miles,is part of Russia’s response to a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe,the state broadcaster cited experts as saying.

The statement Sunday was the latest pledge by the Russian head of state to revive the might of the armed forces. Medvedev said Saturday that Russia would resume building aircraft carriers and last month announced that Russia would build more new submarines. The president also said that the country’s nuclear deterrent should be upgraded within 12 years.

Seeking to assert its power after a decade of oil-fueled economic growth,Russia announced that it would increase defense spending 26 percent to a post-Soviet record of 1.28 trillion rubles,or $48 billion,next year.

Russia must achieve “supremacy in the air,in delivering high-precision strikes against land and sea targets and in the rapid deployment of forces,”Medvedev said late last month.

Russia has stepped up protests since the Czech Republic and Poland agreed to host elements of a U.S. missile-defense system. Amid a chill in ties with the West caused by an August war with neighboring Georgia,Russia has warned it would respond militarily by targeting the sites.

12 October 2008
 


Whatever.

05 November 2008
 


Whatever.

The New York Times:Clinton Decides to Accept Post at State Dept.,Confidants Say [ 21 Nov 08]

As secretary of state,Mrs. Clinton will have had a powerful platform to travel the world and help repair relations with other countries strained after eight years of President Bush’s policies.

Mrs. Clinton would bring a distinctive background to the State Department. As first lady,she traveled the world for eight years,visiting more than 80 countries,not only meeting with foreign leaders but also villages,clinics and other remote areas that rarely get on a president’s itinerary. Mr. Obama during the primaries belittled that experience as little more than having tea and pointed to schedules showing many ceremonial events on those trips.

29 February 2008
 


Change? Whatever.

A Face for Mount Rushmore

08 September 2003
The Last Portrait of Johnny Cash
from Country Music:The Masters,a collection of photos by Marty Stuart

Filling the New Cabinet,Part IV:Defense

The Contenders

- Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE,1997-present):President,McCarthy and Company (1991-1996);President and CEO of United Service Organizations (1987-1990);Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer,Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (1990);Deputy Administrator of Veterans Affairs (1981-1982);Sergeant,2nd Battalion (Mechanized),47th Infantry Regiment,9th Infantry Division,IV Corps,Vietnam,United States Army (1967-1968)

- Dr. Robert Gates:Secretary of Defense (2006-present);President of Texas A&M University (2002-2006);Interim Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service,Texas A&M University (1999-2001);Independent Lecturer (1993-1999);Director of Central Intelligence ["CIA Director"] (1991-1993);Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs ["Deputy National Security Advisor"] (1989-1991);Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (1986-1989);Deputy Director for Intelligence,CIA (1982-1986);Director of the DCI/DDCI Executive Staff,CIA (1981-1982);Director of the Strategic Evaluation Center,Office of Strategic Research,CIA (1979-1981);Staff,National Security Council (1974-1979);Intelligence Officer,CIA (1969-1974);Intelligence Officer,Strategic Air Command,United States Air Force (1967-1969);Staff,Central Intelligence Agency (1966)

Sen. Hagel

Sen. Obama,Gen. Petraeus,and Sen. Hagel in Iraq,21 July 2008

“As I’ve said here before,if Steve McQueen had ever been elected to the U.S. Senate,he would have been Chuck Hagel.”

- D. Allan Kerr, The Portsmouth Herald


I have yet to watch Steve McQueen’s 1978 production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People,but most assuredly,if Chuck Hagel is the Steve McQueen of the United States Senate,it is as much due to his role as the Republican Party’s Dr. Thomas Stockmann (minus the ego) as it is for his background as a highly decorated war hero.

Sen. Hagel,who in 2002 was branded “Sen. Skeptic (R.,France)”by the increasingly neoconservative National Review for his strong rebuke of Gen. Colin Powell and President Bush following the “Axis of Evil”speech,has been the subject of scorn among the PNAC set for his non-ideological,realist foreign policy views.

 

“Conservatives,I’ve always known,like this guy up there,” [Hagel] said,gesturing to a framed picture of President Dwight D. Eisenhower,“and Reagan,Goldwater,and others—[Sen. Robert] Taft,Mr. Conservative—were very protective in conserving our resources. And what is more significant in a country’s resource inventory than its people,its army? I think we have used our military recklessly and carelessly. I don’t think that’s conservative.” He continued,“I find it fascinating sometimes when I am challenged on this. I think I am the real conservative on the Iraq debate here.”

President Bush’s loyal congressional supporters,bolstered by the base,beg to differ. They find Hagel’s brand of realist internationalism,his hammering away at the Iraq policy as a misbegotten adventure akin to the Vietnam War he nearly died in,quite noisome. They’ve called him an appeaser,a traitor even. A personally popular senator with 35-year-old ties to the Republican Party,his detractors have done everything to marginalize him.

“As far as foreign policy is concerned,they [the conservative base] regard him as an apostate,” [Ross Baker] added. “These are people who believe that anybody who contradicts the president has to be cast out into the darkness.

 

- The American Conservative,09 April 2007

While he did vote for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002,Sen. Hagel’s floor speech was filled with prescience:

Because the stakes are so high,America must be careful with her rhetoric and mindful of how others perceive her intentions. Actions in Iraq must come in the context of an American-led,multilateral approach to disarmament,not as the first case for a new American doctrine involving the preemptive use of force. America’s challenge in this new century will be to strengthen its relationships around the world while leading the world in our war on terrorism,for it is the success of the first challenge that will determine the success of the second. We should not mistake our foreign policy priorities for ideology in a rush to proclaim a new doctrine in world affairs. America must understand it cannot alone win a war against terrorism. It will require allies,friends,and partners.

American leadership in the world will be further defined by our actions in Iraq and the Middle East. What begins in Iraq will not end in Iraq. There will be other ‘‘Iraqs.’’ There will be continued acts of terrorism,proliferating powers,and regional conflicts. If we do it right and lead through the U.N.,in concert with our allies,we can set a new standard for American leadership and international cooperation. The perception of American power is power,and how our power is perceived can either magnify or diminish our influence in the world.

How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq,the country,the history,the people,the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution,realism,and a bit more humility. While the people of the Arab world need no education from America about Saddam’s record of deceit,aggression,and brutality,and while many of them may respect and desire the freedoms the American model offers,imposing democracy through force in Iraq is a roll of the dice. A democratic effort cannot be maintained without building durable Iraqi political institutions and developing a regional and international commitment to Iraq’s reconstruction. No small task.

To succeed,our commitment must extend beyond the day after to the months and years after Saddam is gone. The American people must be told of this long-term commitment,risk,and costs of this undertaking.

We should not be seduced by the expectations of ‘‘dancing in the streets’’ after Saddam’s regime has fallen,the kites,the candy,and cheering crowds we expect to greet our troops,but instead,focus on the great challenges ahead,the commitment and resources that will be needed to ensure a democratic transition in Iraq and a more stable and peaceful Middle East. We should spend more time debating the cost and extent of this commitment,the risks we may face in military engagement with Iraq,the implications of the precedent of United States military action for regime change,and the likely character and challenges of a post-Saddam Iraq. We have heard precious little from the President,his team,as well as from this Congress,with a few notable exceptions,about these most difficult and critical questions.

While I cannot predict the future,I believe that what we decide in this Chamber this week will influence America’s security and role in the world for the coming decades. It will serve as the framework,both intentionally and unintentionally,for the future. It will set in motion a series of actions and events that we cannot now
understand or control.

In authorizing the use of force against Iraq,we are at the beginning of a road that has no clear end.

Since this speech,Sen. Hagel admitted he regrets supporting the authorization,building a reputation as one of the most reliable and principled critics of the Iraq War. More interesting still is Hagel’s role in recognizing the original intent behind the White House’s original draft of the Iraq War Resolution,revealed nearly five years later in a January 2007 interview with Wil S. Hylton of GQ magazine:

GQ:Do you wish you’d voted differently in October of 2002,when Congress had a chance to authorize or not authorize the invasion?

Hagel:Have you read that resolution?

GQ:I have.

Hagel:It’s not quite the way it’s been framed by a lot of people,as a resolution to go to war. That’s not quite what the resolution said.

GQ:It said,“to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.”

Hagel:In the event that all other options failed. So it’s not as simple as “I voted for the war.” That wasn’t the resolution.

GQ:But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not.

Hagel:Exactly right. And if you recall,the White House had announced that they didn’t need that authority from Congress.

GQ:Which they seem to say about a lot of things.

Hagel:That’s right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president’s counsel at that time,and he wrote a memo to the president saying,“You have all the powers that you need.” So I called Andy Card,who was then the chief of staff,and said,“Andy,I don’t think you have a shred of ground to stand on,but more to the point,why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?” So a few of us—Joe Biden,Dick Lugar,and I—were invited into discussions with the White House.

GQ:It’s incredible that you had to ask for that.

Hagel:It is incredible. That’s what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell,said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally,begrudgingly,they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well,it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.

GQ:It wasn’t specific to Iraq?

Hagel:Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. I mean,is Central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything they wanted. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.

GQ:They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere they wanted in the Middle East?

Hagel:Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden,Dick Lugar,and I stripped the language that the White House had set up,and put our language in it.

GQ:But that should also have triggered alarm bells about what they really wanted to do.

Hagel:Well,it did. I’m not defending our votes;I’m just giving a little history of how this happened. You have to remember the context of when that resolution was passed. This was about a year after September 11. The country was still truly off balance. So the president comes out talking about “weapons of mass destruction” that this “madman dictator” Saddam Hussein has,and “our intelligence shows he’s got it,” and “he’s capable of weaponizing,” and so on.

GQ:And producing a National Intelligence Estimate that turned out to be doctored.

Hagel:Oh yeah. All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that’s what we were presented with. And I’m not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing,because there were senators who said,“I don’t believe them.” But I was told by the president—we all were—that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort.

GQ:You were told that personally?

Hagel:I remember specifically bringing it up with the president. I said,“This has to be like your father did it in 1991. We had every Middle East nation except one with us in 1991. The United Nations was with us.”

GQ:Did he give you that assurance,that he would do the same thing as his father?

Hagel:Yep. He said,“That’s what we’re going to do.” But the more I look back on this,the more I think that the administration knew there was some real hard question whether he really had any WMD. In January of 2003,if you recall,the inspectors at the IAEA,who knew more about what Saddam had than anybody,said,“Give us two more months before you go to war,because we don’t think there’s anything in there.” They were the only ones in Iraq. We hadn’t been in there. We didn’t know what the hell was in there. And the president wouldn’t do it! So to answer your question—Do I regret that vote? Yes,I do regret that vote.

GQ:And you feel like you were misled?

Hagel:I asked tough questions of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld before the war:How are you going to govern? Who’s going to govern? Where is the money coming from? What are you going to do with their army? How will you secure their borders? And I was assured every time I asked,“Senator,don’t worry,we’ve got task forces on that,they’ve been working,they’re coordinated,” and so on.

GQ:Do you think they knew that was false?

Hagel:Oh,I eventually was sure they knew. Even before we actually invaded,I had a pretty clear sense of it—that this administration was hell-bent on going to war in Iraq.

GQ:Even if it meant deceiving Congress?

Hagel:That’s right.

The difference between Hagel and [Sen. John] Edwards,”wrote Kelley Vlahos of The American Conservative,“may be that Hagel’s change of heart never smacked of political convenience – in the manner of a maverick,he’s risked alienation from his party,his friends,his support back home. He doesn’t — yet — seem to be animated by obvious political ambition.” Writing in 2006,John Nichols of The Nation said of Sen. Hagel:

Hagel has long been blunter than his Democratic colleagues about the disaster that the Iraq occupation has become for the U.S. The Nebraska Republican was making comparisons between the Vietnam War,in which he served,and the Iraq imbroglio months ago —at a point when most Senate Democrats were holding their tongues. 

Democrats should be asking themselves:Why is a Republican taking the lead on the issue that played such a pivotal role in putting Democrats in charge of the House and Senate?

The honest answer is an unsettling one.

Right now,Hagel is sounding more realistic and responsible than most if not all of the Democrats who are positioning themselves for 2008 presidential runs. Indeed,with Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold,the first senator to call for an withdrawal timeline,out of the running,Democrats could use a candidate who speaks as directly as does Hagel about the need to get out of Iraq. While it is true that Illinois Senator Barack Obama,who may or may not be running,is a Democrat who has started to make some of the right noises,Obama has not begun to equal the directness of Hagel’s declaration that:“The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and,even if we did,they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars,not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs:America cannot impose a democracy on any nation —regardless of our noble purpose.”

Not only a man capable of highly accurate foresight,Sen. Hagel isn’t one to mince words. I recommend to your viewing the following footage of Sen. Hagel speaking at a 24 January 2007 meeting of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations:

 

 

In November 2006,Sen. Hagel wrote that the United States had “misunderstood,misread,misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam.”On 11 January 2007,the day after President Bush delivered his “New Way Forward”speech articulating the proto-Surge,Sen. Hagel blasted Secretary of State Condolezza Rice in a Foreign Relations Committee hearing,stating:

When you were engaging Chairman Biden on this issue on the specific question of,“Will our troops go into Iran or Syria in pursuit [of terrorists],based on what the President said last night?,”you cannot sit here today — not because you’re dishonest or you don’t understand — but no one in our government can sit here today and tell Americans that we won’t engage the Iranians and the Syrians cross-border.

Some of us remember 1970,Madam Secretary. And that was Cambodia. And when our government lied to the American people and said,We didn’t cross the border going into Cambodia,in fact we did. I happen to know something about that,as do some on this committee.

So,Madam Secretary,when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here,it’s very,very dangerous. As a matter of fact,I have to say,Madam Secretary,that I think this speech given last night by this President represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam — if it’s carried out.

I will resist it.

Once again,Sen. Hagel demonstrated foresight. On 27 October 2008,the US launched a helicopter-borne raid into Syria.

Along the way,Sen. Hagel has demonstrated that he hasn’t forgotten his roots as an enlisted man. When grilling Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker in front of the Foreign Relations Committee on 11 September 2007,Sen. Hagel spoke up for comrades in arms two generations his junior [section below starts at 6:22 in]:

Let’s get above the underbrush and look at the strategic context,which,essentially,we have never done.

It’s not your fault,General. It’s not Ambassador Crocker’s fault. It’s this administration’s fault. We have never,ever looked at Iraq from the larger strategic context,of not Iraq only but Iran,Syria,and the Middle East.

Now,where is this going to go?

Because the question that is going to continue to be asked —and you all know it and you have to live with it —and when you ask questions,as we all do,about is it worth it,the continued investment of American blood and treasure,when Senator Dodd presents to do [sic] the evaluation of one lonely enlisted man —and by the way,I assume you read The New York Times piece ["The War as We Saw It"] two weeks ago —seven NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] in Iraq,today,finishing up 15 month commitments.

Are we going to dismiss those seven NCOs? Are they ignorant?

They laid out a pretty different scenario,General,Ambassador,from what you’re laying out today.

Senator Biden said to me once —I think it was on our first trip to Iraq. He turned around and I was gone. He said:“Where did Senator Hagel go? ”

He found me out talking to the guys in the jeep,the Corporals and the Sergeants who have to do the dying and the fighting.

I’ve always found that,if you want an honest evaluation,and not through charts,not through the White House evaluations,you ask a sergeant or a corporal what they think.

I’ll bet on them every time,as I know you will,General. I know you will.

His dedication to his fellow veterans is longstanding and not without a dedication to duty which has brought Sen. Hagel to sacrifice himself personally and professionally for his beliefs:

“I think the world of Chuck Hagel,” [Rick Weidman,Vietnam vet and the Vietnam Veterans of America's head of government affairs] said,recalling how Hagel quit his job as deputy administrator for the Veterans Administration in 1982. His boss,then-Veterans Administrator Robert Nimmo,had a history of antagonizing Vietnam vets,calling them “crybabies” and seeking to cut off research into the physical effects of Agent Orange exposure,wrote [Charlyne] Berens in Moving Forward.

Hagel quit and was unemployed at the age of 36;Nimmo soon resigned amid a threatening scandal over his use of the office for personal gain. To many,Hagel was a hero all over again.

“He resigned over principle,it was a wonderful scene,” Weidman said,noting that Hagel immediately became “our champion in the Senate” when he was elected in 1996.

Furthermore,this past year Sen. Hagel threw his support wholeheartedly behind a proposal of fellow Vietnam veteran Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to provide modern education benefits for American veterans,similar to the original post-WWII GI Bill. The Webb-Hagel GI Bill was passed into law as the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

Finally,Sen. Hagel has proven himself a man of his word. Though it would have been exceedingly easy for him to win re-election this year given his popularity in his district (he won reelection in 2002 with 82.76% of the vote),Sen. Hagel stood by a promise he made in 1996 to limit himself to two terms in the Senate:

I support Term Limits. However,I will not need Term Limits. Twelve years in Congress is enough for anyone. We should return to the Founding Fathers’concept of the “citizen-legislator,”and Term-Limits [sic] would help preserve that ideal. When elected officials stay too long in the same job,they become institutionalized and co-opted by the system.

Sen. Hagel announced his retirement from the Senate on 09 September 2007,and published a book –America:Our Next Chapter –in early 2008 [Full disclosure:Admittedly,I'm a Chuck Hagel fan,and I have a first edition hardcover of his book.] Earlier this year he had been considered by many as a potential Unity ’08 presidential nominee,but he declined to run for office. It seems to me that the United States could use an “enemy of the people”like Senator Hagel in a very senior Cabinet role,be it Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State.

Dr. Gates

Perhaps the highest praise of Dr. Gates is to recognize simply that he is not Donald Rumsfeld. One can not,for instance,reconcile the following video with the personality of Rumsfeld,“the nation’s square-jawed,harsh-talking,heartless Secretary of Defense,an existentialist on the order of Albert Camus’Meursault”and most dangerous American technocrat since Robert McNamara.

 

 

Rumors that President-elect Obama will likely ask Dr. Gates to say on as Secretary of Defense speak volumes on Dr. Gates’credibility and track record since taking over at the Pentagon on 05 December 2006. As acknowledged by TIME,Secretary Gates “has won praise on Capitol Hill for arguing that U.S. foreign policy is too militarized,and for firing senior officers and officials he deemed to have failed the nation’s wounded vets and to have been derelict in ensuring the security of America’s nuclear weapons.”[links mine] From these actions it is clear that Secretary Gates has returned accountability,a key component of military culture,to the Pentagon after its conspicuous absence under Donald “I’m working my way over to figuring out how I won’t answer [your question]”Rumsfeld.

Dr. Gates also declined to renominate General Peter Pace for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in June of 2007,expecting the confirmation process to be a “divisive ordeal.”Pace had “been criticized by some senior officers who saw him as too deferential to civilian leadership,in particular former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld,and too inattentive to the impact of prolonged war-fighting on the Army,Marines and their National Guard and Reserve elements.”Secretary Gates instead recommended Adm. Michael Mullen,Chief of Naval Operations,for the post.

“Gates is a great choice because of the respect he has gained from all quarters after the fiasco that went before,”says Anthony Zinni,a retired four-star Marine who once headed the U.S. Central Command. “He would also provide continuity at a critical time.”

General Zinni’s statements have been echoed by others as well:

Understand that on the Hill,after Rummy,Gates was like a blast of fresh air. People found him candid and responsive (as opposed to arrogant and dismissive). I think most Democratic senators actually like and respect him,and most staff seem comfortable with keeping him on for some defined period.

Maybe that’s a sad reflection of how low Rummy set the bar —that we celebrate mere competence and professionalism —but there you go.

Opines Josh Marshall of TPM:

Let me be clear,I do not have a negative impression of Bob Gates. He’s mainly had the unlucky task of picking up after the mess created by Don Rumsfeld,Dick Cheney and President Bush. My sense is that Gates is a pretty sane guy and highly capable foreign policy hand. And that’s managed to come through even through the heavily cloaking effect of having to operate within President Bush’s inane foreign policies. I don’t think I know enough about Gates or the particulars of his administration of the Pentagon —to the extent that can be distinguished from the necessity of operating under President Bush —to give any qualified appraisal of him. But certainly he is much more in the [Gen. Brent] Scowcroft,rough-realist school than anything from the [George W.] Bush mold.

In other words,Secretary Gates has in common with the foreign policy team of the George H. W. Bush administration than the administration of his son. Further more,it appears that Gen. Scowcroft,who served as National Security Advisor for both Gerald Ford and Bush 41,and who since has “been involved in a multi-year rearguard battle against the neocons in the Bush administration,especially in key efforts trying to block sundry wars with Iran,shut down John Bolton,etc”is attempting to bring the Gates and Obama teams together in a “de facto alliance.”

This mutual cooperation on foreign policy bodes well for the country. Truthdig‘s Joe Conason connects the dots:

Remember that during the months before President Bush asked him to replace Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon,Gates was serving on the Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton. The study group’s best-selling report,released only weeks after Mr. Gates resigned to accept the Bush appointment,was strongly critical of the president’s failed policies in Iraq.

Contrary to policies favored by President Bush at the time,the report urged immediate diplomatic contacts with all of Iraq’s neighbors,including Iran and Syria,in an effort to achieve stability,as well as negotiations with the Sunni insurgents that would lead to amnesty. The aim of those efforts was to achieve an orderly withdrawal of American troops from Iraq sooner rather than later. The report expressed deep worry that the Iraq war had diverted military and diplomatic resources away from the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Iraq Study Group’s recommendations and concerns sound familiar because they reflect the views expressed repeatedly by Obama ever since he announced his presidential candidacy. When President Bush largely rejected the ISG findings,his new secretary of defense felt obliged to distance himself from them as well. But according to the panel’s other members,it was Gates who had in fact written much of the report,and he concurred fully with its views.

Upon assuming control of the Pentagon,Gates did his best to subordinate his own opinions to administration policy,working hard to make the best of the troop escalation in Iraq despite personal doubts about the long-term wisdom of the “surge.” But he never echoed the Bush administration’s official hostility to a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq—and in fact at one point praised the debate over timetables in Washington as a means of increasing pressure on the Iraqis to achieve reconciliation and security on their own.

That should sound familiar,too,because it is so close to Obama’s stated policy.

The consensus,then,is that Secretary Gates is a competent civilian administrator who happens to be live in a similar foreign policy neighborhood to the President-elect.

“He’s not ideological,he’s not partisan,and you could trust him to manage the wars in a competent manner while a new administration gets up to speed,”said Nancy Soderberg,a Democrat and onetime U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “It would allow the Obama administration to hit the ground running.”

- The Wall Street Journal,11 November 2008

Should President-elect Obama decide to retain Dr. Gates as Secretary of Defense,it would be a most prudent choice.

Note:

I had originally included Richard Danzig,Secretary of the Navy from 1998-2001,and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in early drafts of my pool of potential appointees. However,with the recent consistency of rumor surrounding the retention of Secretary Gates,the nomination of either Mr. Danzig or Sen. Reed in his stead seems unlikely and only tied to any reluctance on the part of Dr. Gates to remain in his position. I have included Senator Hagel in this post because his name has been the other most widely circulated,and because I firmly believe that the Obama administration would do well to bring Senator Hagel into the Cabinet at a very high level,either at the State Department or the DoD. Should either Mr. Danzig or Sen. Reed vault back into the top tier of potential appointees,or should I see their names mentioned as a potential National Security Advisor,I will write a special post to cover this omission.

Good News re:Gov. Napolitano’s Prospective Secretaryship

Via Reason‘s Dave Weigel:

On Tuesday,Gov. Janet Napolitano signed a measure,House Bill 2677,barring Arizona’s compliance with the Real ID program. In so doing,she called it an unfunded federal mandate that would stick states such as Arizona with a multibillion-dollar bill for the cost to develop and implement the series of new fraud-proof identification cards.

In a letter explaining her support for HB 2677,Napolitano cited a White House estimate that Real ID would cost at least $4 billion to implement. But thus far,she said,the federal government has only appropriated $90 million to help Arizona and other states offset those costs.

“My support of the Real ID Act is,and has always been,contingent upon adequate federal funding,”Napolitano wrote Tuesday. “Absent that,the Real ID Act becomes just another unfunded federal mandate.”

- The Arizona Republic,18 June 2008

[Weigel:]

The implication is that Napolitano would favor a national ID if it could be funded. What’s the likelihood of it being funded soon? Not very high. So Napolitano seems,first and foremost,like an effective manager who understands immigration policy and has been a bulwark against the crab barrel of restrictionist crazies in her state. Not the worst pick Obama could make.

This gives a considerably better shine to President-elect Obama’s selection of Gov. Napolitano for this very key post. While she’s apparently not opposed to Real ID on admirable philosophical grounds like her Democratic colleague Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana (who started a states’rights rebellion against Real ID and successfully stared down DHS chief Michael Chertoff),at least Gov. Napolitano understands that unfunded mandates on states are a gross overreach of federal authority. Hopefully Gov. Schweitzer,a fellow Western governor,can bend her ear a bit before she takes office.

Catching Up on the Latest Cabinet News

There’s been a good deal of news breaking in the last 24 or so hours,so I’ll try to catch up on that before posting Part IV in the “Filling the Cabinet”series (which will hopefully be ready for Friday morning publication). First,the news that broke late last night:

Gov. Napolitano for DHS,Penny Pritzker for Commerce?

I’ll have more to say on Gov. Napolitano and Ms. Pritzker in my National Security and Industry profiles. My immediate reaction toward these selections is mixed. I’d certainly expected the DHS job to go to a Democrat –specifically,Rep. Jane Harman. After the 2006 midterm elections,Rep. Harman (D-CA) was snubbed by Nancy Pelosi,who wanted in install an impeached and convicted US District Court Judge,Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL),as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence over the very senior Rep. Harman because she did not get along with Mrs. Harman and considered her a political rival.

In 1988 Pelosi,along with her chief lieutenant Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD),voted in favor of impeaching Hastings,who was subsequently convicted by the US Senate of perjury and corruption stemming from a $150,000 bribe he accepted in return for lenient sentencing of the defendant in a racketeering case. Hastings was only the sixth federal judge in US history to be removed from office. Pelosi was rightfully slammed for her partisan decision to back Hastings over Harman,and ultimately caved in under pressure,naming Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) to chair the committee. Jeff Stein of CQ Politics has advanced Rep. Harman as a potential head of the Central Intelligence Agency. I’ll have more to say about Rep. Harman (including her controversial defense of Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program) should she ultimately wind up at the Agency.

With respect to Gov. Napolitano,as Secretary of Homeland Security she’ll have the lead on illegal immigration,something with which she is already well-acquainted (if not particularly distinguished) as a border state chief executive:

The one issue Republicans think they can use against the popular Napolitano is illegal immigration,because the huge number of border crossings have left many Arizonans feeling overwhelmed and powerless. Her critics claim she came to the problem late,but she seems to have navigated it deftly. Last November angry voters passed Proposition 200,which in part provides that undocumented aliens receive no state welfare benefits that they are not entitled to. Napolitano opposed it,as well as several bills that targeted illegal immigrants.

Instead,she looked to the systems and people that make illegal immigration possible:she ordered state contractors to ensure that their employees are legal,set up an undercover unit to catch forgers of identity documents and demanded the Federal Government,which is responsible for immigration,reimburse the $217 million Arizona has spent since 2003 on imprisoning undocumented aliens convicted of crimes. In mid-August she declared a state of emergency in Arizona to direct more funds to protecting border areas from illegal crossings.

- TIME,America’s 5 Best Governors,13 Nov 2005

Perhaps a choice tailored to achieving a working consensus on immigration policy (as well as other national security issues),The Washington Post‘s John Pomfret characterized Gov. Napolitano’s stance on illegal immigration as “too-tough for some,not-tough-enough for others.”It is notable that,in a supposedly red state,as of September Gov. Napolitano’s approval rating was (narrowly) higher than Arizona’s own John McCain,54%-53%. I haven’t yet done enough research to say if Gov. Napolitano’s the right person to head DHS,but her bipartisan appeal does make approval seem likely.

Of note:Gov. Napolitano is barred by term limits from running for reelection in 2010.

As for Ms. Pritzker,I don’t think much more research is necessary for me to form an opinion. To set the stage,here’s a Wall Street Journal article from 21 July 2008:

Billionaire Penny Pritzker helped run Hinsdale,Ill.-based Superior,overseeing her family’s 50% ownership stake. She now serves as Barack Obama’s national campaign-finance chairwoman,which means her banking past could prove to be an embarrassment to her —and perhaps to the campaign.

Superior was seized in 2001 and later closed by federal regulators. Government investigators and consumer advocates have contended that Superior engaged in unsound financial activities and predatory lending practices.

What kind of unsound financial practices? According to Mortgage News Daily:

Superior Bank was,in the early 2000s,a leading subprime lender and that operation continued,under FDIC supervision,for months. During this time,according to the Journal,Superior funded more than 6,700 new subprime loans worth more than $550 million. Most of these loans were subsequently sold to another bank. The problems was,many of these loans suffered from the same deficiencies as other subprime loans –unqualified borrowers,inflated appraisals,and inadequate verification of borrowers’incomes.

The WSJ states,“Hundreds of borrowers who took out Superior subprime loans on the FDIC’s watch –some with initial interest rates higher than 12 percent –have lost their homes to foreclosure.”The FDIC stopped funding new Superior loans in early 2002 and closed the lending operation by mid-year. [emphasis mine]

And what was Ms. Pritzer’s explanation for the closure of Superior Bank? From the same WSJ article linked to above:

In a written response to questions,Ms. Pritzker said the reasons for Superior’s fall “were complex. They include changes in accounting practices,auditing failures,reversals in regulatory positions and general economic conditions.”During her tenure at the thrift,she said,she believed it followed “ethical business practices”and complied with “fair lending laws.”For years,she said,Superior’s financial statements were found to be acceptable by regulators.

According to Infoplease,in 2002 the rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage was 6.02%;for a 30-year fixed mortgage,it was 6.56%. Even given the sub-prime status of these mortgages,an interest rate of double that for a regular 15-year fixed mortgage is highly suspect as an example of predatory lending. Ironically,as familiar with predatory lending as Ms. Pritzker is,she is also the chair of TransUnion,the third-largest consumer credit reporting agency in the United States.

Unlike Gov. Napolitano,who seems at the very least competent and credible,my initial reaction toward the selection of Ms. Pritzker is one of extreme animosity and trepidation.

Fmr. Senator Daschle appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services

I’ll admit to a certain relief when I heard President-elect Obama had (reportedly) named Tom Daschle to head up the Department of Health and Human Services,simply because that area of domestic policy hasn’t much attracted my interest. I know Tim has reservations about Sen. Daschle’s appointment,and I’m sure he’ll express them at some point. I haven’t yet read enough about Daschle’s plan or dug into his background sufficiently to address his appointment,but I will address it once I reach the Public Welfare section of the series. Hopefully by then I’ll be read up on it enough to give some decent insight.

One note:Politico indicates that Daschle will be more of a visionary leader than a hands-on administrator:

Daschle,who will be 61 next month,will focus on what the official called the “30,000-foot” part of the job,with powerful deputies handling day-to-day matters. “He’s going to do the broader perspective,” the official said.

Foggy Bottom Noise

Former Bush 41 Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger,recently interviewed by Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC,offered his opinion on Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State:

“I’m not trying to defend her. I think she would be,in terms of a competent Secretary of State,I think she stands probably head and shoulders above anybody else I can think of,”he said. “There are all these peculiar connections that the Clintons have had for years,and I can’t deny any of those. I do believe,however,when it comes to the serious issues of foreign affairs,she probably brings more to the job than most of the other possible candidates.”

Ms. Mitchell followed up that comment by asking Mr. Eagleburger in turn his opinion on other prospective appointees:

  • On Bill Richardson:

“Again,I don’t want to beat everybody to death,but I have very little respect for his intelligence and his knowledge of foreign affairs.”

  • On John Kerry:

“Good. But is he able to stand up to the Vice President? I’m not sure of that.”

Personally,I don’t think John Kerry could stand up to a reasonably bright college sophomore armed with a modestly-written Wikipedia précis,but I’m sure there are those who would disagree.

  • On Chuck Hagel (who I’ll be profiling on Friday):

“I think he could be a good Secretary of State. I shouldn’t deny that. I think he could be quite good.”

As a matter of note,in a 2002 interview on CNN,Mr. Eagleburger said of a possible invasion of Iraq,“I am not at all convinced now that this is something we have to do this very moment.”

David Bromwich,writing for The Huffington Post,was much less enthusiastic about the apparent offer of the Secretaryship to Sen. Clinton:

It is said that Barack Obama has read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book,Team of Rivals,about the war cabinet of Abraham Lincoln. It is said Obama wants to constitute his cabinet out of former rivals because he liked the book and he models himself on Lincoln.

Implausible as it sounds,this is the best explanation anyone has given of the offer of the position of secretary of state to Hillary Clinton. Lincoln took William Seward at State,and Seward was a rival indeed,but he had fought for Lincoln with ferocious loyalty and all his eloquence throughout the campaign,and he put his considerable vote-getting power at Lincoln’s disposal. What can be said for Hillary Clinton? She fought against Obama until the last possible moment,and on the way exploited,for the purpose of discrediting him,most of the devices the Republicans would later tap in the general election. She said Obama had not shown himself fit to be commander-in-chief. She pretended not to know for sure whether or not he was a Muslim.

Team of Rivals is a pleasant work of popular history,only harmful to the extent that you weave fantasies around it. Anyone who cares about Obama’s fortunes after his first large public mistake (for even to offer Clinton the position was a mistake) should close his copy of Goodwin and open the actual words of Hillary Clinton on Iraq,and the things Barack Obama said about those words.

Mr. Bromwich elaborates his concern by citing key instances in what he sees as a larger pattern of missteps on the part of the President-elect:

Signs going as far back as July,and as near as yesterday,from persons “close to Barack Obama”ranging from Patrick Leahy to Cass Sunstein,have suggested there ought to be no serious investigation of crimes around domestic surveillance and torture. What of the hundreds of Bush appointees sown throughout the departments and the agencies? These people’s ideas of right and wrong will come in part from what the new administration shows itself to care about and what it prefers to disregard. Indifference in this setting is not magnanimity.

Tuesday the Democrats voted to allow Joe Lieberman to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. Lieberman did his worst to tear down Barack Obama in 2008 by questioning his love of his country and his fitness to lead a secure government. Compare Lieberman and Clinton now with another person who has been mentioned for secretary of state,Chuck Hagel. Hagel accompanied Obama on his foreign tour even as Lieberman accompanied McCain. That we are not now at war with Iran may also be owed in part to a courageous letter that Hagel wrote to Admiral Fallon last October,on the recklessness of American saber rattling–this,when Clinton and Lieberman were voting the AIPAC line and saying,with docility,that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was a terrorist organization. They hoped if there was a war it would be over by the election.

Mr. Bromwhich’s conclusion is essentially suggestive of a streak of evident appeasement in the President-elect’s character. He finds this problematic because “A party in control must in some respects resemble any other institution that hopes to maintain itself. Reward those who sap and undermine,and you likewise discourage those who are loyal. People will practice the bad arts that they see are profitable.”

To my mind,Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph Lieberman have been rewarded enough in the last few days,Clinton by even entering consideration as a plausible Secretary of State (much less the apparent front-runner for the job),and Lieberman for not being run out of the Democratic caucus on a unsanded,sliver-riddled hickory rail.

Tweedle Dee &Tweedle Dum (Rubin &Summers)

While we’re on the subject of bad ideas,Robert Scheer wrote the following for Truthdig:

This is not change we can believe in. Not if Robert Rubin or his protégé,Lawrence Summers,get to call the shots on the economy in President-elect Barack Obama’s incoming administration. Both Clinton-era treasury secretaries deserve a great deal of the blame for the radical deregulation of the financial industry that has derailed the world economy. They both should,along with former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan,perform rites of contrition and be kept at a safe distance from the leadership of our nation.

If either of these jokers is named Treasury Secretary,at least they’ll have a friend in Ms. Pritzker over in Commerce.