President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel was caught red handed today trying to pass off political rhetoric for real leadership on CNN’s State of the Union. Fortunately Bill Kristol was around to hand the blow hard, trash talking Emanuel his a**.
On Rahm Emanuel’s use of the unresolved Afghan election as a reason for the Obama administration delaying its decision on Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops:
1. It’s bogus. Emanuel, along with Vice President Joe Biden and many others in the White House, was against sending more troops before the current election controversy. The anti-surge forces lost the argument to substitute Biden’s counter-terrorism approach for McChrystal’s (and Obama’s) counter-insurgency strategy. So now Emanuel is reaching for a new excuse to persuade his boss to avoid a politically difficult choice — or to rationalize his boss’s having decided to duck a politically difficult choice.
2. It’s faux-surprise. President Obama announced his counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan on March 27. Richard Holbrooke and the rest of the administration had months to work on the political and diplomatic fronts to bring about a better election process. They failed. Just before the Afghan election, on August 17, when it was perfectly clear there was going to be lots of corruption and cheating, Obama gave a speech reiterating his commitment to winning this “war of necessity.” Now the administration is surprised that the Afghan election wasn’t a thing of beauty, and that the political/governance situation is complex?
3. It’s presumptuous. Wasn’t the White House just complaining about Gen. McChrystal offering his judgment in public while internal administration debates were ongoing? I suppose one can’t say that Emanuel should have confined himself to privately offering his view up the chain of command — the only person above him is the president. But are we then to conclude Emanuel was speaking for the president today? Are Sunday talk show declarations by Emanuel and political advisor David Axelrod an appropriate way to announce the considered judgment of the president at this stage of a long Cabinet-level review process? Or is Emanuel end-running the process? Do Secretaries Gates and Clinton agree with Emanuel? Were they consulted before Rahm popped off?
4. It’s stupid. If it’s reckless to commit to 108,000 troops without a reliable Afghan partner, it’s reckless to ask 68,000 troops to fight without a reliable Afghan partner. Furthermore, what’s reckless is further delaying the troop deployment orders. If the president issued the order now, he could always delay or revoke it later, if the political situation seemed truly insupportable. But the longer the president delays now, the longer our troops currently in theater are going to be fighting an under-resourced war, until reinforcements come. In addition, our hesitancy about our commitment now increases the odds our of Afghan partners becoming less reliable rather than more so in the future, and less rather than more amenable to our guidance.
There is no mystery as to why the Obama White House has declared war on Fox News and other conservatives in the media. They don’t like life outside the hothouse media bubble that kept them alive in 2007-2008. Now that the shine is off this political trinket the public is seeing that what they got in November 2008 was not Tiffany but rather a cheap Chinatown rip off that isn’t even right twice a day. Kristol’s comment about troop morale in item four above is resonating in the voter demographic above age fifty that well remembers one of the most bitter lessons about Vietnam: if we are to fight a war, fight to win and give the commanders what they need…leadership, not vacillation.
Note: See also Rick’s comments below.