Good capture from The Blaze: Shepard Smith could not hide his disgust regarding how State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki began the agency’s daily press briefing on the heels of a Malaysian Airlines plane going down over Ukraine.
“Well this is just highly inappropriate I would say…”
Smith said. He was reacting to Psaki starting the press briefing going over normal business and talking bout elections in Afghanistan instead of starting with reaction to the breaking crash news.
“Each day the State Department has a briefing. Each day there are State Department reporters who are there, that is their beat, they are assigned to be there. And you get a long list of things that are going on over the world and then you get to ask questions…”
Kevin D. Williamson and George Will hit the nail on the head with columns questioning the outsized importance of the presidency. I’ve linked them together here because they share this theme, a subject that’s been on my mind. It’s particularly relevant today because of the Supreme Court’s decisive smackdown of presidential overreach.
It’s been observed, by Glenn Reynolds, P.J. O’Rourke, and others, that that life in America was better and freer when the Presidency wasn’t so important. It almost didn’t matter which gang of crooks ran the White House, because most politics was local, not national, and the limitations on Presidential power insured that not much damage could be done. The Federal government was distant, and wonderfully irrelevant to the daily lives of most Americans. Local government mattered. Presidents could occupy themselves with foreign policy, negotiating trade agreements, responding to national emergencies, and making occasional speeches. Most of the time, the country can run itself pretty much on its own.
In the last few generations, presidential importance and power has quietly increased. Then, exploded. Presidential elections are all-consuming, winner-take-all contests that consume enormous resources, and draw undue attention. There’s an unseemly preoccupation with presidential spectacle, the wonder and majesty of it all.
My personal rant: Since when are presidents are expected to set a national agenda, drive the country in important new directions, hatch important new plans? Since when are presidents measured by the success or failure of their grand vision for the country? (answer: the progressive era) Two phrases that illustrate this increasingly poisonous trend: “signature legislation”, and “historic legacy”. When we see or hear the phrase “signature legislation”, journalists and talking heads are stroking the president’s self-image, and indulging the malignant nationalist “great figure” hero fantasy. “Signature legislation” should be a banned phrase, it’s emblematic of this growing bubble of unrealistic expectations. As if the ego of the President is something we should all participate in helping to protect and preserve, for history. I’m sorry, but I’m not interested. Count me out.
That the presidency is increasingly imperial, and disturbingly monarchial, is not even a question. Economically, it’s self-evident. Kings and Queens live and travel more modestly than the president. Mark Steyn pointed out that the cost of presidential maintenance — Air Force One, the White House Staff, all the perks — now exceeds that of all the world’s monarchies combined.
Government service shouldn’t be so attractive, even at the executive level. President Clinton, when showing the Oval office to guests who had never seen it, jokingly referred to it as the “crown jewel of the American penal system”. Though Clinton enjoyed the benefits and survived the hazards of the outsized presidency, that was a rare moment of self-deprecating awareness about the burden of the presidency, and an appreciation for its limits.
I agree with Will, and Williamson. I’ve had my fill of presidential drama, give me a boring president. Please.
As I was lunching with a few conservative political types earlier this week, the subject turned, as it does, to the 2016 field. When the name of a highly regarded former governor came up, the judgment was unequivocal: “He’s just so . . . boring.” That was not intended as an endorsement.
It should be.
“What greeted Barack Obama during his ascent was excitement that bled into reverence — it is easy to forget, with the demigod in his now diminished state, that his admirers were literally singing hymns to him. Exciting, in the same way that a head-on collision in a speeding Cadillac is exciting…”
Barack Obama has been anything but boring. “May you live in exciting times” may be a fake Chinese curse, but the wisdom communicated therein is real. Thought experiment: Consider the presidency of Barack Obama from the point of view of the sort of person who is likely to support such men. Having vanquished George W. Bush, he has now given us: a military mess in Iraq complete with the deployment of U.S. troops and a mission that is probably unachievable; the continuing disintegration of Afghanistan and its reversion to a jihadist safe haven; an economy that is shrinking significantly and probably is dipping back into recession; a defense and intelligence apparatus that is abusing its powers and the trust of the American people in ways that are not obviously related to defeating terrorist plots; millions without health insurance; millions out of work; corruption in our public institutions, ranging from the IRS to our universities; a self-aggrandizing political elite that is busy enriching itself through the vulgar exploitation of political connections while incomes for ordinary Americans stagnate or decline; etc. There has been a great deal of excitement, but if you voted for Obama because you were angry about the wars, the surveillance state, and the economy, things aren’t looking any better at all.
[Kevin Williamson's book "The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure" is available at Amazon]
The most boring president of the modern era probably was Dwight Eisenhower, whose administration was marked by relative peace, prosperity, and confidence in the effectiveness and integrity of our institutions. The most boring president ever surely was Calvin Coolidge, who pinched pennies and kept at his plow, more or less leaving the country free to go about its own business, which turned out to be an excellent economic program. Our most exciting recent presidents? John Kennedy, who was privately corrupt and publicly inept; Richard Nixon, who was privately corrupt and publicly corrupt; Bill Clinton, who combined the worst features of Kennedy and Nixon, adding a distasteful dose of sanctimony to the mix…(read more)
“In a radio address to the nation, President Franklin Roosevelt urged Americans to tell him their troubles. Please do not tell me yours. Tell them to your spouse, friends, clergy — not to a politician…”
All modern presidents of both parties have been too much with us. Talking incessantly, they have put politics unhealthily at the center of America’s consciousness. Promising promiscuously, they have exaggerated government’s proper scope and actual competence, making the public perpetually disappointed and surly. Inflating executive power, they have severed it from constitutional constraints. So, sensible voters might embrace someone who announced his 2016 candidacy this way:
“I am ambling — running suggests unseemly ardor — for president. It is axiomatic that anyone who nowadays will do what is necessary in order to become president thereby reveals character traits, including delusions of adequacy and obsessive compulsive disorder, that should disqualify him or her from proximity to powers concentrated in the executive branch. Therefore, my campaign will initially consist of driving around the Obnoxiously Entitled Four — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — trying to interest their 3.8 percent of America’s population in a minimalist president. Read the rest of this entry »
“…he became much more of an accepted fellow’ than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times…”
For Fox News, James Rosen reports: U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at one point during his captivity converted to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a “mujahid,” or warrior for Islam, according to secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account and obtained by Fox News.
“…a member of the Haqqani network, said to be close to Bergdahl’s captors, reported that the American prisoner had declared himself a ‘mujahid’…”
The reports indicate that Bergdahl’s relations with his Haqqani captors morphed over time, from periods of hostility, where he was treated very much like a hostage, to periods where, as one source told Fox News, “he became much more of an accepted fellow” than is popularly understood. He even reportedly was allowed to carry a gun at times.
The documents show that Bergdahl at one point escaped his captors for five days and was kept, upon his re-capture, in a metal cage, like an animal. In addition, the reports detail discussions of prisoner swaps and other attempts at a negotiated resolution to the case that appear to have commenced as early as the fall of 2009.
The reports are rich in on-the-ground detail — including the names and locations of the Haqqani commanders who ran the 200-man rotation used to guard the Idaho native — and present the most detailed view yet of what Bergdahl’s life over the past five years has been like. These real-time dispatches were generated by the Eclipse Group, a shadowy private firm of former intelligence officers and operatives that has subcontracted with the Defense Department and prominent corporations to deliver granular intelligence on terrorist activities and other security-related topics, often from challenging environments in far-flung corners of the globe. Read the rest of this entry »
“We’re measuring them by the size of their mistakes, and that is amateur hour.”
From NRO‘s Molly Wharton: Former Navy SEAL and FBI special agent Jonathan Gilliam thinks that the Obama administration has shown it’s not up for the task of effectively and safely overseeing America’s wars, and the recent prisoner exchange of five high-level Taliban generals for American Bowe Bergdahl is just the latest example…
“I just don’t know where their politics end and their legality and their war-fighting start.”
Republicans Delete Digital Praise of Bowe Bergdahl Release
At least three prominent Republicans appeared to offer praise on Twitter for the rescue of American POW Bowe Bergdahl — only to later backtrack, scrubbing their tweets or websites of any mention of the soldier after questions arose over the prisoner swap that freed him.
Republicans have widely criticized the Obama administration for swapping five high-level Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl, who many believe defected from his base because he was unhappy with the U.S. military’s actions in Afghanistan.
But before those criticisms mounted, some members of the GOP didn’t hesitate to welcome Bergdahl’s release with open arms…(read more)
Senate Democrats Go AWOL
They had Obama’s back on the Bergdahl/Taliban trade. Now they’re walking away.
On Sunday, Senator Claire McCaskill gave a full-throated defense of the president’s decision to release five Taliban commanders from the Guantanamo prison in exchange for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. “We saved this man’s life. The commander-in-chief acted within his constitutional authority, which he should have done,” McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, told Fox News host Chris Wallace. “I’m very proud that we have no POWs left in Afghanistan and the president should be proud of it also.”
But following multiple reports that Bergdahl deserted his post and soldiers died searching for him, McCaskill will no longer say she still supports the deal she was “very proud” of just 48 hours ago….
“It depends on all the facts and circumstances of the case,” Levin added. “I’m not going to give you a conclusion in the case because I don’t know all the circumstances.”
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declined to comment when asked if it was a good deal. In addition, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Mark Begich of Alaska said they’re reserving judgment.
The video, e-mailed to media on Wednesday, shows Bergdahl in traditional Afghan clothing sitting in a pickup truck parked on a hillside. More than a dozen Taliban fighters with machineguns stand around the truck and on the hillside…(read more)
Recently, President Obama exchanged five Taliban leaders for an American POW, Bowe Bergdahl. One prisoner for five is an iffy trade to begin with — but even moreso when it was revealed that Bergdahl had deserted his post. So, Obama got his man, but there was a lot of collateral damage — it kind of reminds us of a movie we once saw…
Hot Air’s ALLAHPUNDIT comments:
“…As for Todd’s point about the White House expecting “euphoria,” there are only two possibilities. One: Despite a Pentagon investigation in 2010 into Bergdahl’s disappearance, despite Michael Hastings’s article two years ago in Rolling Stone, despite the fact that Bergdahl apparently left a note confirming his desertion, somehow everyone in the administration who had input into this prisoner swap missed the longstanding accusations against him. They thought they were bringing home a guy who was captured heroically in combat and have now been caught completely by surprise. I don’t buy that, although I’ve had a few dozen conservative pals warn me on Twitter over the past 24 hours to never underestimate Hopenchange’s ignorance and incompetence. Point taken, and if this were purely a policy matter, I might go along. It isn’t. It’s a political landmine too and O’s usually careful to protect his own political capital. Someone surely looked into Bergdahl’s disappearance and signed off on this knowing the allegations against him.
Which brings us to the other possibility. Namely, Obama expected “euphoria” over Bergdahl’s release not because he didn’t know about the desertion claims but because he assumed that most of the public would never find out. I think he expected the media to go face-first into the tank in ignoring the desertion angle in the interest of (a) protecting the White House and (b) playing up the gauzy “POW reunited with parents” human-interest stuff. And you know what? That was a reasonable expectation. They probably thought that any desertion claims against Bergdahl would be confined to Fox and a few problematic segments on Jake Tapper’s show, all of which could be ignored and ghettoized as some new right-wing bugaboo (sorry, Jake) that no one else need take seriously. Michael Tomasky was way out in front of that yesterday morning. But then all sorts of big-media outlets dug in — the Times, WaPo, NBC, ABC, and on and on — and that made the “politicization” defense too difficult (although the left, God love ‘em, is still trying). I’m shocked by how eagerly the media went after it, frankly, although not as shocked as the White House. The X factor they didn’t anticipate, I’ll bet, is that soldiers like Cody Full would come forward and risk retaliation for putting his name to the “deserter” theory. It’s one thing to call a Republican a hack, it’s another to call a veteran who was there and who lost friends in the hunt for Bergdahl one. They’ve been left with no counter.
For Breitbart.com, Ben Shapiro writes: Over the weekend, the Obama White House announced that it had made the worst trade since Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock: five senior Taliban commanders for apparent deserter Bowe Bergdahl.
“what did we give up in exchange for the tarnished soldier?”
President Obama announced, “On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal.” Bergdahl, however, went AWOL according to those who served with him – in emails, he stated that “the horror that is America is disgusting.”
So, what did we give up in exchange for the tarnished soldier? Five “high-risk” Taliban commanders. Two of the five are wanted by the UN and would be tried for war crimes. Read the rest of this entry »