Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’

Third party

People are not discussing a third political party correctly.

We are about to have third-party rule

I predict we will have a victorious third-party presidential candidate and maybe a Congressional majority of that party that year or in the next mid-term election. How will this happen?

Going to hit a financial wall

The U.S. government will finally hit the financial wall that has been predicted for decades with increasing alarm. The American people will, when that happens, finally wake up to the fact that current government spending is a runaway train and that spending cuts in entitlement programs are required—not just one possible solution. Both the Republican and Democrat parties will be totally discredited when it happens. They and the various presidents have been virtually incapable of cutting entitlement programs. The Dems are far more guilty than the Republicans, but the Republicans are not innocent.

When?

When will this happen? I am not sure. I increasingly see big-time economists on TV and in live speeches make predictions along the lines of,

[Pause to think about the question] Five years, not ten.

Can’t borrow anymore

In other words, their best estimate is financial collapse of U.S. government (inability to sell bonds to anyone but the U.S. Federal Reserve who gets the money to buy them by “printing” it) in four (2014), five (2015), maybe six (2016) years, but surely not as long into the future as ten (2020) years. “Printing” that much money causes high inflation or hyperinflation, which will drive the two incumbent parties out of existence. Inability to sell U.S. government bonds means inability to deficit spend and inability to rollover the already existing national debt when the various bonds we sold in the past mature. That, in turn, means the government’s checks will bounce.

The government will be forced to increase taxes and/or cut spending, but neither will be enough to make the government’s check stop bouncing because the debt has grown so large (approaching 100% of the nation’s gross domestic product, that is, all the money made by all the private citizens and businesses in America in a year.)

The politicians will probably try to avoid tax increases and spending cuts by three illegitimate gimmicks, namely,

hyperinflation (all your bank accounts become worth zero—the public will riot)
default on the national debt (announcing your government bonds are worthless and that the government deposit insurance is out of money—which it already is, actually)
financial repression—that is, sort of forcing you to put your money into banks that pay little or no interest then forcing those banks to buy U.S. government bonds for more than they are worth

Dems and Republicans both out

Like I said, all of this nonsense will obliterate the Democrats and Republicans off the face of the earth, and deservedly so. The nation will then be ruled by a third party as a result.

Capitalist or socialist?

Will the third party be capitalist or socialist? It could go either way. Hyperinflation in Germany in 1920 to 1923 arguably led to Adolf Hitler winning election as chancellor in 1933. His party was fascist (same as socialist only they let private business continue to own their companies but tell them how to operate them). 20th century revolutions in various countries led to socialist or communist governments.

Essentially, it will be a more extreme version of the 2008 election where the left said the crisis was caused by not enough government control and the right said it was too much government control. The left won that election, but may not have been able to win a rematch within a year of inauguration of their crowd. Fundamentally, capitalism is the only system that works and the only one that can allow people to live in freedom. Although socialists initially won in places like the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, the fact that socialism does not work ultimately crushed those governments and replaced them with capitalist (Russia) or quasi-capitalist (China, Vietnam) governments. So we may get less government intrusion in the economy after the federal government financial collapses—or more. It took the Soviet Union 69 years to collapse.

It will be a key moment in U.S. history and there will probably be a capitalist third party and a socialist third party vying to take over. The winner will not be decided by who’s the best party. It will be decided by political power. The meek shall not inherit the United States.

Split your side’s votes and thereby elect the guy you hate the most

The typical comment is that third parties elect the opponent of their members because they split their side’s vote. That has happened. Ross Perot took 19% of the 1992 vote, mostly from Republican George H.W. Bush, thereby electing Democrat Bill Clinton. Ralph Nader took 2.74% of the 2000 vote running on the Green Party ticket. Most notably, he took votes away from Al Gore in NH and FL. Gore lost both states by tiny margins. Had he won either, he would have been elected president.

However, it must also be noted that Ross Perot’s sole issue was balancing the budget. And it must be noted that the U.S. government ran a surplus during Clinton’s administration in 1999 and 2000 and in the first year of Republican George W. Bush’s administration, 2001. George W. Bush is the son of the George H.W. Bush who was defeated because he let Perot own the budget-balancing issue. I suspect Clinton ran relatively small deficits and two surpluses in part because he was afraid of losing the voters who voted for Perot.

Wasting your vote

Another knock on third parties is that you are wasting your vote if you ever vote for one. That is almost certainly not true. Take the 2008 election. I voted for the Libertarian. Obama won my state, California, by 8,274,47 to 5,011,781. Nader got 108,381 votes; Libertarian Bob Barr, 67,582. I was one of the 67,582.

Those who say I wasted my vote want me to vote for McCain. In view of the fact that he lost by more than 3 million votes, why would my vote for McCain not have been wasted? The same thing would apply if I had voted for Obama.

Once, my wife and I voted against a local bond issue. After several recounts, it lost by two votes. In that election, my vote was not wasted. But my vote was insignificant in every other government election I ever voted in. Basically, your vote only matters if the election is really close.

By voting for a third-party candidate in a non-close election, you send a message. The message is: this party is more what I want. That is precisely the message sent by Perot voters in 1992, and Clinton got the message with regard to the budget. No politician with a brain ignores the issue that got a presidential candidate 19% of the vote.

The Democrats and Republicans were third parties once

The 1824 presidential election in the U.S. was between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Oddly, both represented a party known as the Democratic-Republican Party. I kid you not. Other major parties in the 1700s and 1800s included the Federalists and the Whigs.

The first Democrat party election was 1828 when Andrew Jackson won. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by a then kooky fringe group of anti-slavery activists.

So the notion that all third parties are nutcakes perpetually tilting at windmills is wrong. Most are, but the current two major parties were once third parties.

Also, some windmill tilters, like Perot and the Socialist party, never won in the U.S., but they did influence the guy who did win. It has been noted that the FDR New Deal was essentially the Socialist Party platform of 1901. As part of my research for the book I am writing on inflation and deflation, I studied the New Deal. Much of it was the old deal, that is, a continuation of the policies of FDR’s Republican successor Herbert Hoover.

Parties can change and have

When I was a kid, negroes were almost all Republican. The Democrat party, especially their split-off the Dixiecrats, were the party of segregation. Then, in the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested and Democrat presidential candidate John F. Kennedy called King in jail. Four years later, Democrat President Johnson got the Civil Rights At of 1964 enacted into law and some other similar laws. Johnson did it because it was the right thing to do, and he was worried about his legacy, but he noted it “will cost us the South,” which it did. During the 1968 campaign for president, Republican Richard Nixon ran in part on a restoration of “law and order.” In 1967, there had been many race riots in U.S. cities. The majority was extremely angry about that. The phrase “law and order” was interpreted as code referring to being anti-black rioters and looters.

Since then, negroes became blacks and very few ever vote Republican. The former Confederacy generally now votes Republican, indeed, in 2008, pundits said the Republicans had become a Southeastern regional party only.

If the Tea Party wants to have a positive effect, they need to do something like what Kennedy and Johnson did to the Democrat party with regard to civil rights.

Another issue is there is too much abstract talk. Talk radio callers and hosts incessantly say that the Republican Party needs to become more conservative.

I don’t know about that. When they get talking to each other, conservative radio callers and hosts can convince themselves that everyone is conservative. They are not. Plus, the word “conservative” rarely appears on a U.S. ballot. Power in U.S. politics goes through candidates, not parties. As soon as the presidential candidate in named, he becomes the leader of the party. And most party-backed candidates think little of abandoning the platform of their party even during the campaign. If the Tea Party wants to take over the Republican party, they need to back a candidate who wins the Republican nomination. Running their mouths and waving signs means nothing.

It may be fun to endlessly talk about abstractions like conservative and liberal, but if you are in the changing-politics business, you need to drop the abstractions and find a candidate. You can’t beat somebody with nobody.

Wait in the wings

The other thing a third party that really wants to effect change, rather than just run their mouths, can do, is prepare for the crisis that causes their agenda to become mainstream. The Libertarian party seems content to be a debating society. The public might be willing to embrace their ideas if and when the U.S. government goes bankrupt. But the Libertarian Party is not prepared to run a true campaign. They are philosophers. They have no real political expertise, no get-out-the-vote machinery, no registration mechanism, no capacity to make commercials, and so on.

The third party that will inherit the nation will be the one that gets ready for the fiscal collapse. When that happens, the mainstream of America will be ready to turn to the third party. Indeed, the third party will actually be the first party and the Republicans and Democrats will overnight become third parties.

Larry King Live

The American people are not quite ready to elect a third-party candidate president. But they are closer than most believe.

In 1992, Ross Perot was the leader in the polls before he suddenly dropped out because he heard a rumor his political enemies were planning to disrupt his daughter’s wedding. Then he got back in and still got 19% of the vote in spite of his dropping out being perceived as nutty.

Furthermore, Perot did not plan to become a candidate. It happened because of a casual question he was asked on Larry King Live. Larry asked Perot if he would run and Perot said he would if there was a popular outcry for him. As a result, a third party formed overnight for the purpose of nominating him. As I said above, Perot was AHEAD IN THE POLLS—ahead of both the ultimate loser in the election, George H.W. Bush—the incumbent president at the time—and ahead of the ultimate winner in the 1992 election: Bill Clinton.

Larry King Live is a pretty famous TV show nowadays, but it wasn’t always. I was the guest on the show on 1/26/87 along with a then get-rich-quick real estate investment guru named Dave DelDotto who used to appear in TV infomercials from the beach in Hawaii. He went bankrupt since. I got the impression the show hurt Del Dotto. He now has a winery in Northern California. (I remember the date because my third son Mike was born three weeks early on that day and I missed the birth because I was down in Hollywood to be on Larry King.)

Larry was so pleased that he wanted us to do the show again and called me to do it. I agreed but predicted DelDotto would decline, which is what happened. Then, on February 22, 1992, long after the 1992 presidential campaign had begun, Larry asked Perot that famous question. Since then, Larry no longer has little people like me on as guests. If you could get a chronological list of his guests, you would see a stark jump in degree of celebrity status after the Perot appearance. Apparently, the TV viewing world was so impressed by his launching of Perot that they tuned in to see what was happening on that show. Larry was Perot’s political meal ticket and Perot was Larry’s big break.

Let me summarize this to make sure you understand it. In late February 1992, as a result of a casual question by Larry King on his TV show, a brand new third party spontaneously erupted and nominated a candidate who was leading all other candidates in the polls until he dropped out of the race!!! And he was more or less a one-issue candidate: balancing the budget.

[Note: My wife and I and a number of other Harvard MBA students had supper with Ross Perot in 1977. I was co-president of the Harvard Business School New Enterprise Club so I sat directly across from him and got a lot of one-on-one conversation. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and I of the U.S. Military Academy. He tried to get me to bet on that year’s Army-Navy Game with him. I told him my heart was with Army on game day but my head, educated on sound investments at Harvard, was not about to bet on a severe underdog for sentimental reasons. At that time, Perot was a billionaire and as far as we knew, the only one in the world. The famous Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the world had not yet been created. In other words, when we had supper with him, he was the Bill Gates of the era.]

Obama has not ‘inherited’ anything

Barack Obama cannot get through a paragraph without whining that he inherited all the nation’s woes from the Bush administration.

Bull!

There are two definitions of inherit:

1. to receive assets as a result of the death of a person pursuant to a will or intestate succession state law

2. to receive, by being conceived, genetic characteristics from a biological ancestor

Neither applies to Obama. George W. Bush did not die and, if he had, he sure as hell would not have left any assets to Barack Obama. Obama admits to being a cousin of Dick Cheney, but cousins are not descendants and Obama surely is no descendant of Bush.

Obama SOUGHT the position he is now in

Unless you are one of the Menendez brothers or Anna Nicole Smith, you do not seek an inheritance. It just happens to you without the slightest effort on your part.

That sure as hell does not describe Obama’s behavior since the year he decided to go into politics at age 23. He has been busting his ass off, neglecting his family, and bending every effort to achieve the highest political office he could achieve. He desperately chased the three political offices he has held. He was not selling insurance for Allstate when he got a call that his uncle George died and left him the White House

Inheritance, like elective office, is optional

When you are told you are to inherit assets as the result of the death of their prior owner, you’d better make sure you want them before you agree to accept them. In the case of real estate, the property in question may be underwater (mortgage bigger than current market value) or contaminated with toxics like asbestos or underground waste that would cost more to clean up than the property would be worth afterwards. The same is true of businesses or other assets that may have been pledged as loan security. A corporation might have tort or other types of liabilities that would cause you to say no thanks to the executor of the estate.

Heirs can just say no to the receipt of any particular assets offered to them as a result of someone’s death.

Barack Obama could have declined to run for president or, after being elected, he could have declined to take the oath or, after inauguration, could have resigned.

Not only did he not do any of those things, he did the opposite. He cited all the nation’s problems as reasons:

• why he wanted the job
• why he should be elected to fix those problems
• why the party in power in the White House should be replaced by him

Now he tells us the prior administration left him a mess. Isn’t that the exact same mess he spent all 2007 and 2008 talking about and asking us to put him in charge of? He told us he was an expert on that mess. He told us he was the best person in the country to fix it.

Now, those exact same things are his all-purpose excuse for not fixing it.

During World War II, the French were famous for blaming all sorts of inefficiencies and shortages on the war with the all-purpose excuse “C’est la guerre.”

Obama’s version of that is “C’est le Bush Administration.”

Quit the whining and get to work! You wanted the job. You got the job. Now do the job. Find ways to get it done and stop making excuses for not getting it done. If the mess left by the previous administration is too much for you, resign. If not, shut up and start producing some real results.

The Bush administration never had your Congressional majorities and indeed spent half of their time in office with a minority in Congress, yet they got far more done. Literally, the only laws you have enacted were two earmark laws—the earmarks you promised would end if and when you got elected.

The plain fact is you suck as a president. You had one of the three biggest Congressional majorities since 1900. The others were FDR in 1932 (Depression) and Carter in 1976 (Watergate).

Democrat Lyndon Johnson got far more done than you (e.g., Civil Rights Act of 1964, Great Society) with normal Congress’s and a much bigger war (Vietnam with 553,000 U.S. troops in country). Why did Johnson and Bush get far more done with far fewer Congressional party mates? Because, unlike Barack Obama, they knew what they were doing as a result of many years of real experience. You stumble around the Oval Office like a guy groping for a towel after leaving the shower with soap in his eyes.

As I said in my job interview article early in the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama could not get a job as an unpaid volunteer youth basketball coach, McDonald’s night manager, or Army second lieutenant—literally—if he applied for them with the same resume but no celebrity.

Bush was president, not king

Bush was not king from 2001 to 2009. He was merely president. There was also a Congress. What happened or did not happen between 2001 and 2009 was the responsibility of both the president and the Congress. Obama himself was a U.S. Senator in that Congress from 2005 to 2009—2/3 of a six-year senate term. The two parties were tied or the majority party went back and forth. The most senators the Republicans ever had when Bush was president was 55, not the magic number of 60. Barack the “magic negro” managed to render the magic number of 60 anything but magical by spending every month when he had that magic number pushing for a health care bill that required even more than 60 Democrats because the Democrats themselves could not all support the various hodge podge versions that were bandied about.

Who made the mess?

Did Bush alone create all the challenges facing the nation in 2009 and 2010? As we all know, he did not. He could not.

The mess facing the nation was created by all the Congresses and presidents since around 1928. Before then, the federal government was too small to make huge messes. They just ran the Army and Navy and post office and customs.

The mess is the accumulation of laws like social security (FDR), Medicare and Medicaid (Johnson), Medicare Part D (Bush II), war after war after war (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Obama). It is also caused in part by quasi-governmental organizations like FNMA, FHLMC, Federal Reserve. And it was caused by people outside the U.S. like Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, North Korea, North Vietnam, Iran, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar, Osama Bin Laden, and so on.

Almost all presidents have blamed their predecessor to an extent for the problems they face. But none of them have done it so many times or for so many months as Obama.

What Obama really means by the word ‘inherit’

Aside from the inaccuracy and incompleteness of Obama’s whining about inheriting the mess, he intends a whole new, very dangerous meaning to the word. To Obama, the allegation that he inherited the problems currently facing the country means:

1. The existence of the problems alleged by Obama on inauguration day is not his fault, which is generally true.
2. The continued existence of those problems is neither his fault nor his responsibility to fix. There seems to be a silent implication that Bush and Cheney have to somehow come back and clean those problems up.
3. The appearance of additional, similar problems after inauguration day are also due to Bush/Cheney because the problems that have arisen since Obama took office are somehow the offspring of the problems Obama “inherited.”
4. The worsening of the problems Obama inherited from Bush/Cheney is also not Obama’s fault nor his responsibility to fix because those problems would not exist if Bush/Cheney had not created them and left them unfixed.

In short, Obama is absolved from either blame for, or of any obligation to fix, any problem that could, in any way, however remotely, be traced to Bush/Cheney.

Obama sees his entire responsibility to be scolding the ROW (rest of the world, i.e., everyone but Barack Obama), especially the prior administration and “Washington” and “Wall Street” for all of their mistakes and shortcomings. He will sign an occasional bill and make a zillion speeches, but otherwise, “somebody” needs to clean up this mess.

For the record, it is the job of each president to manage the federal government in the best way possible and the correct total amount of time each president should spend pointing out the deficiencies of his predecessor is 0:00. What’s done is done. The president’s job is the situation as he finds it on inauguration day regardless of its origin. If you call a washing-machine repairman, and all he does is complain about the manufacturer of the machine or the previous repairman, you would rightly refuse to pay him.

Not suited for the job

I have been saying since before the election that Barack Obama wanted the title of president and the celebrity of president, but that he never had any interest in actually doing what the president has to do. Ronald Reagan, a former two-term California governor, knew what chief executive meant, wanted the job and did the job, not perfectly, but he knew what he was getting himself into and handled it rather well. Hillary is a policy wonk and loves that stuff.

Obama is the opposite of a policy wonk. He is a dilettante, perpetual graduate student. He enjoys talking about this stuff, but not to the point where he is going to bother to do his homework so he knows what he’s talking about. Like the Pope, Obama is always pontificating. Unlike the Pope, Obama has no authority to pontificate.

In my book How to Manage Residential Property for Maximum Cash Flow and Resale Value, 6th edition, which just came out, it tells a tale of two employees of mine. Both were resident managers of apartment complexes I owned. The managers of my Greenbriar Apartments loved the job. They had been there for decades. They had written an article for the local paper once about how great the job was because of all the different people they met from around the country and the world who were tenants there. Never a dull day. Every day was different and so on.

Then there was the other manager I had briefly at my Las Brisas Apartments. She complained bitterly of being bothered all hours of the day, stupid tenants, impossible list of things to do, and so on. She demanded her pay be double or some such. I fired her after about three weeks.

Both managers were describing the exact same job—albeit at two different complexes. One saw the glass as half full; the other, half empty.

My books says when you hire an employee who complains bitterly about those aspects of the job which are normal, fire her or him. It is not that she is wrong when she says a resident manager of an apartment building gets “bothered” at all hours of the day. They do. The issue is whether it is a “bother” and whether they appreciate also being off-duty all hours of the day when nothing in particular is happening. Those who are as well suited for the job as they should be are not “bothered” by the tenants coming to them with maintenance requests or other issues. They see it as what they get paid for and recognize that the compensation is fair for the time required. I would not even say the complaining manager is a bad person. But they sure as hell need to find another job.

The generic version of this is the manager who complains that they are “always putting out fires” or that they can never get a full team of the “right people.” If they could just get the “right people,” everything would be fine.

If the guy who complains that they have no time for anything but putting out fires at work, and he is a fireman, fire him. More broadly, if organizations always worked smoothly, there would be no need for managers. A manager is to people, when the maintenance man at a factory is to the manufacturing equipment. If the equipment never broke down there would be no need for a maintenance man. By the same token, managers are the maintenance men of human organizations. If everybody always did the right thing, organizations would not need managers.

President of the United States is a people manager job. The current holder of that job incessantly complains about the mess and the problems and the recalcitrant Congress and voters.

Complaining about the job description!

He is complaining about the job description! What president did not have to deal with such things? Throughout our history there have been wars and financial crises. There’s a list of all U.S. wars at this link. And there’s a list of business cycles since 1854 (all booms and recessions) here.

Barack Obama could not have had more notice of what the job of President of the United States involved. Now he complains bitterly about precisely the job for which he told us he was the best qualified person. He is unqualified for the job and unsuited for it. The plain truth is he never wanted the job in the first place, only the title and prestige and celebrity of it, and he wants it even less now that he has it. He should resign (after first getting Biden to resign and appointing Wes Clark or Hillary or some such the new vice president).

Do not complain about the job description after you take the job. Read it before you apply. If you don’t like the job description, don’t apply for, or accept, the job.

Barack, lead or get out of the way. Whichever you choose, quit your adolescent whining.

Obama’s Afghanistan speech at West Point

On 1/1/09, Obama went to my undergraduate alma mater—West Point—to make a speech announcing his decision about what to do in Afghanistan.

To avoid being booed

Why did he not go to HIS undergraduate alma mater, Columbia, to make this speech?

Because he would have been booed there.

How do I know that? Columbia is my oldest son’s alma mater. Columbia has also gotten itself in the media repeatedly in recent years because of who it invited to speak and how it treated those who said something the Columbia students and faculty did not like. When I was a student at West Point, during the Vietnam War, students famously occupied the office of the Columbia president.

How about his going to his graduate school alma mater to announce his decision on Afghanistan. That would be Harvard Law School. Why did he not go there?

Because he would have been booed there, too.

My wife and I are Harvard MBAs. He would have been booed at Harvard Business School, too.

How about the usual Obama trick of speaking only to tightly-screened, hard-core, yellow-dog, Democrat party stalwarts?

Nope. They would have booed him, too, for not removing all troops from Afghanistan immediately.

Was he not booed at West Point because the Corps of Cadets (student body) all agreed with him? No. He was not booed at West Point because prior to Obama’s speech, the Commandant of Cadets ordered them to applaud enthusiastically and to refrain from any “political” response to the speech (like “You lie, sir!”).

The Commandant of Cadets is the top disciplinarian at West Point. His boss, the Superintendent of West Point, is in charge of everything and the Dean is in charge of academics. If any cadets had booed furtively, the Commandant probably would have punished the entire student body. Nowadays, I understand many careerist cadets would have ratted out the booers to the officers so they would get punished. When I was there, nothing remotely resembling that would have occurred or even come to anyone’s mind. And if it had, the officer to whom they snitched would have chewed his ass reminding him of West Point’s “cooperate and graduate” admonition and of the need to take care of your roommates and classmates. When I was there, if you were on time to a formation and your roommate was not, you would get chewed out more for leaving him behind than he would get chewed out for being late.

Bored, if not asleep

Watching the speech, I was struck by the motionlessness and emotionlessness of the cadets. Normally, presidential speeches are interrupted by applause. Then, after I noticed the total silence of the audience response, they began to applaud from time to time, albeit politely rather than enthusiastically.

I surmise looking at it and having spent four years there as a cadet, that the brass belatedly realized that the cadets were not interrupting the president with applause, that this would be noticed and perceived negatively, so they started applause artificially. When the cadets saw the officers applauding, they applauded out of fear of being videoed not applauding.

Also, I noticed that the brass and enlisted sergeants were scattered all around the audience sitting among the cadets. That, too, would have been unheard of when I was a cadet. All the officers would have been in the same VIP section and the enlisted attendees, if any, would have been way in the back in another separate section. I suspect the interspersing of non-cadets among the cadets was to intimidate the cadets out of booing or making any other negative, furtive response to the speech. Cadets are still basically college kids, you know. They are also active-duty military so I expect many of them hate anti-war, anti-military Obama with a passion.

Helicoptered in minutes before the speech

Apparently, Obama flew in by Marine One a half hour or so before the speech. That is not how you make a speech at West Point.

You arrive around 1400. The cadets put on a parade in your honor at around 3:45. You eat supper with the entire Corps of Cadets at one of the 10-man cadet tables at 1830, you pardon all the cadets who have excess demerits, then make your speech at 2000. The poop deck in the mess hall used to be where you spoke to the entire Corps of Cadets. That’s where MacArthur spoke from. Eisenhower Hall, where Obama spoke, did not exist when MacArthur spoke or when I was a cadet. Plus, MacArthur would not have spoken from a hall named after Eisenhower. Eisenhower was once MacArthur’s aide and said disdainfully, “I studied acting under MacArthur.” Good choice of acting coaches though. Eisenhower and I exchanged salutes one-on-one during his 50th reunion (1965). I thought he was really old—a museum piece. My 50th is in nine years. Old people were older back then.

No effort to relate to the in-person audience

Obama is supposed to be a great speaker. I heard many speeches from big shots when I was a cadet. Many just showed up and gave their standard speech—like Obama. The smart ones got a briefing and heeded it. For pep rallies during the football season, for example, the cadets would invariably greet the speaker with chants of “Take it off! Take it off!” as if they were in a strip club. Those speakers in the know, probably because they were warned, would strip off their sport coat or suit jacket, tie and shirt revealing some sort of humorous undershirt. I recall one seemingly prim and proper speaker who revealed a shredded white T undershirt like those worn by cadets who hated West Point to secretly show their disdain for the place. That was a huge hit.

Another speaker, West Point graduate General Tom Rienzi, started off by asking, “Is the Class of 1965 here?” The seniors cheered. As he progressed through the classes oldest to youngest, each class cheered louder than the previous one. That was to one up the others and because the younger the class, the more members it has because fewer have yet flunked out or quit. My class of 1968 was the biggest and loudest that night. Plebes (freshmen) are also the most enthusiastic. Firsties (seniors) are too cool to cheer so enthusiastically.

I attended the 2008 national rugby semi-final game at Stanford with a classmate. Army lost to Cal. There were a bunch of cadets there to cheer for Army, but they were all seniors. Seniors get the trip because a free trip to San Francisco is a really good deal and in the military, good deals go to the highest ranking. If the rugby team really wanted a cheering section, they should have sent the same number of plebes who won a cheering contest. They would have been about four times as loud as the seniors who were there, and lasted the whole game. The seniors lost interest after the first of the three periods.

The cadets are a lot of fun to speak to if you make the effort to learn about the way speeches are done there and make the effort to play the Corps of Cadets a little bit like you would play a musical instrument. Obama is supposed to be a great orator. Bullshit! By the standards of normal West Point speech givers who make the effort to know the audience, Obama was a total stiff, not “cool” at all.

It shows he was not at West Point to speak to the cadets who will be carrying out his orders in a year or two. Rather, he was there to put on a show for the TV audience. To put it in Hollywood terminology, the Corps of Cadets were mere props or extras in period costumes—like the people hanging around outside the Today Show studios during the live broadcast—only the cadets were ordered to attend.

Some may say establishing rapport with the cadets would have been inappropriate given the topic. Lighten up. The potential of death in combat was ubiquitous to us when we were at West Point during the Vietnam war. You can’t mope around in mourning all day every day. Plus, Douglas MacArthur’s Farewell speech to the cadets was similarly serious, but he nevertheless did a fabulous job of establishing rapport with, and endearing himself to the Corps with a joke at the beginning and a heartfelt tribute at the end of his speech. The speech also admonished cadets to remember to laugh and not take themselves too seriously. You can read it at http://www.nationalcenter.org/MacArthurFarewell.html and hear an excerpt of it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgqSI1BESVE.

I would appreciate hearing any inside info from current cadets or officers about their perspective on Obama’s speech there.

Contrast with Bush speech to cadets

A West Point cadet parent who called Rush Limbaugh said that the contrast between when George W. Bush spoke to the cadets in January, 2008 and when Obama did was stark. (Limbaugh mentioned in response that one of his cousins, Dan Limbaugh, went to West Point. Dan Limbaugh is my classmate.) The cadets greeted Bush with obvious great enthusiasm that had nothing to do with instructions from the Commandant. That’s partly because today’s cadets erroneously think George W. Bush was one of them by virtue of his having been in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. If Bush had spoken to our 40th reunion at West Point in September, 2008, he would not have been so enthusiastically received because we actually served in Vietnam and we know that, in that era, the National Guard and Reserves, unlike when Bush himself was commander in chief, were where you went to avoid active duty service in Vietnam.

Also, I think George W. Bush feels a genuine kinship to the active duty military and that includes West Point cadets. Obama, on the other hand, seemed like he would have more rapport with a delegation of Martians.

‘Enemy camp?’

MSNBC Obama lover Chris Matthews wondered out loud on TV after Obama’s speech why he delivered it in the “enemy camp” instead of from the normal location for such a speech: the Oval Office.

That’s the first time I ever heard The United States Military Academy described as “the enemy camp” in the context of a presidential speech about military strategy in a war.

Honored?

I surmise the brass and most cadets at West Point felt honored by Obama making that speech there. They were not honored. They were used.

We had a phrase when we were cadets: “using your honor against you.” That meant an officer using our adherence to the cadet honor code to make his job easier by simply asking a cadet if he had violated a regulation. The unwritten rule was that he was supposed to find other evidence of that on his own, not use the cadets’ honorableness out of laziness.

Obama used the Corps of Cadets discipline against them. He dishonestly used their discipline to imply agreement with his new policies.

Obama made this speech at West Point because the Corps of Cadets was the only audience in America that could not react honestly, and negatively, to it.

Why not in the Oval Office with no ‘studio audience?’

Why was this not done from the Oval Office like most momentous presidential speeches? I heard on TV that Obama prefers campaign mode which has him out on the hustings speaking at venues to live audiences all over the electorate. I have written in a number of articles saying he wanted the title of president, but not the job. His permanent campaign is the best evidence of that. The fact that it is becoming harder and harder for him to find audiences that will give him campaign backdrop adulation is the best evidence that the American people should have elected someone who wanted both the title and the job. Increasingly, he will only be able to speak to federal government employees like the West Point cadets.

I have also accused him of wrapping himself in the flag as a cheap trick to make it look like his policies and speeches are better received than they really are. On 12/1/09, wearing a navy blue suit and a red power tie, he also wrapped himself in cadet gray.

In my article about military medals, I noted that we described the National Defense Service Medal as the “I was alive in ’65 medal,” that being the year we cadets and the rest of the U.S. military were awarded it. We also joked of its three colors, “The blue is for the oceans we never crossed, the red is for the blood we never shed, and the yellow is the reason why.”

Cadet gray is the college color Obama never applied for, never wore, and, I predict, will not allow either of his daughters to wear. The red in his tie is the reason why.

Cadet uniforms for the speech

Before the speech, I wondered to my wife if the Military Academy would order the cadets to wear those camouflage combat muu muu’s you see our military wearing all over the place lately, including on some Fridays at West Point to cadet classes and at some West Point football games. When I was a cadet and Army officer, we would have gotten court martialed if we wore that uniform in public other than commuting between on-base work and off-post quarters—literally! I think it’s one of the ugliest uniforms I have ever seen and cadets wearing to to class or football games or to the president’s speech strikes me as too much Halloweening or “Do we look like action figures or whating” of the Army and the Military Academy. It is the Army’s equivalent of old clothes a civilian would use to do yard work or some such.

Army Chief of Staff George Casey went on the Sunday morning TV talk shows in that work-clothes uniform to say loss of diversity would be worse than the Fort Hood murder of 13 U.S. personnel. I guess he was trying to get protection from criticism by using the combat uniform to induce the draft-dodger guilt and rear-area guilt of the interviewers and TV audiences.

I told my wife the proper uniform for the event would be Dress Gray. Just before we left for a charity event the night of the speech, I saw the run-up to the speech on TV and noticed the offices were wearing Dress Blues, which is what the Army thinks is a formal uniform. They have another called Dress Mess which actually is pretty formal and resembles a civilian tux. That made me wonder to my wife if they were going to have the Cadets wear Full Dress Gray, which makes them look something like Napoleon’s army which was doing its thing about the time the Military Academy was founded.

When I got back home and looked at the DVR, I saw the cadets were wearing Dress Gray after all.

But I have a complaint about the way they wore it. Dress Gray Over White (late spring, summer, and early fall) was my favorite cadet uniform. Apparently, it’s no one else’s favorite because I could not find a photo of it on the Web. It’s just dress gray with white trousers. For Obama’s speech, the cadets wore Dress Gray Over Gray (late fall, winter, early spring), that is, with gray trousers that have a black stripe down the outside of each leg. The problem is they are junking it up with stuff.

Dress gray is one of the cleanest uniform designs in the world. I suspect it is the model for many of the uniforms you see in science fiction movies about the future. It has a jacket with a zipper up the front that is hidden in a wide vertical black trim stripe and a high collar that matches the trim stripe. The back also have two vertical black trim stripe that go part way up, apparently to accentuate the narrow waists and broad shoulders of the young cadets. When I was there, we looked like this photo. Note the absence of junk. Now, they look like this photo.

What is all that stuff they are wearing? Ribbons signifying medals, badges indicating graduation from military schools that last a few weeks. I do not recognize about half of it. Shouldn’t war heroes be allowed to wear their medals? They are not war heroes. The female is only wearing the National Defense Service Medal. The guy apparently was in the Army before West Point because he has a Good Conduct ribbon which I believe is for not being thrown in jail during your first six months as a private in the Army.

I have no problem with the gold stars on their collars. They mean they are in the top 5% of their class academically.

Hollywood copies this uniform because of its sleek, simple, elegant design and attractiveness. But they do not copy the junk—other than the single communicator badge on the chest in Star Trek. When I was a cadet, the only junk was the guys who came to West Point from enlisted service in the Army felt compelled to wear their Good Conduct ribbons. I never knew why. Everyone called it the Dentyne wrapper. While we were there, we were awarded the NDSM, but only the prior enlisted guys wore it—adding it next to their Dentyne wrapper.

Now, the cadets’ chests have turned into the uniform equivalent of cluttered attics that are long overdue for a cleaning. We also had an olive drab uniform that looked almost exactly like an officers class A uniform when I was a cadet. How about just wearing all that junk on that uniform if they still have it?

Someone is going to be inspired to say to me, “Junk!? Why harrumph! Some of what you call ‘junk” are medals for bravery in combat! How dare you!”

When I coached football, I told the players that to me the word “uniform” was both a noun and an adjective. Accordingly I prohibited all the junk that high school and youth players accessorize their football uniforms with: loops, different colored socks, colored wrist bands, adhesive tape racing stripes on the outside of their uniforms, spats, etc. Like the West Point dress and full dress gray coats, football allowed its players to accumulate cluttered-attic-type junk. I got rid of it on my teams. I heard the rule books have since followed my example.

West Point needs to wise up. Wearing the West Point cadet uniform is a rare privilege. It says you are a member of the Corps of Cadets. That should be enough for the four years you are there. Individualizing your uniform violates the team concept. It is an attempt to set yourself apart from, and above, your fellow cadets. That was uncadetlike in the 1960s and before. Advertising graduation from summer-camp-like schools every day of your adult life is simply childish. It looks silly, like wearing your Eagle Scout merit badge sash to college.

The regular Army does it because they attract the most immature segment of America’s young men. West Point did not do that and I hope has not started attracting that market segment.

Put your medals on your cadet desk if that’s allowed. Put them on your resume. Brag verbally to the people you are trying to impress. Wear them on the Army class A uniform if you have such. Wear them after graduation. But stop mucking up one of the world’s great uniforms with all those badges and near meaningless ribbons.

If you got the purple heart and silver star in Iraq, good for you. Now show a little modesty and stow them in your desk drawer or else the cadets who came straight to West Point from high school will start wearing medals for being able to get admitted to West Point and handle being a cadet at age 17, something you prior service guys who got a year in a West Point preparatory school did not, and may not have been able to, accomplish.

When my class was there, we didn’t need no stinking badges.

Obama’s Afghanistan war strategy

Obama’s strategy is total bullshit. He apparently spent 88 days analyzing the politics, not the military considerations. Then, belying his reputation for political genius, he came up with a decision cleverly calculated to piss off absolutely everyone who cares—a stick poked in the eye for everyone.

Here’s the military angle. War’s are very big and expensive—in both blood and treasure. My mom used to say that a lot of people had “champagne taste but a beer pocketbook.” The American people have “war taste but a skirmish pocketbook.” I gave the details on how many troops we really need in Afghanistan—450,000 to 2,074,000 in another article that uses various ratios of country-size-to-troops-needed from several different sources—all official U.S. military.

450,000 to 2,074,000 with thousands of them dying each year is what it costs to run a war in a country with 250,000 square miles of territory like Afghanistan. Actually, given the verticality of the terrain there, they probably have a lot more square miles than 250,000 which is what the area would be if the terrain were completely flat.

I’m sorry if you are a war supporter and do not like the numbers 450,000 to 2,074,000. They are not my numbers. They are the numbers various U.S. military authorities used commenting explicitly or implicitly on military best practices before the American people became skeptical and war weary about Afghanistan.

Art of the possible

I am aware that politics is the art of the possible and that 450,000 to 2,074,000 are not possible. But that means the decision on what to do in Afghanistan is to get out. War is also the art of the possible. It is not possible to win there with a troop strength that will momentarily peak at 98,000 before Obama starts drawing the strength down to appease his anti-military supporters in time for the 2012 election. Furthermore, this is not just an academic exercise. We currently have 68,000 troops there, which is far too few. Because there are too few of them, too many of them are dying due to immoral strategy not just enemy action.

We have asked our young men and women to volunteer for the military, Hundreds of thousands have done so. And our way of thanking them is to send 68,000 of them to a country of 250,000 square miles and a population of 28,396,000. We have given our military in Afghanistan a loaves-and-fishes mission, that is to say, we have sent them on a suicide mission that only a deity could succeed at.

Are all suicide missions wrong? No. Some are warranted when the greater good will be efficiently served by them. But the only reason we have troops in Afghanistan and are sending more is to help George W. Bush and Obama not look “weak against terror.” This is a moral outrage and the officers who are not standing up against it are culpable. To quote a Marine officer in the 2004 Fallujah attack, they have blood on their hands.

The military has not balked because they are overly obedient, moral cowards, and have a “can-do” attitude. But a can-do attitude is a damned lie that gets people killed for nothing when, in fact, you can’t do.

‘Sorry ’bout that!’

War is all in or all out. Obama refuses to do either for political reasons. “Sorry ’bout that GI!” if I may quote a taunt the North Vietnamese used against us.

Obama’s “split the difference so I don’t piss anyone off too much” is a death certificate for thousands in uniform including some of the cadets to whom he spoke and with whom he mingled at West Point.

Do the American people want to pull totally out of Afghanistan? Many of them do—Moveon.org (named during the Lewinsky scandal) for example. But many, maybe most, Americans do not want to pull completely out. They do not want to “cut and run.” They do not want the Taliban to take over Afghanistan. They do not want al Qaeda to again operate freely using Afghanistan as a base for attacks on the U.S.

Yeah, I am well aware of that. Another of my mom’s sayings was, “People in hell want ice water, too, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get it.” The American people who want to “win” in Afghanistan need to send 450,000 to 2,074,000 U.S. troops over there along with the $450,000,000,000 to $2,074,000,000,000 ($1 million per troop per year—your efficient U.S. government at work—wait’ll they get control of all health care). If Vietnam is any indication, 45,000 to 200,000 of those will die there.

Victory in war is expensive

So, hawks, you want victory in Afghanistan? Fine. Pony up the $450 billion to $2 trillion and 45,000 to 200,000 lives price. If you want a Wal-Mart priced victory, pull the troops out. Wal-Mart does not sell victories.

The fact is, as Obama has admitted, we are tapped out and broke. We spent all our money, and all our credit, buying votes for Democrats with social security, “stimulus,” “earmarks,” Medicare, and Medicaid. The Chinese may be willing to loan us the $30 billion needed to pay for Obama’s Afghan surge, but they will not be lending us $450 billion to $2 trillion to pay for a victory. And even if they would, the U.S. public, stupid as it obviously is to have let the country go bankrupt to begin with, knows it cannot afford to pay back an additional $450 billion to $2 trillion.

The main issue here is that those who have died in Afghanistan and those who are about to, are dying for nothing. All the talk about liberty and freedom and protecting the U.S. from people in Afghanistan is political hot air. Nobody has died for freedom in the Middle East. They have all died for the re-election and/or political legacy of the various never-served-on-active-duty, Draft Dodger in Chief White House incumbents. Starting in 1992 and ever since, every presidential election, five and counting, has featured a combat veteran against a draft dodger. And each and every time, the draft dodger won. We have become a nation of draft dodgers.

Announcing the pull-out date

Obama says were will be out of there the year before he runs for re-election—er, I mean in 2011. Perhaps your son will be the last to die for more years of “Change you can believe in.” No one anywhere in the world liked that date announcement except for MoveOn.org and their allies, the Taliban.

If the Taliban have any brains, they will play possum and run out the clock until 2011, then take over the country.

The Taliban may want to beat their chests about driving the Americans out in 2011. In that case, they will strenuously attack and kill us from now until 2011 so they can take credit for winning. In that case, Obama will use the mounting casualty count as political cover for pulling out in 2011 and obliquely blame the U.S. military and, more directly, Hamid Karzai, for losing the war.

General Douglas MacArthur also made a speech at West Point. He graduated from West Point in 1903. He was the top general in the Pacific in World War II and in Korea until he got fired. His speech said to the cadets, “Your job is to win our wars.” He also said,

There is no substitute for victory.

Obama disagrees. He thinks showing the flag for a couple of years, getting a couple hundred more of our guys killed, “training” the Afghans, then pulling out and blaming the U.S. military and the Afghans for the loss is a substitute for victory. Actually, Obama does believe there is no substitute for victory, by him and the Congressional Democrats in the 2010 and 2012 elections. He is putting our troops in harm’s way to secure that victory, not a military victory in Afghanistan.

Does withdrawal deadline force Afghanistan to get their act together

Obama and others argue that announcing a deadline for withdrawal forces the Afghans to get their at together militarily.

Maybe. Maybe not. It is an issue most often faced by parents. I have raised three sons. The youngest is now 22. I also coached about 900 amateur athletes which is a parent-like job where you also have the issue of how much to push is too much. And I have been an entrepreneur and manager in the military, in private business and in my own businesses.

Even animals have this problem raising their young, like the bids who force their baby birds out of the nest.

Basically, pushing a subordinate or ally or child or player requires a Goldilocks level of oomph. Not too much, not too little, just right. If you push too hard with a child, he or she may rebel. A super strict married couple we know had a son commit suicide. But so did another couple whom I regarded as the most lenient parents I ever saw. I once threw their son out of a football practice when the father was away on business. The son and I became friends as a result. I suspect he wanted more discipline.

In business and in the military, I saw leaders who pushed too hard get dishonesty by subordinates as their result. It was the only way the subordinates could make the numbers demanded by the boss. In those same venues, I also saw being too lenient resulted in lousy performance and dishonesty that stemmed form lack of negative consequences for it.

Nietzsche said,

That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

So the basic principle that Afghanistan will never stand on its own unless we force them to is correct. But it is also correct that if we do it before they are ready, they will die. What is the right time? No one knows. It varies from nation to nation because of history, culture, and so on. You have to play it by ear. Obama did not play it by ear when he set this deadline in his speech, so it is disingenuous of him to say that the deadline is based on a need to wean the Afghans off U.S. assistance. Obviously, the deadline was purely for domestic political consumption and because it was a poorly considered deadline, may itself foolishly doom the entire decade-long sacrifices made to win in Afghanistan.

It is possible, by coincidence, that Obama’s deadline might be the right one. But that would be sheer luck like a stopped clock being right twice a day.

Obama’s bogus description of the Vietnam war

Obama said John T. Reed comment
First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we’re better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Obama should name them. We journalists do, other than those guys who phrase questions like this at press conferences. This is a weasel politician’s trick, the straw man intellectually-dishonest debate tactic, especially when Obama uses it. The argument in favor of getting out of Vietnam is far more nuanced—to use a favorite word of Obama and his allies—than just similarity to Vietnam.
I believe this argument depends on a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Bullshit! There was a coalition in Vietnam, too. The Wikipedia write-up on the Vietnam war lists nine other countries who were our allies. Three of the guys in one of my platoons were stationed at Nui Dat with the Australian Army. I saw ROK trucks all the time. The sad, cynical fact is that in both Vietnam and Afghanistan, our foreign allies often did not seek combat contact with the enemy. Rather, they were just there to show the flag and not piss off the U.S. in terms of long-term relations.
Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. Bullshit! Many South Vietnamese had fled from North Vietnam when the Communists took over that part of the country. After we lost the Vietnam war, boat people fled Vietnam at great risk of violence, death, and/or robbery. 165,000 died in the Communists’ re-education camps after we left. Those who survived such camps had been tortured. About 1.1 million boat people survived to emigrate to other countries, mostly to the U.S. In Cambodia, the Communists perpetrated the so-called Killing Fields in which hundreds of thousands were murdered outright and one or two million died from Communist triggered diseases and starvation. At the time, the total population of Cambodia was only 7 million. The Vietnamese people, with whom we interacted daily, were glad we were there and scared to death of our leaving. What happened when the Communists took over surprised no one one in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos (the two “dominoes” that fell when South Vietnam fell). To be sure, many South Vietnamese supported the Viet Cong initially, but they were wiped out during the 1/31/68 Tet Offensive. After Tet, we were only fighting North Vietnamese Army soldiers, not a broad-based popular insurgency. Also, the Viet Cong were never that popular. They were like the Taliban—mildly friendly to their supporters and murderous to anyone who did not toe their party line 100%. I was in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. There ware always Communist spies among those who worked on our bases every day, but I suspect most were motivated by the fact that President Nixon had done like Obama—indicated we were leaving. The North Vietnamese—who were active duty Army invaders not insurgents—were probably going to win so many South Vietnamese, for self-protection, allied with the North before it was too late.
And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.

Bullshit! The Communists, which were a worldwide movement, said they were going to “bury us,” literally. They had taken over North Korea and tried to take over South Korea by invasion at the same time the Communists were attacking the French colonialists in Vietnam. We began sending green berets to Vietnam to train the South Vietnamese Army in the 1950s and early 1960s after the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu.

The Vietnam war per se began with a purported attack by North Vietnamese on U.S. Navy ships in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. The above-mentioned 1968 Tet Offensive by the Viet Cong was extremely vicious. Over 10,500 U.S. and allied soldiers were killed along with 14,000 South Vietnamese civilians—orders of magnitude more than on 9/11.

I already wrote a Web article on comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam. Obama leaves out the many advantages the U.S. had in Vietnam:

• A relatively strong well-established society, government and military. The South Vietnamese military had 100,000 more troops than we did. They had jets and pilots, a navy, and most important, they were veterans who had been fighting the war for years. We U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were sort of temps on a one-year tour.
• a coast and ports as well as fairly solid infrastructure in the form of roads and big cities in Vietnam versus none of the above in stone age, landlocked, Afghanistan
• tropical jungle sea level terrain versus high altitude, arctic-in-winter mountainous terrain
• the NVA wore uniforms and fought as large conventional military units versus the “nobody here but us civilian” snipers, hit-and run squads, and IED attackers in Afghanistan
• we had 30.5 times as many U.S. military personnel per square mile in Vietnam than we have in Afghanistan
• North Vietnam was allied with and heavily supplied and supported by the Soviet Union and China. I once saw captured Chinese Communist flame throwers stacked up like cord wood as far as the eye could see on an airstrip near the Cambodian border after we surprised the NVA by suddenly invading Cambodia—their Waziristan-like sanctuary until then.

The answer to Obama’s statement that Afghanistan is not another Vietnam is, “You’re right. Vietnam was much easier.”

‘See how young my administration is’

Obama may have done his homework on Vietnam and just lied. He does that. On the other hand, his inaccurate statements about Vietnam may be caused by the fact that he deliberately chose a lot of too-young-to-be-the-best-qualified candidates for high positions in his administration, like Director of the Office of Management and Buget Peter Orszag.

He chose those people the way they chose people to be in the background of campaign events for the young, change, hope visual effect. The problem with using overly young visual background guys like Peter Orszag to advise the president, is they don’t know what they are talking about. In the case of Vietnam, they were kids or not yet born when it happened. They knew many “facts that are not true” about it as a result.

Even older Obama advisors like Army Chief of Staff General George Casey and CentCom Commander General David Petraeus were too young to have served in Vietnam. If he wanted the facts about Vietnam for his West Point speech, he needed to consult the sort of people who appeared in McCain’s first campaign speech background and for which he was criticized on the grounds those background supporters were too old. People that old have some uses, like avoiding repeating history because you are too young to know much of it.

I expect the relatively few U.S. military personnel with combat experience in both Vietnam and Afghanistan would prefer Vietnam. Obama clearly said that Afghanistan was a much easier fight than Vietnam was. Bullshit!

Barack Obama is no leader

‘Natural great leader’

I have heard Obama’s groupies describe him as “brilliant,” as a “great politician,” and as a “great natural leader.”

I’ll set the first two aside for the moment, but I know he is no leader.

I do not see myself as a great leader. I am the kind of guy who comes in second for home room representative, gets selected team captain or club president occasionally. I am not the type who gets elected fraternity president, class president, mayor, or any of that.

Notwithstanding my minimal traditional leadership ability, I have a lot of leadership training and experience. As of inauguration day, Obama had virtually no such training or experience.

I graduated from West Point which bills itself as the world’s greatest leadership school. I am not sure leadership is teachable, but they sure try. They also manage to attract a lot of natural leaders—an amazing number of class presidents, team captains, and so on. We cadets learned a lot from each other. In the leadership category, we probably learned more from each other than from the leadership instructors.

Leadership positions

In my life, I was a platoon leader in a parachute infantry battalion and in a heavy artillery battalion in Vietnam. I was also a company commander of a 400-man company in the Army. I was a landlord of my own properties for 23 years—starting with 2 units in 1969 and ending with 58 apartments in the late 1980s. I also was a property manager of around 800 tenants in buildings around southern NJ. As a landlord and property manager, I had two to six employees as well as all the tenants. I coached around 900 amateur athletes on about 35 different teams.

I have also written books and thousands of articles about and lectured on how to lead. Believe it or not, that, too, is a learning experience for the writer-speaker.

So I have been trained on how to lead, experienced being in leadership positions with a variety of types of subordinates in a variety of situations and organizations.

I believe I am an excellent leader when I relate to the led through my writing and public speaking, less so but still pretty good as head of an organization like a company or athletic team. I have also been around a ton of leaders of all quality levels. I know what leaders look like. I know how leaders think and act. I know how to lead.

Barack Obama is no leader.

Wants to be popular

Barack Obama wants everyone to love him. I am not the only one to say that. It seemed like everyone on a Charlie Rose panel on Thanksgiving, 2009 said that.

A leader cannot have that goal. Leaders can be friendly with their subordinates, but they cannot be friends. Rookies in leadership positions often make the mistake of trying to be one of the guys and getting everyone to like them.

That is dead wrong. When you are a leader, you have to maintain some distance. That is not a stylistic decision. It is a universal best practice. That is not to say you put on airs or act high and mighty or better than your subordinates. But as the leader, you ARE different. You have a different job in the group, a different role. You have to play that role. You cannot play that role if you do not maintain necessary distance.

You have to make decisions that will not be welcomed by everybody—maybe not even by anybody. And you have to make them stick. When your subordinates do the right thing, you compliment them. When they do the wrong thing, you take action—verbal and otherwise—sufficient to make them do the right thing or replace them.

Another rookie leader mistake is to think that making everyone like you will result in everyone doing what you say. Wrong. Making them do what you say will make some, or most, or even all, of them dislike you. It comes with the territory. The John Wayne movie Sands of Iwo Jima is a good, albeit fictional composite, case history. In that movie, Wayne plays Marine Sergeant John M. Stryker, a veteran of the first pacific land battle at Guadalcanal in World War II. He trains a squad of men extremely hard. They all hate him for it. But ultimately, they figure out he is doing it because he knows it’s what they need to survive in the Pacific war they are heading for.

I also highly recommend the Discovery Channel TV reality series Deadliest Catch that shows Alaska crab fishing boats doing their thing. The captains of those boats are almost all excellent leaders and the shows reveal the details of how they do it. Do any of them remind you of Barack Obama? Me neither.

But the bottom line for a leader is getting the led to do what they must do, not getting them to like you. Barack Obama has not figured that out yet, and it may be that he is incapable of doing it if and when he figures it out.

Giving orders

At West Point, one of the best leadership teaching mechanisms was having us lead other cadets in calisthenics and close order drill and manual of arms. Close order drill is marching like “forward march” and “column right march.” Manual of arms is commands like “right shoulder arms” and “present arms” (saluting with the rifle).

When you give those commands, you must enunciate the preparatory command loudly, e.g., “Forwahhrd!” Then the command of execution must explode out of you like a starter’s pistol at a track meet: “MARCH!” The cadets, in turn, have been long trained to respond crisply and instantly to those commands.

Teaching leadership in high school football

In 2005, my freshman high school football team was doing stretching exercises before an early-in-the-season practice. I was standing next to a natural leader linebacker named Chris Borges who was taking a turn at leading the stretching. I was whispering suggestions to him to get him to learn the mechanical tricks of how you speak to your subordinates in a scattered-around-the-field-outdoors situation. My comments went something like this.

Chris, you need to enunciate the preparatory command more slowly and clearly so they understand exactly what you want them to do. You rushed and slurred the words a little bit last time and they were uncertain which stretch we were doing. That’s why they looked raggedy responding to you.

Later,

Chris, when you give the command of execution—the one that gets them to start the stretch—you need to snap it out like the crack of a whip or a gun shot. Let me do the next one and watch how they respond to my commands compared to how they responded to yours. You were too conversational about telling them to start.

I then lead one of the stretches demonstrating to Chris exactly how you enunciate the preparatory command and bark out the command of execution.

Did you see how sharp they were in responding to my command? That was not my age or authority as coach. It was my voice. You need to get the same confident reaction on the field when you call the defense and the strength of the offensive formation. You must use that same tone of voice to yell “Mustang Black!” or “strong right!” or whatever you want so that the team will have confidence in the defense called and promptly execute it.

I also taught him to use his diaphragm rather than his throat to add force to the voice and avoid fatiguing the vocal chords.

Uncertain trumpet

I did a similar thing training our quarterbacks how to call cadence and audibles. There is a line in the Bible (1 Corinthians 14:8), “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?” As a result of the training I got in those mechanical voice tricks of leadership at West Point, my linebackers and quarterbacks sounded like pros, not “uncertain trumpets,” as most young high school players do.

On 10/10/08, I went to the high school to watch Chris and my other 2005 freshmen, who were seniors in 2008, play a game. I happened to sit next to Chris’s father and mentioned this article. He said that he had come to practice one day early in the pre-season of Chris’s freshman year and was astonished at how Chris was commanding his teammates in practice. He said he had never heard him talk that way before. Q.E.D.

The first time I gave a command to a large group—a platoon (40 men), I was faking it. But when I said “AtennnnSHUN!” the platoon snapped to attention. “Damn!” I thought, “that was pretty cool.” So for my second command, “Right, face,” I was more confident. Darned if the platoon didn’t snap to the right in unison. By the time I had marched them to Thayer Hall (classroom building) and back, I was a combination of R. Lee Ermey and George Patton. [One of the plebes (freshmen) who was responding to my first commands that evening had the same name as I: Jack Reed, now U.S. Senator (D-RI).]

It is not natural to think of yourself as barking commands to people and having them respond to them. But at West Point, you do it, and they do respond. Your confidence, skill, and comfort as a leader grows by leaps and bounds within minutes the first time you do it. If you told a young man, like Barack Obama, with no experience or training to call a platoon to attention and march them to a building a quarter mile away, he would screw it all up. He would be too quiet, slur his words, not speak with confidence that anyone would do what he said—which is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of barking out the command MARCH with authority and expectation that the platoon would comply, he would be tentative and make it a question: “uh, if it’s OK with you guys, could you please forward march?”

That is NOT how it’s done and that absolutely will not work.

Never having done that is the stage President Barack Obama is now at, and he is commander in chief of the entire U.S. military. I was a 20-year old West Point cadet when I did that.

Not a ‘gamer’

We have a word in coaching—gamer—that is not leadership per se but sometimes involves leadership. A gamer is a player who, when the game’s on the line, wants the ball or to be an whatever position is going to get the credit for the win or the blame for the loss. Reggie Jackson, Joe Montana, Roger Clemens, and similar athletes are gamers. Such people are rare, even at the highest levels. Many starters, and many stars, do not want to be in that position. They are silently praying“(hit it somewhere else” or “throw it somewhere else” or “call the other guy’s number” and so on.

When the “game” of being commander in chief of the U.S. is on the line, Obama desperately wishes he were somewhere else, anywhere else, like out of the campaign trail criticizing leaders. He keeps trying to have others like Pelosi or Geithner make the decisions. Where he cannot avoid leadership, he tries to have the decision made for him by advisers or events. His recent endless meetings on Afghanistan and trial balloons about the corrupt election there were attempts to have the decision made for him by a consensus of advisers or by having events like the corrupt election make the decision for him.

Barack Obama is not a gamer. Leaders are gamers.

Leaders are gamers. Or at least they cannot stand to sit by and watch another leader screw up the job of leading whatever group. I was talking to a West Point classmate wen my oldest son was about 5 years old about youth sports. He asked me if I was going to coach. “Hell, no. I’m not that kind of person. I could not stand to deal with the parents and all the B.S.”

He laughed and predicted I would not be able to stand to watch the other fathers coach the team because they would do a lousy job of leading. His kids were older than mine and he had already been through what I was about to enter.

He was right. I could not stand to watch lousy leadership so I began helping out and was a full-fledged coach starting the next season and remained one for many years thereafter. My career as a writer of books on coaching arose out of that experience coaching my three sons. Obama has kids. He would have you believe he is some sort of athlete (at least until he threw out that first pitch—God that was awful—see my Youth Baseball Coaching book to make sure neither you nor your players make such mistakes as standing on top of the rubber as Obama did). Obama has two daughters. One would expect they must be athletes. Michelle’s brother, Craig Robinson, was a recruited basketball player at Princeton and is now head basketball coach at Oregon State. So why hasn’t Barack coached his daughters? He sure as hell never had much else to do until he announced for president in 2007. Because he can stand to see lousy leaders lead a group he is associated with. Real leaders cannot do that.

Who the hell are YOU to boss people around?

At my graduate school alma mater, Harvard Business School, all the the instruction is case method. The cases are actual, recent cases from real businesses. The Harvard MBA student is always put in the position of a decision maker and the professor always listens to the student lay out the various options and considerations for the particular case then the professor ends by asking, “So what’re you going to do?”

When asked what Harvard Business School was like, one of my classmates there gave a summary of a case he had had that day in class to some grad students from “across the river.” At Harvard, the Business School is on the Boston side of the Charles River and the other schools are on the Cambridge side. The Cambridge side is Communist, essentially. Barack Obama’s Harvard alma mater—Harvard Law School—is on the Commie side of the Charles.

The Commies were quite good at pointing out the options and considerations of the business school case. But when my classmates asked, “So what’re you gonna do?” They were stunned and looked at each other blankly before one finally said, “Well, somebody would have to make a decision on that.” My classmate said exactly what the professor at Harvard Business would. “Yeah, you! What’s your decision?”

The mind set of the Commies on the Cambridge side of the river was that they were peons and that some higher authority ran the world and delegated authority without which one did not have authority. The mind set of the Harvard MBAs, after the first few weeks of being there, was that we were in charge. Most Harvard MBAs are founders and CEOs of their own companies.

Obama thinks somebody would have to make a decision on that—like Nancy Pelosi or Stanley McChrystal, anybody but Obama.

Barack Obama is still more in the someone would have to make a decision about that mind set, thus his delegation of everything to Congress and advisers, not to mention his taking months to make his third decision on what to do in Afghanistan.

Occupational hazard of being a leader

When I was a company commander in the Army, I had 400 men under my command. All day every day, they would constantly turn and look at me for a decision. Before long, you began to anticipate their need for direction, commands, and orders. I did, albeit it got me into trouble with my mom and roommate. On a couple of occasions, I forgot who I was with and thought I detected a need for an order so I issued one—to my roommate, who said, “Fuck you! Move it yourself. Who the hell do you think I am? One of your troops?” My mom reacted similarly, although without the profanity.

I doubt Michelle has ever had to remind Barack that she is not one of his subordinates. It was said that the Gorbachev-Bush I period was the first time that the USSR prime minister weighed more than his wife and the U.S. president weighed less than his. The Obama Administration is probably the first time the First Lady would be the favorite in a fist fight with her husband.

He has not yet acquired the leader mind set that anticipates subordinates’ need for direction and provides it instantly. I am not sure he ever will. He sure as hell is in a position where such on-the-job training is not the best training schedule.

Obama thinks taking charge is presumptuous

Indeed, Barack Obama gives every indication that he thinks it would be presumptuous of him to boss around Congress or the U.S. military or other countries’ leaders. He has famously apologized again and again for past U.S. presidents behaving as if they were the leaders of the Free World, for showing the way, for assuming that they had a responsibility to lead the other countries.

This is the instinct and behavior of a man whose self-image is that others, not he, are the leaders.

When the situation calls for someone to take charge, leaders, who are take-charge guys, take charge. In my article on leadership, I related several instances were I found myself in that situation and immediately took charge in spite of having no formal authority to do so. Obama isn’t even a take-charge guy when he does have formal authority.

True, Obama thinks he is the number one guy in the world in terms of bringing people together and achieving consensus. In the first place, I think he is extremely overconfident in his estimation of his abilities along those lines. The world ain’t the South Side of Chicago.

More importantly, bringing people together and achieving consensus is not a leadership style. It is a way of avoiding leadership. It is all carrot and no stick. He tries to use Pied Piper leadership, which works only when the led are all small children.

Obama assumes that the world can and should be led by reaching consensus. It cannot. Consensus, while nice when it happens, is rare, and unlikely when the members of the group have conflicting goals and views—which is almost the rule rather than the exception.

Another typical rookie mistake is to adopt an approach to leadership—like Obama’s schmooze everyone into consensus—then behave as though sticking to that theory were the goal. The youth coaching counterpart is the coach who is going to act like Mr. Rogers so the parents of his players will think he‘s a great guy. Living up to some popular leadership style theory is not the focus of a real leader. Results are. Here is a lesson I learned at West Point from my book How to Manage Residential Property For Maximum Cash Flow and Resale Value.

Hard ass versus nice guy

During our first two years of West Point, most of us decided hard ass or nice guy was the correct leadership style. I favored nice guy. We used to argue about it. But during our last two years at West Point, those arguments ended. Why? In those years, we were put into leadership positions like squad leader and platoon leader. We applied our favorite technique—hard ass or nice guy, and learned the real answer: You need to have both in our repertoire. Some people respond to nice guy; some to hard ass; and in different situations, everyone needs to be hard-assed at times and nice-guyed at others.

What we learned is that the bottom line in leadership is the bottom line. You have an objective. You have to accomplish it. Adhering to one leadership style or another is not the bottom line, not the objective. The bottom line is the desired result. Leadership styles are process. Process is the bureaucrats’ focus. Results are the true leader’s focus. See my Web article on process versus results orientation.

Obama has not yet learned that leadership lesson. He is still focused on his pet leadership styles as if adhering to them were the goal. What are his leadership styles? “Never let ’em see you sweat” and “Can’t we all get along” and “Aw shucks, I’m just one of the guys like you, not your superior in any way.”

That behavior is the opposite of the definition of leadership. He needs to remember the goals: stopping Iran from getting nukes, defeating al Qaeda, restoring growth in the U.S. economy, and so on.

He needs to use every trick in the leadership tool box: carrots, sticks, pushing, pulling, cajoling, nagging, setting the example, ass-chewing, praise, promotion, demotion, training, recruiting good people, getting rid of bad people, etc., etc. And he needs to be disabused of the notion that consensus and being one of the guys are leadership techniques. They most definitely are not. On the contrary, They are violations of the commandments of leadership.

Actual responsibilities and authority

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin said that being a mayor and governor was like being a community organizer, only you have actual responsibilities. I would add that you also have actual authority. Until inauguration day, then 47-year-old Barack Obama never had either actual responsibilities or authority. A girl was imprisoned by her father and not allowed to have contact with anyone including him. He only fed her. When she was rescued, it was too late for her to learn how to talk like normal people. A similar thing happened in Russia. She could learn and use words like nouns and verbs, but she could neither form nor understand sentences. If you do not learn that at the right age, you can never learn it.

Leaders, like gamers, want responsibility for the final outcome. Non-leaders hope someone else has to take the responsibility. Obama’s handling of the pirate situation was a comical example of he and the Navy ship commander on the scene trying to pas the buck for the outcome back and forth to each other in multiple phone calls before the snipers shot the pirates.

With Obama, we are about to learn whether a man-child who never had any responsibilities until age 47 can learn to live up to them at that late age.

We are also about to learn whether a man who never has any authority until age 47, then has the most authority in the world, can learn how to use it with skill.

Thus far, it appears that he is ignoring both responsibility and authority. All he knows is campaigning, which has neither responsibilities nor authority. He has behaved as though the campaign never ended. He is still focused on blaming Bush and criticizing his administration. The best example of that is placing the five al Qaeda guys on civil trial in NYC after they all pled guilty and said they did not oppose the death penalty. He defers to Congress and cabinet members and other world leaders and the U.N.

Barack Obama does not lead. His sole skill in the leadership area is criticizing the leadership of other people.

No excuse, sir

West Point was fabulous about teaching us to take responsibility. The very first words they spoke to us on the first day were,

Mister, from now on you have three answers: yes sir, no sir, and no excuse sir.

Then they would chew you out big time whenever you started to make an excuse.

I taught my football players the same thing. First I would give them the three answers. Then I would pick one guy and ask,

Me: Have you cured cancer?

Player: No, coach.

Me: Why not?

Player: Well, I never…

Me: Is that one of your three answers?

Player: No, coach. (Team laughs)

Me: I ask you again, why haven’t you cured cancer?

Player: Uh, no excuse? (Team laughs)

Me: Correct answer but too tentative. Say it like you are absolutely certain it is the correct answer. Why haven’t you cured cancer?

Player: NO EXCUSE, COACH! (team laughs)

Me: We have a winner.

Many readers are probably concluding this is stupid. That’s what I thought when I first entered West Point. I thought they were overdoing the concept. Then I figured out what they were trying to do: Get snot-nosed teenagers (us new cadets) to move from being whiny kids to men who would take responsibility for their actions.

The mom of one of my 10-year old football players and I were the first to arrive at a deserted high school for an away game once. She approached and said to me,

You changed my son.

Warily I asked, “For the best I hope?”

Oh, absolutely. He has suddenly become extremely responsible. It’s like he turned into a little man overnight.

In that case, he had failed to do his job on a play, tried to give me excuses, and I insisted he take responsibility.

I got held, coach.

So don’t get held.

But the ref should have thrown a flag.

Have you ever made a mistake?

Yes, coach.

Are referees perfect?

No, coach.

Well, you seem to be saying you are only going to do your job when the refs are perfect, which means never. Is that the deal?

No, coach, but how can I contain when the tight end is holding me?

Don’t let him do that. Use your inside arm to break or prevent the hold. Remember the rip and swim moves we taught you?

Yes, coach.

Why do you think we taught you that?

To break holds?

We have a winner.

My oldest son once hit a classmate’s car when pulling out of his high school. His excuse was she started to pull out, he turned to see if a car was coming and when he saw none, he pulled out, only to learn that the girl had changed her mind and stopped. He said it was her fault for changing her mind.

No, it was your fault for not checking that she had not changed her mind. That happens a lot.

There ensued a lengthy argument where I pounded the “no excuse” concept into him.

Years later, he arrived late to a college class. At his college, Columbia, you could tell which students were the athletes from about 50 yards away—literally. The professor figured he was a football player and demanded to know why he was late—expecting some lame bullshit.

No excuse, sir.

The professor was astonished and became my son’s best friend on the faculty.

Q.E.D.

Barack Obama has a thousand answers and none of them are “no excuse.” He takes responsibility for nothing. Everything is the fault of the “failed policies of the Bush Administration” or the Republicans or Wall Street or insurance companies, etc. When asked about coming in fourth out of four finalists for the Olympics Obama said, “Sometimes you play a great game and still lose.”

As a coach of 35 teams I would say I do not recall that ever happening. We lost when we played and/or coached poorly. When we played a great game, we won. In some close games, both when we won and when we lost, I noted it was really a tie as a practical matter. But I never experienced the equivalent of coming in fourth out of four and claiming we played great and got robbed.

Leaders have actual responsibilities and accept responsibility for the results of their performance—win or lose. President John F. Kennedy took unequivocal responsibility for the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. Pigs will fly before Barack Obama ever takes responsibility for his failures. He will not be a leader until he does.

High school basketball teams

Obama and Palin were both on high school basketball teams that won their state championship during their senior years. Palin was team captain. Obama was not. Palin was a starter and a star on that team. Obama was neither.

The fact that she was elected/selected captain and Obama was not is telling. It shows that Obama did not impress his teammates with his leadership; Palin did impress hers. Coaches reading this may say that only starters get to be captain and that Obama was not good enough to be a starter on that team. True. But there is a reason for that. To be a leader, you need to be able to do what you ask your subordinates to do better than they can, or at least be able to generally do what you are supposedly leading them to do.

Obama may be the best teleprompter reader in the room as he goes about his day as president, but he is never the best man in the room at what the various people there do. He is a benchwarmer who has managed to get the job of team captain of a world class team where everyone else IS a starter. They have to be thinking after a lifetime of study and work in their field, “And how in the hell did this guy get to be my boss?”

Obama is not leading. He is an arriviste imposter faking it. And those who are in the room with him know it whether the American people have not figured it out yet or not.

Experience and subject matter knowledge

The main thing I have learned in each of the different leadership situations I have been in is learning what people are capable of when well led. Knowing that requires both leadership experience and subject knowledge specific to the field in question. Here are the contrasts between how I acted initially and at the end of my career in various leadership situations and the necessary subject knowledge.

When I started By the time I finished Pertinent subject matter knowledge
As a landlord, a tenant would pay the rent late and give an excuse which sort of made sense to me so I would give them an extra week to pay. I would cut them off in mid-sentence with, “I’m sorry to hear that, but it’s your problem, not mine. I need that rent to pay the electric company mortgage, and so on and none of them will accept that story in place of money. If you do not pay today, I will give you eviction and utility turn-off notices tomorrow and change the lock on your door. [allowed in TX] Any questions?” You can always have a building full of tenants who pay on time if you are selective and promptly get rid of the imperfect tenants. See my book How to Manage Residential Property For Maximum Cash Flow and Resale Value.
As an Army officer, I asked why we always had boiled potatoes in the mess hall. Mess Sergeant shrugged his shoulders and said “That’s what they give us, sir.” Walk into the mess hall, see a repeat item, and immediately demand to see the Army-wide Master Menu which ways what item is really supposed to have been prepared for that meal. Existence of the master menu which I learned about by complaining to the base mess officer about the lack of variety in the meals.
As a property manager, I stared in wonder at the locomotive-sized boilers and compressors for our 203-unit apartment complex as the maintenance man gave me some line of bull about them. Walking into the boiler room and immediately checked the gauges on the boilers and chewed the maintenance man out for not maintaining proper fluid levels. Contacted the manufacturer and asked for manuals on the equipment, then studied them after they arrived.
Urged my football and baseball players to higher standards only to run into resistance from some players and parents that the standards were impossibly high or too high for the age group. I backed off demanding the high standards. Do it right or do it over. Either get your game grade up to 90% or I’m going to replace you. Then follow through and bench the guy in question. In some cases, suspend them or throw them off the team for serious breaches of discipline or persistently not doing their job. Noticed that some of my players would always respond correctly to my demands for higher standards. Noticed that the best teams in the league were kicking my butt and that ALL their players were complying with the higher standards that some of my players and parents said were impossibly high. See my coaching books.
High school senior coming late to practice every day. I asked why and accepted his excuse because it sounded plausible Cut the player in question off in mid-sentence of his excuse. “Run one lap around the field for every minute you were late (looking at watch), that’s seven laps.” Learned that some teenagers will test the coach to see what they can get away with. Coach has to pass that test. If player in question is rebel without a cause, throw him off the team instantly and make sure the other players know why.

The point of leadership is getting your subordinates to elevate their performance to much higher standards. To do that, you need to know what the M1A1 subordinate is capable of, the quality of people that are generally available to replace that person if they do not improve enough, and demand they meet that standard. What you tolerate, you encourage. What you demand, you get. Doing this requires both generic understanding of how to be a leader as well as specific knowledge of the subject matter of the situation in question. If you have held any leadership position for any length of time, you have probably learned your version of the same lessons I depict above.

Barack Obama has neither generic leadership training or experience or subject matter knowledge. He is trying to bluff his way through the presidency.

At West Point, they taught us that we must never bluff with regard to our own expertise. One reason for that is you always get caught. The main reason is the job of Army officer is too important for the leader not to know what he is doing.

American leadership is not presumptuous

America has been the undisputed leader of the free world since World War I. Obama seems to think that was arrogant of us. Who were we to assume such a role?

We were the second biggest country in the free world after Canada. We had the most people, the most money, the most resources, and a secure ocean-protected base from which to operate. We did not get the leadership role by falsely assuming it was ours to take. We got it because of overwhelming plain facts which no one can deny. As GIs often paraphrase the 23rd Psalm,

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil for I am the biggest, toughest, meanest mother in the valley.

See my article on whether the U.S. should be the policeman of the world. Short answer? Yes, because someone has to do it. No one wants to live in a neighborhood with no police. And we are the only ones who can play that role. No one else is even close.

The same is true of business, finance, economics, science, and democratic freedom.

President Ronald Reagan said America was the world’s “Shining City on the Hill.” The phrase came from a sermon by John Winthrop in 1630 to British citizens who were about to emigrate to America. He urged them to create a “Shining City on a Hill” here. Obama is embarrassed by that phrase, that idea. But he is oblivious to the fact that he thereby implicitly turns the world into one with no shining city on any hill. To him, the end of the Shining City on a Hill is the ending of American arrogance and represents an improvement of the world. To the world, it is an unspeakable loss.

At a special NCAA coaching clinic for top minority college football coaches on 6/1/04, Bill Walsh spoke first on the passing game. I was the second speaker on football clock management. Afterward, Bill said of my talk, “That was really good!” I thanked him and asked how I could improve my speech. “Stop apologizing for never having played or coached college or NFL football. You’re the man on football clock management. Act like it!”

Obama needs to learn the same lesson.

Barack, God help us, but you are the leader of the free world. Start acting like it. Stop apologizing for it. And if you’re not up to it, which is probable, resign.

What the ObamaCare and Cap & Trade laws are really about

Why don’t they understand that socialism does not work?

Ever since I became old enough to figure out that socialism doesn’t work—at around age 22—I was perplexed that liberals still want it. Why don’t they see capitalism is better and that economic freedom is necessary for all the other freedoms?

People who work for the government do not have freedom of speech. They are afraid they won’t get promoted or may lose their pension and other benefits. Similarly, a nation that gets all its health care from the government is a nation that is afraid to criticize the government out of fear that they or their relatives or friends may be retaliated against by the rationers.

Joseph Schumpeter

Joseph Schumpeter was a Harvard economist. He invented the phrase “creative destruction” to describe the effect of entrepreneurs. He also said entrepreneurs and their innovations were the engines of prosperity Liberal Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith said Schumpeter was the most sophisticated conservative of the twentieth century. Schumpeter was the subject of the 2007 book Prophet of Innovation by Thomas K. McCraw.

Schumpeter was the polar opposite of John Maynard Keynes. Both were born in 1883. As a young professor in Europe, Schumpeter was perplexed by intelligent leftists not recognizing that capitalism was infinitely superior to socialism as a way to organize a society and an economy. Indeed, one of my Harvard Business School section mates, Michael Rothschild, wrote the book Bionomics which says capitalism is analogous to the way the plant and animal kingdoms are organized and operate. In other words, capitalism is the all-natural, organic way of organizing living things.

Schumpeter finally figured it out. As have I reading about him and seeing other evidence of it.

Social justice

The left does not care which system produces the most prosperity or freedom. They want power. Dictatorial power. They are not in favor of anything. They hate capitalism because it lets the “wrong” people win. People like Sam Walton, founder of nonunion Wal-Mart. He was the richest man in the world for a while. His company is still the biggest in the U.S.

The left does not want maximum prosperity for all. They want all rich people who disagree with them to be stripped of their money. They understand that this will impoverish all but the government apparatchiks. That is what they want. They plan to be government apparatchiks. The left wants to wipe off the face of the earth anyone of whom their side is envious.

Journal editorial

The 11/10/09 Wall Street Journal has an editorial titled “Confessions of an ObamaCare backer.” It is about remarks recently made by leftist John Cassidy of the New Yorker magazine.

Cassidy, the Journal said, “let the mask slip” briefly and revealed the “real political motivation” behind ObamaCare. I add that the same motives are behind cap and trade and a great many other leftist initiatives. The green movement is nothing but the red movement in disguise.

Cassidy continues:

The Obama Administration…is creating a new entitlement program, which, once established, will be virtually impossible to rescind. [The reason is] making the United States a more equitable country

The Journal says the “…purpose is to further redistribute income by putting health care under government control, and in the process making the middle class more dependent on government. As the party of government, Democrats will benefit over the long run.”

The Journal says this explains why the Democrats are not afraid of angering the public by going against their will and even losing many purple district seats in the 2010 election. They figure if they can get this law enacted, they will be like drug dealers living off a nation of entitlement addicts within the next ten years and the few losses in 2010 will be irrelevant ancient history as the U.S. becomes a one-party nation.

The nation is going bankrupt because of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but there are no Americans who want to reform any of those three programs. Indeed, the mere suggestion of such reform is the “third rail of American politics.” Even the slightest criticism of any of those programs dooms the Republican who dared to suggest it. The Democrat program is to make their party platform in its entirety the third rail of American politics. And there is no indication whatsoever that they will not succeed after the push they got from George W. “TARP” Bush and the Wall Street plutocrats in 2008.

More Cassidy:

Putting on an amateur historian’s cap, I might even suggest that some subterfuge is historically necessary to get great reforms enacted.

Translation: Our noble end of turning America into a Democrat party dictatorship justifies our means, namely, lying about our motives.

Rush and Sean

The main guys who have figured this out and who are condemning it for what it really is are Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. I have trouble finding fault with Limbaugh. Hannity, on the other hand, is not quite smart enough to hold the position he does, and he admits using tedious repetition of his propaganda phrases, like “unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayres,” to brainwash his listeners and viewers. He is also often incorrect, for example, with regard to his worship of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s actual record is far more mixed than Hannity understands or admits.

You can measure the preeminent effectiveness of these two men by how hard Obama and his people are trying to stifle them through proposals to bad mouth them and to censor them through misleading proposals like the one to require local ownership of radio and television stations.

The problem with these two men being the main leaders in our nation against what the Democrats are trying to do is they are both ratings-seeking entertainers. They do, indeed, maximize their ratings by their mixture of humor and exaggeration, relative to other entertainers or headline news-type programs, but they simultaneously limit their audience in the wider population. Most importantly, their entertainment focus causes the majority of American to not take seriously the evidence they present and the logical conclusions they draw from that evidence.

I am a libertarian, not a conservative or a Republican.

The solution to all this is a third party. The libertarian ideas are generally the right ones. I do not endorse their actual platform in its entirety. It includes stuff like opposition to the draft and recreational drug regulation.

Are the Libertarians as a party poised to start winning elections? Not at all. They are talkers, not doers. They almost never elect a Congressman, let alone a president so they do not really have the organization or skills to win a majority. They have the ideas. I think most Americans today are actually libertarians but they either do not realize it or refuse to admit it. My mom was a Catholic, but I call her a social Catholic. I think she was actually an atheist based on knowing her for 47 years, but she would have vehemently denied that out of fear of it harming her relationships with her friends and relatives—who were probably also actually atheists. People who do not admit to being libertarians are afraid it might adversely affect their social status.

But ultimately, socialism does not work. Ultimately, the Democrats, with plenty of help from Republicans, will bankrupt the country. Best guess as to when? 10 to 20 years.

Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff just came out with a new book This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. On Charlie Rose on 11/10/09, he was asked how long until the irresponsible U.S. government fiscal policy (taxing and spending) triggers a catastrophe. He said something like, “Probably five years. Sooner than 20.”

When that happens, the public will turn to a third party. Unfortunately, no third party is currently ready to turn that support into electoral victory in Congressional and presidential elections.

Barack Obama: Campaigner in Chief

During the 2008 campaign, I wrote articles saying Obama did not appear to me to be interested in the job of president, only the title.

For example: Obama is probably the Ron Dellums of the federal executive branch
Jan 16, 2009 Dellums is a former Congressman and Mayor of Oakland, CA, but people complain he’s never in his office and half his administrations have not yet been filled half-way through his administration.

Campaigner in Chief

I recommend you read the London Daily Telegraph October 24, 2009 article, “Obama must stop campaigning and start governing.”

Why would anyone expect that? Obama has never done anything in his life but campaign—which is a heck of a trick for a 48-year-old man with a wife and two kids. He has never governed. He has never managed. He has never led.

In view of Obama’s utter lack of training or experience at governing, managing, or leading, perhaps we should be grateful he is doing none of those things now that he is Commander in Chief.

Didn’t even govern his campaign

Many said he ran a masterful campaign for president and that shows his management skill. The Telegraph says Obama was more Chairman than CEO of the campaign.

I said he did not run the Obama campaign. He was the celebrity spokesperson of the Obama campaign. Who in the right mind would hire Obama to run their campaign? Like he knows about how to get a campaign commercial produced and aired in 24 hours? Or 24 years? David Axelrod ran the campaign and it is he that you would hire if you could.

You might hire Obama to speak at fundraisers, but not to raise funds on a larger scale than working a room and being a celebrity greeter. He has no clue how to do that.

George W. Bush has been derided for having been a cheerleader in college. Obama is not much more than a cheerleader in the Oval Office, (e.g., Yes we can! Fired up!) and he is a lot better cheerleader than George W. Bush ever was on his soberest day.

Obsessed with image

The Telegraph notes that TV comedians are typically quite liberal but they are having a field day portraying Obama as a “do-nothing prevaricator obsessed with his own image.” Truer words were never spoken.

Obama was only interested in doing some presidential work stuff back when he naively thought it would be easy—when he thought his personal charm would work as well in Congress and the electorate as a whole as it did speaking to media and Democratic campaign audiences. When he discovered the job of president was harder than that and that his personal charm was less widely effective than he previously assumed, he said to hell with it and went back to his hobby of the last two decades: campaigning in front of only friendly audiences of supporters all day every day.

McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops; comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam

I have added a discussion of the proper troop level for Afghanistan at the bottom half of this article.

On 10/3/09, Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan Province on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was almost overrun by the Taliban. Eight American soldiers were killed and 24 were wounded. I posted this aricle before that battle. The battle, and others, prove what my point that U.S. forces are spread too thin in Afghanistan.

I am a Vietnam veteran. The Afghanistan war now feels to me very much like Vietnam only much harder. Here are a few facts to give readers perspective.

Category Afghanistan South Vietnam
size of country
250,000 square miles
67,108 square miles
population of country
28,150,000
19,000,000
number of U.S. troops in country
68,000
553,000
enemy receiving support and sanctuary from neighboring countries?
yes
yes
altitude of country (helicopters have trouble operating at high altitudes)
average 4,000 feet; max 20,000; central plateau 6,000
generally sea level
ocean ports (allow rapid resupply)
none, landlocked
about half the country borders the ocean
U.S. troops per square mile
.27
8.24

I have recently attended a number of speeches given by recent U.S. veterans from Afghanistan military service. I have also been following the war in the media and through books. At present, I am reading The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney, whom I heard speak at the Marines Memorial Club in San Francisco. Mullaney is West Point class of 2000. I am West Point class of 1968. Mullaney is also a Rhodes Scholar and was an infantry platoon leader in Afghanistan. I was never in any danger of a Rhodes Scholarship but I was a communications platoon leader of a mixed heavy artillery battalion in Vietnam. I also read In a Time of War which is about the West Point Class of 2002 including Afghanistan service by some members of that class.

Outnumbered and far from help

As I read and listened to accounts of U.S. military service in Afghanistan, I was stunned at how exposed and unprotected our troops were. Small groups of troops were stationed in tiny bases. One base mentioned by MSNBC reporter Richard Engel only had four U.S. troops. He refused to say where it was because the four are toast if the enemy finds out. But civilians in the area will figure it out soon enough without Engel’s help.

U.S. military in Afghanistan also spent a lot of time wandering around in humvees or walking in the middle of nowhere. If they needed help, it was far away and a long time coming if at all.

Time and again, Afghanistan veterans described harrowing situations, being attacked, and being unable to get immediate help from artillery or air support.

We had 8.24 ÷ .27 = 30.5 times as many troops per square mile in Vietnam as in Afghanistan—and 58,000 of our troops were killed in ten years.

Help almost always nearby

It would be an exaggeration to say that help was always nearby in Vietnam. But I flew over the country lots of times in helicopters because of my specialty, which was radio communications. In radio communications in a war zone, you have groups of three guys everywhere. I spent a lot of time in helicopters visiting the various bases where I had troops. My general impression was that every American military base or patrol was within range of U.S. regular or heavy artillery. There were also a zillion armed jet planes and helicopter gunships and a zillion medevac choppers everywhere. You did not always get immediate help in the form of artillery or air support, but almost.

My artillery battalion commander in Vietnam once spoke of turning some of our artillery lieutenants into “salesmen” to visit infantry and armor units in our area of operations to sell them on calling us for artillery support. We were grossly underutilized and bored and the battalion commander was afraid our not being used was going to adversely affect his career. My impression of the war in Afghanistan is the exact opposite—U.S. forces spread extremely thin. Afghanistan is almost four times the geographic area of South Vietnam. Because of its generally high altitude, normal helicopters have trouble getting to some of the higher altitude areas.

Afghanistan has about 50% more people than South Vietnam but we had 8 times as many troops in South Vietnam as we have in Afghanistan.

It is a wonder to me that we have not had a hundred Battles of the Little Big Horn in Afghanistan. I expect we soon will. Our troops are grossly outnumbered in Afghanistan. Their fire support is spread very thin. In Vietnam, I think our guys were almost within the maximum range circle drawn around each 105mm firebase and/or the bigger maximum range circles around heavy 155mm and 8-inch and 175mm howitzer bases that could fire much farther. I do not know what the fixed-wing and chopper populations are in Afghanistan and were in South Vietnam, but my impression is that we had far more aircraft of all types in Vietnam: Puff the Magic Dragon, Hueys, Chinooks, Cobra gunships, propeller ground support fighter bombers, B-52s, Phantom fighters. You can see a complete list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapons_of_the_Vietnam_War.

We name Forward Operating Bases after KIAs. Since our politicians are forcing our troops to employ the Little Big Horn strategy in Afghanistan (splitting us up into tiny units and spreading them over a wide geographic area in the face of more numerous enemies), we should name the firebases after people and places involved in those approaches to warfare in the past. Here is a list of suggested base names for Afghanistan “going forward” as the politicians like to say:

Forward Operating Base Custer
Forward Operating Base Reno
Forward Operating Base Benteen
Forward Operating Base Alamo
Forward Operating Base Mogadishu
Forward Operating Base Wake Island
Forward Operating Base Corregidor
Forward Operating Base Dutch Harbor
Forward Operating Base Beirut

If we want to honor our British NATO ally’s use of the Custer strategy, we could have

Forward Operating Base Gallipoli
Forward Operating Base Dunkirk
Forward Operating Base Balaclava

Newer technology

True, today’s troops have some technology we did not have like GPS, drones, more accurate fire-support weapons, better night vision equipment, better communications equipment, computers. But the war is basically mechanized infantry shooting assault rifles, mortars, and handheld rockets. That’s World War II stuff. And with World War II stuff, you need to have enough troops in the vicinity of an ambush or ground attack to reinforce outnumbered American units and/or to deliver artillery and/or aerial fire on concentrations of enemy fighters or assets.

In other words, today’s better technology is largely irrelevant due to the nature of the war or the nature of the way we are fighting it. I actually think we are idiots to let the enemy force us to fight in ways that do not let us use our strong suits—technology and fire power. But accepting our stupidity in that regard for the moment as a given, you cannot spread 68,000 troops all over a quarter of a million square mile rugged country and expect the casualty rate to stay as low as the Vietnam casualty rate where we had 8 times as many troops in a country with one quarter the area. (The Vietnam casualty rate was no slouch—about ten times the daily casualty rate in Iraq and Afghanistan—58,000 dead total.)

It is a wonder our Afghanistan casualties have been as low as they have thus far and no surprise that they are climbing rapidly. Our troops there are outnumbered and scattered like Custer’s 7th Cavalry (broken into several units of 200 to 300 each) facing Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. That needs to be fixed one way or the other immediately. Maybe our commander in chief should spend a few nights in a forward operating base in Afghanistan—or go on a patrol out of one of them. No fanfare or entourage. Just issue him a GI uniform and a gun and don’t give the visit and patrol any publicity until afterwards. I predict he would experience an attitude adjustment to his current mode of treating the danger to the U.S. troops there as a back-burner issue.

McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops

In the fall of 2009, Afghanistan commander Stanley McChrystal made headlines by requesting an additional 40,000 U.S. troops. That would bring the total there to 108,000. This is controversial because Obama’s base is simply against all wars and against anything George W. Bush ever did, like leaving troops in Afghanistan or the surge in Iraq.

Some pundits said Obama resisted the addition of 40,000 because of “sticker shock.” Yes, he said Afghanistan was the right war during the campaign and since inauguration, but he never really meant it. It was just a way to avoid looking “soft on terror” and losing those votes. He might send 10,000 or 20,000 troops, to keep up appearances, but not 40,000.

What’s the right number?

Probably at least 2 million.

“What!?” you say. “That’s preposterous!”

Actually, it’s arithmetic. During Vietnam, we had 8.24 troops per square mile. Applying that same ratio to Afghanistan, we get 8.24 x 250,000 = 2,060,000. There are already 68,000 U.S. troops there. So we need 2 million more.

Why do I say “probably?” Because we LOST the Vietnam war. Apparently 8.24 troops per square mile was not enough. Actually, it was more than enough, but U.S. strategy in Vietnam was too timid. We should have invaded North Vietnam and their sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia. We did invade the sanctuaries—while I was there actually—but it was too little too late and only temporary.

Soviet troop strength

During their occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union had around 100,000 troops. They LOST.

Shinseki estimate of number of troops needed to occupy Iraq

Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was asked by Congress how many troops it would take to occupy Iraq. He said “several hundred thousand.” That was the end of him because the Bush Administration and the American people did not want to hear such a high number.

Iraq has 168,753 square miles. 300,000 ÷ 168,753 = 1.8 troops per square mile. And remember that the Kurdish region of Iraq was not hostile to U.S. troops. Applying the Shinseki ratio to Afghanistan gives 1.8 x 250,000 = 450,000 troops.

Army Field Manual says 675,000

I was watching Fox News at 3:07 PM on Monday, 10/12/09 when a man said the Army Field Manual on counterinsurgency said the proper number of troops for a country like Afghanistan is 675,000. General Petraeus was co-author of that field manual. That figure approximately matches up with the Shinseki figure if you remove the Kurdish area of Iraq from the number of square miles his “several hundred thousand” troops would have controlled.

Like I said.

Where did McChrystal get the 40,000 figure?

I suspect that McChrystal’s 40,000 figure is pure politics and unrelated to military considerations. If so, his vaunted counterterrorism expertise is irrelevant. I think what his military expertise tells him is what I just said above: he needs 450,000 to 2,000,000 additional troops, if not more.

40,000 is simply the highest number he thinks he can get out of Obama. McChrystal says we will lose if he does not get them. It appears to me that we will lose even if he does get them—not only the war, but also a lot more lives of the troops in question. That is immoral! Hell, just the financial cost is immoral in light of the nation’s current financial situation!

McChrystal appears to be placing his personal career ahead of the accomplishment of his mission and the welfare of his troops. He and I are West Point graduates. The motto of West Point is “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Duty requires him to say he needs not only 2,000,000 additional troops but also less restrictive rules of engagement.

Honor requires him to say the same thing.

So does Country.

Only career, keeping his current dream job of being commander of our main current war for as long as possible, explains his requesting enough troops to match the failed Soviet level.

The president and Congress are not the only ones who will decide whether to give McChrystal what he wants. The other decision-making body that has to approve this is our current and prospective all-volunteer military. They, too, will reject the Soviet level because it will cause more of them to return again and again to Afghanistan with already-seen devastating effects on their lives and families.

A nation of draft dodgers

We have become a nation of draft dodgers. See my article on the need for a draft. A nation of draft dodgers cannot maintain a troop level of 100,000 in a deadly place like Afghanistan even if its leaders want to. The total number of active duty U.S. Army troops in the whole world is 539,675. I do not know how many of those are infantry, the main type needed in Afghanistan. I would guess less than 100,000. There are also 203,000 Marines with about 40,000 infantry.

Ending the draft put our most insecure-about-their-manhood or unable-to-find-a-civilian-job teenage boys ultimately in charge of when and where America fights and for how long.

None of this is viable. We have to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan because the American people do not want to be there either as a matter of policy or in terms of enough young men and women volunteering to go there.

Tip of the Spear documentary

On 10/11/09, MSNBC ran an excellent documentary about a remote Army outpost (Korengal Valley, Firebase Restrepo) in Afghanistan. If the above numbers don’t convince you, watch that documentary. It shows vividly what it means to be a small unit isolated far from your fellow Americans and surrounded by the enemy.

That unit managed to come home with relatively few killed, but I don’t know how. The documentary shows them wandering around in steep, rocky terrain in groups as small as 12 guys. The base only has 20 guys total. The area in question is controlled by the Taliban. They were able to get air support and medevac choppers, but it seems like it would be relatively easy for the Taliban to grossly outnumber the small base staff—especially when some are away from the base on patrol.

The unit had its own mortars, which they somehow used to blow up the one house in the village that had their own men in it while shooting at a mountain some distance away from the village. They killed one of their own sergeants and wounded others of their own men. They appeared to have no artillery support which was rare in Vietnam as far as I knew when I was there. On the other hand, the terrain in Afghanistan is so steep and rocky that I suspect artillery would be less useful there than it was in Vietnam. Steep terrain requires higher trajectories and therefore reduces the range of the artillery. Indeed, I saw some video footage on MSNBC where the U.S. artillery was firing at a very steep, mortar-like trajectory.

They looked like they needed more snipers and armed drones. They tried to mount offensive operations, which is generally correct doctrine, but had virtually no success, which makes sense when you are in an inhabited area controlled by the enemy. Whenever the Americans move, the enemy immediately knows it because of hundreds of snitches living all around. The time and place of all fights are determined totally by the Taliban. That’s no way to fight a war.

The American presence and their patrolling seemed utterly pointless. Showing the flag and talking to local villagers to try to win them over. But the villages seemed all but totally uninterested in ever cooperating with the Americans—because they do not trust them to stay. I agree with the villagers. The U.S. government betrayed the South Vietnamese who helped us there and it got them killed or jailed when we lost that war. The patrols are also having no effect whatsoever on the Taliban. They either hide their weapons as the Americans walk by and pretend to be innocent civilians or they ambush the Americans as they wish.

It looks to me like men are dying in Afghanistan not for any reason that makes sense in Afghanistan, but solely to prevent Obama from looking “soft on terror” back in the U.S. If truth-in-advertising laws were applied to tombstones of KIAs, they would say something like, “U.S. Army Sergeant Died 10-8-09 Afghanistan for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.” And the American people would promptly end the war.

Fire hoses

I was surprised by the way the U.S. soldiers used their machines guts—like fire hoses. I had heard that you could tell which side was firing in Afghanistan by the number of shots per burst. Taliban used machine gus like fire hoses. Disciplined U.S. troops knew better and only fired six-shot bursts as we were trained. Shooting more generally wastes ammunition plus it causes the gun to overheat and jam.

Machine guns have a rapid rate of fire, which is the number of shots per minute if you keep the trigger depressed, and a sustained rate of fire, which is the maximum total number of bullets you can fire in a minute—interspersing pauses of no firing—before the gun overheats and jams. The U.S. soldiers appeared to me to be exceeding their sustained rate of fire in the documentary. Maybe they were showing off for the cameras. Indeed, their guns were jamming in the documentary. Given the tactical situation, those Army guys need that burst-of-six discipline more than U.S. units normally have in the past because they are surrounded and extremely difficult to reinforce or resupply.

They seemed to indicate mechanical problems caused the jamming. Perhaps. If so, heads need to roll in the Pentagon. The last thing U.S. troops who are surrounded in some Little Big Horn base in the middle of nowhere need is machine guns that do not work.

The Taliban has unlimited ammunition because they control the whole region. They can also just hide their guns and walk away saying “nobody here but us innocent civilians.” The Taliban cannot be overrun, essentially. The U.S. troops can be. In October, 2009, a U.S. post was overrun in Afghanistan and eight U.S. troops were killed. The U.S. only has the ammo they fly in and the helicopters can be shot down or kept out by weather.

82nd Airborne experience in Khost 2007 to 3/08

An Op-Ed article by David Adams and Ann Marlowe in the 10/28/09 Wall Street Journal says 250 82nd Airborne troops were able to secure the Khost, Afghanistan area in 2007 and the first three months of 2008 by working closely with local tribes, Afghan National Security Forces, and local government. Navy Commander Adams commanded the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team from 3/07 to 3/08. Marlowe is a journalist who was embedded with U.S. military units in the Khost area during that period.

Britain had the biggest empire ever in the 1800s and first half of the 20th century. But they are a small country with a small population. How’d they manage that? By working with local people. One of their military units to this day is made up of Gurkhas. They are natives of Nepal and Northern India who originally worked with Britain in those areas but have since been deployed wherever.

Our Special Forces (Green Berets) operate like the British. Indeed, we won victory in Afghanistan in weeks in 2001 by Special Forces teaming up with and assisting the Northern Alliance. Similarly, our “Surge” in Iraq was more working with Iraqis than adding more troops. If we intend to win in Afghanistan, the 82nd Airborne/Green Berets approach seems infinitely more likely to work than just brute American force.

I was a communications platoon leader in an infantry battalion in the 82nd in the summer of 1969. Generally, the troops in the 82nd seemed to be dumber than those in non-airborne units. But the unit was a plum assignment for higher ranking officers and may have attracted a better class of colonels and generals than non-airborne units as a result.

Get out of Afghanistan and Iraq; and Germany and Korea while you’re at it

We need to leave Iraq and Afghanistan completely yesterday.

Why?

  • The American people do not want to be in either place.
  • The American people do not want to suffer the casualties that we will suffer if we stay.
  • The American people do not want to spend the amount of money it would take to win.
  • The American people cannot afford to spend the money it would take to win in those countries. We used to be a rich country. But a generation of national politicians have bankrupted us.
  • The government of Afghanistan, like the government of South Vietnam during that war, is a thoroughly corrupt one with little or no public support by the citizens of the country.

All the other issues like the “war on terror,” fighting them there rather than here, stopping Iran influence in the area, and being close to victory (which I doubt) in Iraq are all irrelevant. No support by the American people, no wars.

I graduated from West Point in 1968 and arrived in Vietnam Thanksgiving weekend, 1969. I had a couple of miscellaneous assistant jobs and I was a communications platoon leader in a mixed heavy artillery battalion—all in the III Corps area (Saigon, Parrots Beak, etc.). I left Vietnam on September 6, 1970. Mainly, during my tour in Vietnam, we were supposed to be doing what the Pentagon and White House called Vietnamization.

Vietnamization did not work. When we left, the South Vietnamese lost the war very rapidly—in spite of us training them for more than 15 years and giving them zillions of dollars worth of ammo, equipment, and uniforms.

Americans died for Vietnamization, which was nothing but a political cover for the Nixon Administration trying to put a good face on admitting defeat. They hoped the South Vietnamese would last long enough that the Americans would evade responsibility for the loss. That did not happen. It was a dishonest purpose anyway.

No one should die for Vietnamization or Iraqization or Afghanistanization.

We have to sell the war better

Many pro-war Americans say the problem is the administration has to sell the war better to the American people.

Bullshit!

The U.S. government has been selling wars to the American people since the mid-1960s. Time and again, the American people fell for it. Time and again—EVERY time—the American people got taken. 58,000 of us died in Vietnam for nothing. 247 in Lebanon for nothing. 18 in Mogadishu for nothing. Some 6,000 so far in Iraq and Afghanistan—almost certainly for nothing.

The American people no longer trust their government or military on the subject of whether a war is a good idea or how long it will take to win or whether we will win. We have had 45 years of the U.S. government selling wars that cost too much and took too long to the American people.

The U.S. government and military had their chances to win the public trust and to win wars and they have done neither. The U.S. military now needs to regain its Korean war era and prior credibility. Because of 45 years of lies and overly optimistic forecasts, it will take the U.S. government and military a very long time to regain that credibility. They need to get started and the first step is to come home and start cleaning up their acts.

If necessary, we can go back to these countries—preferably at 50,000 feet or via unmanned missiles and drones. The American people will agree to that and support it if and when the reasons become clear and credible.

The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were reasonably wise given 9/11. But the occupations were not. We can invade again and again if necessary and keep running the Taliban and al Qaeda out of town. But trying to be the non-Pashto-speaking local police force for a huge nation on the other side of the world is an obvious, very expensive, exercise in futility.

FDR was accused of deliberately letting Pearl Harbor happen to build support for American entry into World War II. I don’t believe that. I read a lot of books about our code breaking and such during that period. I am not a conspiracy theorist. But although he did not do that, a very strong argument could be made for a president to wait until that sort of popular support event occurs. Unfortunately, in the nuclear age, that may be too late. But the stupidity and shortsightedness of the American people are facts, whether they ought to be or not. So is the futility and immorality of asking men to die to avoid the politician in the White House—Bush or Obama—looking bad or giving his political enemies ammunition to use against him.

No more wars unless we are willing to kill enough enemies fast enough to win them in three years or less. Every country that has gone to war against us since the Korean war is glad they did. Germany and Japan are not glad they declared war on us. The next country that goes to war with us—after Iraq and Afghanistan—needs to regret it profoundly, so that the country after that will decide not to even go down that road to begin with.

War is an all or nothing deal. At present, as in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, we were neither all in nor all out. That state of affairs gives new meaning to the phrase “no man’s land.” No man should be put in that situation.

Americans seem to love the idea of war in the abstract. But once the concrete version gets going, they recoil at the inevitable scandals and the innocent civilian deaths and the collateral damage. Do not support the abstract version if you are not going to also support those engaged in the concrete, messy reality of it.

General Douglas MacArthur said,

There is no substitute for victory.

His words need to be supplemented:

There is no substitute for total victory within three years.

If you look at the history of U.S. wars, the only ones that worked ended in about three years or less. The Afghanistan war is now eight years old; Iraq, six years.

Is Barack Obama really a great speaker?

Even Obama’s critics acknowledge he is an excellent reader of teleprompters.

Johnny One-Note

We need to revisit that. The most experienced readers of teleprompters are the talking heads, including reporters and correspondents, on TV. Is Obama better than they are?

No.

Why not? They have a range of emotions, humor, different approaches for different types of stories. They have to. If they were some sort of monotone, Johnny One-Note, one-emotion type of teleprompter reader, they would lose their jobs.

Barack is that monotone kind of teleprompter reader.

In her 9/5/09 Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan called Obama “Faux Eloquent Boring.” She said he “always has the same sound, approach, logic, tone, modulation…stance, [lack of] humor and [lack of] humility.” Speaking of his appearance at Ted Kennedy’s funeral, Noonan said Obama was,

…dignified and contained, he was utterly appropriate, and he was cold.

He is cold, like someone who is contained not because he is disciplined and successfully restrains his emotions, but because there is not that much to restrain. This is the dark side of cool.

Well put. He always talks as if he just got back from talking to God on Mount Sinai and we need to listen up to the next installment of the Ten Commandments.

Always scolding

He’s always scolding us or people in other countries. To mute domestic criticism of his foreign apology tours, he has one scold against the foreign country in question for every apology about what a rotten nation the U.S. was before Barack was president. Barack never apologizes for anything Barack ever did. The apologies are always for what we not-up-to-snuff citizens did, or allowed, before we came to our senses and put Barack in charge.

Pissed off

Barack is also always pissed off when he lectures us. Been hanging around Michelle too much. Whatever happened to her anyway?

For those who were adults in the late seventies, he reminds us of Jimmy Carter, a disaster of a president who was always admonishing us for not being good enough. He ran for president after eight years of unpopular Republican administrations and campaigned as an anti-Washington outsider. But once he got into the oval office, the most famous word used to describe Jimmy Carter’s presidential oratory was “malaise.” In the summer of 1979, he told us a sort of malaise had descended on our country. He said the “energy crisis” was the “moral equivalent of war,” then promptly lost that “war” if that’s what it was. He told us, “We must face the fact that the energy shortage is permanent.” That was dead wrong.

Carter was replaced by sunny, optimistic, free-market Reagan who on inauguration day, ended Carter’s “energy crisis” with a stroke of a pen when he signed an executive order ending price controls on fossil fuels. Carter denounced the end of price controls as “immoral and obscene.” By the end of the Reagan administration in 1988, the price of oil had fallen to half what it was in Carter’s last year in office, 1980. There was an oil glut and that is even what the media called it at the time.

Carter promised fiscal responsibility, but the deficit set new records when he was president. He had no ideology or other guiding principles and consequently vacillated and launched multiple, contradictory economic programs, each designed to placate the complaint of the moment.

Carter presided over the worst inflation since World War I, but blamed it on a moral affliction affecting American society. He said we had “lost our capacity to sacrifice for the common good” and that it was a “myth that government can stop inflation.” I wrote a book called How to Protect Your Life Savings from Hyperinflation and Depression. Inflation is, by definition, caused only by government, which has a constitutional monopoly on setting the value of money, and inflation can therefore only be stopped by government. Carter’s successor, Reagan, made ending inflation a top priority and did end it.

Carter was a doomsday prophet who believed the world was headed for disaster. His Global 2000 Report, written in the last year of his administration in 1980 said,

By the year 2000 the world will be more crowded, more polluted, and less stable ecologically and the world’s people will be poorer in many ways than today.

Sound familiar? Those are not the same words Obama uses, but the basic message is the same. He sees crisis as a way to get political support for his agenda, so he constantly tells us we are in a crisis. A leader is mainly supposed to build confidence in him and in ourselves.

Post-Brown-Victory in Massachusetts speech

On 1/22/10, Obama made his angriest speech yet, doubling down once again on determination, putting a sharper edge on his voice, yelling even louder that, “We’re gonna get this done!” As if he has the power to force us to accept every single one of his programs or else.

As in Copenhagen, where he was supposed to be talking about why the IOC should award the Olympics to Chicago, it was all about him. His Copenhagen sales pitch was all about him. And his 1/22/10 speech after the Brown victory in MA was also all about him. I, I, I, I. From his perspective, everything is all about him, including health care, cap & trade, financial regulation, you name it. To the rest of America, it’s about jobs, health of the citizens, and so on. To Obama, everything is about him, everything is personal. To him, resistance to “his” health care program, which really has never existed in a final version, is a personal attack on him and his opponents have no other motivation but to hurt him.

Attacking straw men

The only other word he used again and again—14 times—was “fight.” Fight whom? He shouted that he will not stop fighting for jobs. Against whom? Who is trying to prevent jobs? No one.

This is another of Obama’s cheap rhetorical tricks: trashing nonexistent straw men whom he implies are advocating some awful policy—like preventing job creation. No one is doing that in any of his straw man speeches, but listeners who are not too bright come away inspired by his heroic efforts against those imaginary straw men.

This man is truly dangerous.

Someone once asked President Reagan, a former successful Hollywood actor, how an actor could do the job of being president. He laughed and said he could not understand how anyone could do the job if they were NOT an actor.

He had a point. The presidency is a TV show to 99% of our citizens. The president is to star in that show and lead the nation through his performance as much as through his policy decisions and policy implementation.

No actor

Barack Obama is no actor. He is more akin to one-dimensional, famous popular culture figures like:

• the guy who used to talk real fast on Federal Express commercials
• former CBS newscaster Dan Rather who has a permanent pompous, somber way of talking

The presidency requires more range than guys like that.

Three cheap tricks

I had a bunch of training as a public speaker at West Point and in the famous Dale Carnegie course on public speaking. We had to do a lot of public speaking at Harvard Business School (in our amphitheater style classrooms) and when I was an Army officer commanding from 30 to 400 men—5,000 once in an Armed Forces Day parade where I was the adjutant. The adjutant runs the whole parade until near the end. You can see video of me making several unpaid, informal speeches at YouTube. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was a member of the National Speakers Association and the International Platform Association and made my living in part as a professional speaker.

As an erstwhile professional speaker, who has often been at conventions where I was one of many speakers and I listened to them as well, I know many of the tricks of the speaking trade. Obama’s reputation as a great speaker actually stems mainly from his use of several cheap speaker tricks.

Random pauses

He frequently pauses randomly and for no reason other than mesmerizing the audience. This has the effect of drawing the audience up onto the front edge of their chairs as they instinctively strain to hear what the person is saying. Obama’s fellow Chicagoan, the late Paul Harvey, was the master of the theatrical pause. In Paul Harvey’s hands, the pause was the tool of a mastercraftsman, strategically placed when used, not random, not a cheap trick. I would not be surprised if Obama did not get his pause trick from Harvey.

I heard a female professor on Charlie Rose in the summer of 2009 use a similar trick for the same reason. She deliberately lowered her voice more and more as the program went on until Charlie and the TV audience were straining on the edge of their seats to hear what she was saying. Apparently she had discovered and perfected this trick in college lectures as a professor.

Rose let her get away with it. If I had been him, I would have whispered to her, “If you do not stop whispering your answers to my questions, I will cut off the sound and replace your voice with subtitles when we broadcast the show. Capeche?

Command-of-execution head nod

In the military, the way you give a command is to loudly enunciate what is called a preparatory command. Then you let the command of execution explode sharply out of your mouth typically with body language that includes decisively nodding your head forcefully for visual emphasis. You also raise your voice on the last syllable.

For example, to get a group of soldiers to start marching the preparatory command is “Forward,” which is enunciated and somewhat drawn out—“Fooor WARD.” Then, after an Obama-like pause to let everyone get mentally prepared, you give the command of execution, in this case: “March!” The word “march” explodes out of your mouth like a the gunshot out of a starter‘s pistol signaling the start of a 100-meter dash.

In football, quarterbacks often use a head bob and pauses to try to draw the defense into jumping offside. The head bob in that context is actually illegal and draws a penalty flag. There are no referees in Obama speeches.

In addition to his pauses, Obama likes to end almost all paragraphs or sentences with a quick “And that’s FINAL!” nod of his head and a raised-voice-for-emphasis last syllable. That is the military officer or NCO’s command-of-execution trick. A typical Obama cadence might go like this:

Well, as I’ve

pause

always

pause

SAID (that’s FINAL nod)

pause

Iraq is

pause

the wrong WAR (that’s FINAL nod)

pause

at

pause

the wrong PLACE (that’s FINAL nod)

pause

and the wrong

pause

TIME. (that’s FINAL nod)

You can easily strip Obama’s speeches of their magic by simply counting the unnecessary pauses and nod-accompanied commands of executions. A college classmate and I once amused ourselves at a Chamber of Commerce dinner by counting the number of times the various speakers said the phrase “and his lovely wife.” My wife said one of her colleagues used to count the number of times their boss used the word “grapple” in his talks.

O’Reilly has a body language specialist on a lot of his shows. Hannity runs a “liberal translation” over various leftist politician statements. Either of them could run an Obama “great speech” with a pause counter in the lower left corner and a nodding command of execution counter in the lower right corner and thereby reveal what Obama’s great rhetorical ability really is. You could also run one of his speeches with the sound turned off and see the pauses and head bobs more easily.

Limbaugh’s speeding-up trick

Rush Limbaugh, the greatest radio entertainer of all time (hard to argue with an $800 million contract), is no slouch on understanding the use of a voice. He apparently sensed the same thing I did with Obama, that his voice tricks the audience into thinking he’s saying great things when he’s not. But Limbaugh’s way of nullifying the effect of Obama’s voice was to speed up the tape so Obama sounds like one of the Chipmunks.

I agree with Limbaugh that Obama’s voice tricks need to be nullified, but I think the Chipmunks technique is unfair and makes Obama sound childlike and silly in ways that he is not. Better Limbaugh should electronically remove the pauses and the “that’s FINAL” voice raising to reveal the emptiness of Obama’s rhetoric—and tell the audience he has done that.

Some might argue that changing Obama’s speeches into a total monotone is not fair. Well, he talks in a monotone almost all the time for starters. And I would allow him some voice inflection, but not the excessive, metronomical way he uses voice inflection. (go to http://www.metronomeonline.com/ and click the “on” button)

Wrapping oneself in the flag

A cheap speakers’ trick that disgusted me at the National Speakers Association convention in New Orleans in the early 1980s was wrapping oneself in the American flag figuratively speaking to draw approval for one’s speech. One speaker there ended all speeches by asking the audience to stand up and sing God Bless America which had nothing to do with his speech, although he did go to the effort of segueing into it. Since the audience was already on its feet and feeling uplifted by the song, “he” got a standing ovation. Creepy.

Obama’s verbal version of that is his almost invariable use of the entire phrase “United States of America,” in a rising, final-words-of-a-hymn lilt, rather than the more common “America” or “U.S.” or “this country.” It triggers patriotic impulses which are then used to make it seem like the audience loved Obama when it was mainly the reference to their country that they were responding to.

The wit of Obama

A number of other great orators have had books published that just include collections of their humorous statements including Lincoln, Churchill, Kennedy, and Reagan.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the book The Wit of Obama. The closest he comes to humor is lame jokes like his saying after his first ride on Air Force One: “Pretty nice. ” He got a big laugh, but not because it was funny but rather it came out of the mouth of THE PRESIDENT. Some judge got national press coverage for using the phrase “This Bud’s for you” in a court opinion where beer was the subject of the case. It wasn’t that funny. What made it so notable was just that a judge made a joke in a court opinion.

Memorable statements

JFK, FDR, Lincoln, and Reagan are highly regarded as great orators. They said many memorable things. Even with the best available speech writers and now five years as a U.S. Senator and President, Obama has said nothing memorable.

Here are some memorable quotes from JFK, FDR, Lincoln, and Reagan:

JFK:

Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

FDR:

Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

We, and all others who believe in freedom as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.

Lincoln:

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.

Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

..that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Ronald Reagan:

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

a shining city on a hill

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

I hope you’re all Republicans. (said to the surgeons around the operating table immediately after his being shot by a would-be assassin)

I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience. (Said in TV debate with Walter Mondale during the 1984 campaign)

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them — this morning, as they prepared for their journey, and waved good-bye, and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God." (comments after the Challenger disaster)

Barack Obama:

 

 

 

Overexposed

One of the rules of show business is to always leave the audience wanting more. Celebrities, including politicians, are also usually concerned about getting overexposed. Many top celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen rarely made or make public appearances.

Not Obama. He and his staff seem to have decided that he is a one-trick pony—that is, a great teleprompter reader. But that he is such a great teleprompter reader, that he, unlike mere mortals, cannot be overexposed no matter how much the public sees of him. In that same vein, they seem to have concluded that the solution to any problem the White House has is to simply have Barack read yet another speech on TV. The guy has made a zillion speeches yet seems intent on continuing to make as many more as he can.

I think he is very near overexposed already and his 9/9/09 speech to a joint session of Congress about his health care plans seems doomed to failure because he has nothing new or persuasive to say. Apparently, the speech will be simply Obama style yet they expect it to somehow snatch victory on the health care legislation from the jaws of defeat. Doing the same failed thing over and over yet expecting a different result is one of the manifestations of insanity, not leadership.

Promising more than you deliver

In an early article about Obama I said he was doomed to failure because herepeatedly made the very stupid mistake of promising more than he can deliver. When you think about it, there is only one way to do a good job yet have people unhappy with the job you did. That is to promise more than you deliver. One Obama example: When urging the nation to approve his “stimulus” bill, he said unemployment would go above 8% if we did not immediately pass it. Congress passed it, notoriously without reading it, and unemployment promptly went above 8% anyway—a fact which is contrasted with his promise dozens of times daily now on TV.

By choosing a joint session of Congress, which is the sort of big deal used by President Roosevelt to declare war on Japan the day after Pearl Harbor, Obama promises a huge deal. I predict he will not deliver anything other than more of the same things he has been saying for months. If so, he has turned himself into the boy who cried “wolf!” That is an extremely shoot-yourself-in-the-foot thing for a president of the “United States of America” to do.

It’s WHAT you say, not how you say it

Ultimately, to be considered a truly great orator, which is almost a requirement of a great president, you need to say memorable things that inspire people to respond to the “better angels of our nature.” Obama has never done that, in spite of having many opportunities to do so. After his much-ballyhooed speech on race, his supporters in the press said it would henceforth be taught in schools alongside the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence. No. it won’t. Hardly anyone remembers a word of it even though it happened in 2008. The only phrase I remember is his calling for a “dialogue on race,” by which I said he meant blacks bitching and whites taking notes and promising to change everyhing blacks want changed to the way blacks want it.

Obama says nothing, but he says it with grand faux eloquence. A comment I made about Rich Dad Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki also applies to Obama:

In this, Kiyosaki also reminds me of Robert Blake, the movie and TV actor best known for starring in the late-70’s TV series Baretta. Blake’s TV-talk-show appearances were invariably interrupted by audience applause. Why? Like Kiyosaki, he was given to spouting platitudes so grandly and self-confidently that the audience assumed he must have had said something great. He didn’t.

I am not sure that the American people will ever figure out that Obama says little and achieves his hypnotic effect with cheap speaker tricks, but I think they could if someone would explain and point out to them the tricks being used and the fundamental clichéd, all-slogans-all-the-time emptiness of his speeches.

Here is an excellent email I got from David Cooperman adding similar observations he has made.

Mr. Reed:

I’m a big fan of your work, and enjoy reading the articles and books. I’m a real estate guy and stand-up comedian, so I followed the various cheap tricks with interest. The part about draping yourself in the flag definitely rang a few bells for me. When 9/11 occurred there was never ending sequences from comics "let’s hear it folks for those firefighters, and police – the real heroes"…There are all sorts of gratuitous things comics say so they’ll be liked – "you ladies are really so much smarter than us". I worked with a guy who would end his show with the song "Walking in Memphis". He had a good voice, but I sat there thinking "he’s singing the entire song straight?" No jokes thrown in, no parody, just a song? Bizarre. He wasn’t a strong enough comic to get standing O’s – but he’d always get applause. To me, I think he was just filling time to do his required minutes – and when you’re singing, you’re not getting laughs, but you’re not pausing either so the audience can’t really tell if other audience members are NOT enjoying themselves. So, it’s a bomb-avoidance technique. I know, I know, I’m digressing. But – politicians and comedians share the same disease – generally, they need to be liked (there are exceptions in the comedy arena, but generally the rule stands).

In terms of your critique, the thing I think you’re leaving out is that no, Obama isn’t a great orator – but he has a good voice. So, when people gush about his speaking abilities, I think they’re just mistaking good pipes for good oration. Kind of like the Richard Burton-syndrome – or James Earl Jones (in my opinion) – great voices, not great actors. I believe Burton actually fessed up to this. Compared to Bush though, Obama is Paul Harvey or Reagan…since all the Bush’s were just horrendous public speakers. McCain also wasn’t particularly gripping as a public speaker (in fact, I think he’s terrible, although I like him on the whole more than you do), and I think Palin was/is pretty rough on the ears. So, Obama doesn’t have to compare necessarily to the greats. It’s like winning an Oscar – the Best Picture doesn’t have to go up against Citizen Kane – it just has to beat the field that’s there. As a speaker, Obama beats the field. Plus, like a big name comic who has to perform new material – Obama has writers. I don’t think great speeches have been made (the ‘unclench your fist’ line was memorable, albeit wrong). So, I don’t give his writers the poor grades you do. He said some funny things at the White House press dinner.

He’ll be remembered – no matter what – because he’s a black guy. Leftist teachers will bludgeon that into the brains of every kid of future generations, no matter what. He may be the next Jimmy Carter but he’s the black Jimmy Carter, and that’s that. In a way, he’s the anti-Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, etc. They had to be great to break through. Although in sports – it’s easier to be objective about greatness. Presidents are a little different. When presidents speak – you don’t get to see the stat lines on the bottom of the screen. There aren’t Bill James-types for politics.

Thanks for your time,

Dave Cooperman

Reed note: I would argue that my son Dan (his web site is onlyaliberal.com) and I are trying to be Bill James types for politics.

The Barack behind the curtain exposed

During the campaign, Obama’s critics, including yours truly, told you that he was too radical, unqualified, totally inexperienced, untrained for leadership or management, narcissistic, and so on. You can see what I said back then farther down my headline news articles page.

69 million people did not believe us and voted for him on election day.

Now, week by week, those who supported him are turning against him. And those who were already against him are turning more against him than they were in November, 2008.

Not just health care

Why? Not because of health care as the pundits seem to be saying. True, the turn coincides with the health care debate, but it’s more about Obama than about health care. This in spite of his saying, “It’s not about me.”

In fact, with Obama, everything is about Obama. Like most presidential candidate finalists, he is a sociopath. (I strongly urge you to read that Web site definition of sociopath. Now that we know Obama much better, it is chilling to read.) Sociopath-ness is roughly speaking extreme egomania combined with difficulty recognizing that there is more than one person on earth, that the rest of the human race are not merely useful farm animals.

Mystique

I talk in my book Succeeding about the short-lived effect of mystique when others get to know the person who supposedly has it. Mystique is “an air or attitude of mystery and reverence developing around something or someone.”

Obama is not the only person with mystique. Navy SEALs have it. Service academy graduates. Ex P.O.W.s. Ivy Leaguers. FBI agents. And so on.

I have experienced the mystique effect as a result of graduating from West Point, Harvard Business School, Army ranger school, and being a Vietnam veteran and a book author. When a person with some sort of mystique arrives at a new job, he is “The West Point guy” or the “Harvard MBA.” But after I was there for a couple of weeks, I became just Jack, a unique individual with strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.

The Great Black Hope

When he was elected and inaugurated, Barack was “The Great Black Hope.” But, inevitably, in the fish bowl of the White House, he was unable to prevent the public from finally seeing who he really is. He tried, like the Wizard of Oz ranting and raving from behind the curtain. But the microscopic press scrutiny did what Dorothy’s dog Toto did in the Wizard of Oz movie. It pulled back the curtain and revealed Barack Obama for what he really is: a 48-year-old guy with no experience or training in leadership or management. A petulant guy who gets extremely irritated when things don’t go his way. An astonishingly overconfident guy who thinks he can charm the pants off foreign crowds (yes in France and Germany; no in Russia), foreign leaders (name one), Cambridge cops, the American public (falling polls), Congressional Republicans (none voted for a couple of his main bills), and the press (even they are turning against him one by one).

Brazen liar

Obama lied. He lied during the campaign and it didn’t hurt him. As he likes to say, “I won.”

He lied more after the inauguration, and combined it with a bum’s rush telling us we had to enact his laws immediately or the world would come to an end. And he got away with that for a while—about three months.

Apparently, he figured his success at lying meant he could keep on lying and bum’s rushing us for two full terms in the Oval Office. Then he learned what another tall, skinny, Illinois, legislator-lawyer turned president once said.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Abraham Lincoln

With his hyperdangerous, extreme overconfidence, Obama figures the rules that apply to ordinary mortals do not apply to him, including that one.

Actually, the rules apply to him, too, including that one.

Now they see the real Barack

The public, including tens of millions of his former supporters, now see him as a dishonest radical who really does not know what he is doing and who is trying to bluff his way through the most difficult job on earth. They now recognize the bum’s rushes for what they were and are now saying “Slow down!”—literally shouting that phrase at some town hall meetings.

They see that the allegations that the stimulus money would hardly get out the door in 2009 as accurate. They are not buying Obama’s claims that his “stimulus” turned the economy around (only $70 billion has been spent, a drop in the bucket considering total U.S. consumer spending is about $9 trillion a year). Americans are horrified by the monstrous current and projected deficits. They recognize that he overpromised when he said the stimulus package would keep unemployment from exceeding 8%. They see his foreign policy as making speeches but accomplishing next to nothing and a more dangerous world than on Inauguration Day with more dying in Afghanistan, renewed violence in Iraq, allies reducing troop strength in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran openly suppressing its people, North Korea detonating nukes and test firing long-range missiles, an administration at war with our CIA.

It is dawning on the American people, that this man who never crossed the Rio Grande until recently, never served in the military or diplomatic corps, never worked in government except as a state senator and U.S. Senator who was always campaigning for president, and rarely traveled other than to live in Indonesia as a 6- to 10-year old, is not prepared to oversee foreign or defense policy.

It took him 17 meetings and phone calls to approve shooting the Somali pirates. I am not ready to be president, but I did serve in the military and in various managerial positions. When the military requested the second meeting with me on the pirates matter, I would have chewed them out. “Figure it out for chrissake! Haven’t we spent enough training you and paying you?” See my article on the subject.

Lashing out irrationally at opponents

Obama’s reaction to his declining poll numbers and flagging health care support has been to accuse opponents of being Nazis, being a rent-a mob paid by insurance companies. He says the criticisms of his health care plan are lies in spite of video clips of his saying the opposite being played over and over on radio and TV shows. He sometimes contradicts himself in the same speech. He often says stuff that is the opposite of what he said on prior audio or video tapes. He never admits his lies or mistakes.

In contrast, while governor of California, Ronald Reagan once said his “feet were set in concrete” on a particular issue. Later, he recognized he was not going to win and joked, “The sound you hear is the concrete around my feet breaking.”

Obama is utterly incapable of such honesty or character.

Tangled web

Another rule Obama thinks does not apply to him was articulated by Sir Walter Scott,

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive

Actually, that rule applies to him, too.

Who is angrier at him?

It is a toss up who is angrier at him: the liberals to whom he lied, or the conservatives. He figured he was so charming he could get away with the most brazen lies no matter whether they were directed at his supporters or his opponents. Air America, a leftist radio net work recently called him a “charming liar.” Leftists also called him Cheney, a fascist, a sell-out to the drug companies, They play clips of him over and over promising, during the campaign, not to do precisely that which he subsequently did. His promises of transparency, bills being posted for at least five days on his Web site, not taking non-federal campaign contributions, no earmarks, etc., etc. All promises broken without the slightest apology or explanation.

The anti-war crowd gave him a key Iowa primary victory early in his campaign. Now he is surging in Afghanistan. All he has given them on the wars is changing the terminology and a promised future shut down of Guantanamo (with no plan as to where to put the detainees). They thought they were voting for a pull-out guy. Instead, they re-elected a total Bush clone with regard to war policy.

Ann Dunham’s weasely boy Barry

The American people welcomed Barack the “historic” black president for change. Now they are starting to recognize they got scammed. He may have a black father, but he is not a symbol. He is just a man, a brazenly dishonest man, a “charming liar” who is not charming enough to get away with his lies, a suicidally overconfident con man, a man whose instincts when he encounters opposition are self-destructive, a radical leftist, and an incompetent. His half black DNA, it turns out, is irrevelant. The salient fact is that he is an inept liar and every bit as dangerous to the nation as if he were 100% white.

How long will it take for blacks to start worrying whether they chose the wrong guy for first black president and that this guy will ultimately set their cause back by his incompetence and dishonesty? Blacks helped put a black sociopath in the Oval Office. About the only racial advance that represents is informing non-blacks that there are black sociopaths, too.

The great savior Barack Obama has been inevitably revealed to be just Ann Dunham’s weasely boy Barry—the bullshit artist whose picture is now in the dictionary next to the definition of a “legend in his own mind.”

‘Content of his character’

In his famous “I have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. said he dreamed of “a day when his four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

On election day, 2008 and Inauguration Day 2009, Barack Oama was judged by the color of his skin. Now, not the inauguration, is the real realization of King’s dream. Barack Obama is finally, in the late summer of 2009, being judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. It turns out the color of his skin was concealing the fact that he has no character.