Showing posts with label appreciation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label appreciation. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Though Luke Somers died, jihadists know they are targets if they kidnap Americans

A Noble Rescue Attempt. WSJ Editorial

Though Luke Somers died, jihadists know they are targets if they kidnap Americans.

WSJ, Dec. 7, 2014 5:36 p.m. ET

Condolences to the family of Luke Somers, the kidnapped American journalist who was murdered Saturday during a rescue attempt by U.S. special forces in Yemen. His death is a moment for sadness and anger, but also for pride in the rescue team and praise for the Obama Administration for ordering the attempt.

According to the Journal’s account based on military and Administration sources, some 40 special forces flew to a remote part of Yemen, marching five miles to escape detection, but lost the element of surprise about 100 yards from the jihadist hideout. One of the terrorists was observed by drone surveillance to enter a building where it is believed he shot Somers and a South African hostage, Pierre Korkie. The special forces carried the wounded men out by helicopter, but one died on route and the other aboard a Navy ship.

There is no blame for failing to save Somers, whose al Qaeda captors had released a video on Thursday vowing to kill him in 72 hours if the U.S. did not meet unspecified demands. The jihadists were no doubt on high alert after special forces conducted a rescue attempt in late November at a hillside cave. The commandos rescued eight people, mostly Yemenis, but Somers had been moved.

It’s a tribute to the skill of U.S. special forces that these high-risk missions against a dangerous enemy don’t fail more often. But given good intelligence and a reasonable chance to save Somers, the fault would have been not to try for fear of failure or political blame.

The reality is that most American and British citizens captured by jihadists are now likely to be murdered as a terrorist statement. This isn’t always true for citizens of other countries that pay ransom. But the U.S. and U.K. rightly refuse on grounds that the payments give incentive for more kidnappings while enriching the terrorists.

Jihadists don’t distinguish between civilians and soldiers, or among journalists, clergy, doctors or aid workers. They are waging what they think is a struggle to the death against other religious faiths and the West. Their goal is to kill for political control and their brand of Islam.

The murders are likely to increase as the U.S. fight against Islamic State intensifies. The jihadists know from experience that they can’t win a direct military confrontation, so their goal is to weaken the resolve of democracies at home. Imposing casualties on innocent Americans abroad and attacking the homeland are part of their military strategy.

They don’t seem to realize that such brutality often backfires, reinforcing U.S. public resolve, as even Osama bin Laden understood judging by his intercepted communications. But Americans need to realize that there are no safe havens in this long war. Everyone is a potential target.

So we are entering an era when the U.S. will have to undertake more such rescues of Americans kidnapped overseas. The results will be mixed, but even failed attempts will send a message to jihadists that capturing Americans will make them targets—and that there is no place in the world they can’t be found and killed.

It’s a tragedy that fanatical Islamists have made the world so dangerous, but Americans should be proud of a country that has men and women willing to risk their own lives to leave no American behind.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More War for Oil? President Obama dispatches troops to Iraq—and has to listen to the old canards all over again

More War for Oil? By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
President Obama dispatches troops to Iraq—and has to listen to the old canards all over again.Wall Street Journal, Aug 12, 2014 7:00 p.m. ET

The "no blood for oil" crowd has piped up with surprising speed and noisiness in the short hours since President Obama recommitted U.S. forces to the fight in Iraq.

Steve Coll, a writer for the New Yorker, suggests in a piece posted on the magazine's website that "Kurdish oil greed," whose partner Mr. Obama now becomes, has been a primary factor in making Iraq a failed state. That's apparently because of the Kurds' unwillingness to reach a revenue-sharing deal with Baghdad. For good measure, he refers readers to a Rachel Maddow video, featuring Steve Coll, that argues that the U.S. invaded Iraq to gets its oil in the first place.

John B. Judis, a veteran editor of the New Republic, in contrast is relatively sane under the headline "The U.S. Airstrikes in Northern Iraq Are All About Oil." While nodding toward Mr. Obama's stated humanitarian justifications, he insists oil "lies near the center of American motives for intervention."
There are a few problems with this argument. Oil exists in the hinterland of Erbil, all right, the capital of a stable, prosperous and relatively free Kurdistan that President Obama now is trying to protect from the Islamic murderers of ISIS.

But oil also exists in northwestern Iraq—in fact, vast amounts of oil around Mosul, whose fall did not trigger Obama intervention. Oil is in Libya, where the U.S. quickly took a hike after the fall of Gadhafi. Oil is in Canada, where Mr. Obama, who just fatally risked his legacy with his core admirers by dispatching forces to the Mideast, can't bring himself to choose between his labor and greenie constituents by deciding to approve or veto the Keystone pipeline.

Oil apparently explains nothing except when it explains everything.
Another problem is that Americans are both consumers and producers of oil. So does the U.S. want high or low prices? A bigger producer in recent years, America presumably has seen its interest shifting steadily in the direction of higher prices. Yet acting to protect Kurdish production would have the opposite effect.

But then Mr. Coll especially is ritualizing, not thinking—and what he's ritualizing is a certain leftist hymn about the origins of the 2003 Iraq war. Never mind that if the U.S. had wanted Iraq's oil, it would have been vastly cheaper to buy it— Saddam was certainly eager to sell. Never mind that the Bush administration, after overthrowing Saddam, stood idly by while Baghdad awarded the biggest contracts to India, China and Angola.

It was not a Bushie but Madeleine Albright, in her maiden speech as Bill Clinton's secretary of state, who first laid out the case for regime change in Iraq.

In the same 1997 speech, she explained, "Last August, Iraqi forces took advantage of intra-Kurdish tensions and attacked the city of Irbil, in northern Iraq. President Clinton responded by expanding the no-fly zone to the southern suburbs of Baghdad. . . . Contrary to some expectations, the attack on Irbil has not restored Saddam Hussein's authority in the north. We are firmly engaged alongside Turkey and the United Kingdom in helping the inhabitants of the region find stability and work towards a unified and pluralistic Iraq."

Madame Secretary did not mention oil any more than President Obama did last week. Of course, the catechism holds that, when politicians aren't freely voicing their obsession with oil as Bush and Cheney supposedly did while cooking up the Iraq War, politicians are concealing their obsession with oil. In fact, oil was not yet produced in significant quantities in Erbil at the time. It was the peace and stability that Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush provided, and that President Obama is trying to restore, that allowed the flowering of Iraqi Kurdistan, including its oil industry.

By now, America has invested 23 years in shielding northern Iraq from the suppurating chaos that seems to flow endlessly from Baghdad and its Sunni-dominated Western suburbs. It's one of our few conspicuous successes in Iraq. Politics, in the best and worst senses of the word, drives every political decision. Despite his palpable lack of enthusiasm, President Obama knows surrender in northern Iraq would be an intolerable disgrace for his administration and U.S. policy. So he sends in the troops.

We come to an irony. The liberal habit of assuming everyone else's motives are corrupt is, of course, an oldie-moldie, if a tad free-floating in this case. But the critics in question don't actually oppose Mr. Obama's intervention, the latest in our costly and thankless efforts in Iraq. They don't exactly endorse it either. The New Yorker's Mr. Coll especially seems out to avoid committing himself while striking a knowing, superior tone about the alleged centrality of oil, which is perhaps the most ignoble reason to pick up a pen on this subject right now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Obama Family Portrait

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bringing Africa Back to Life: The Legacy of George W. Bush

Bringing Africa Back to Life: The Legacy of George W. Bush. By Jim Landers
Dallas Morning News
June 08, 2012

LUSAKA, Zambia — On a beautiful Saturday morning, Delfi Nyankombe stood among her bracelets and necklaces at a churchyard bazaar and pondered a question: What do you think of George W. Bush?
“George Bush is a great man,” she answered. “He tried to help poor countries like Zambia when we were really hurting from AIDS. He empowered us, especially women, when the number of people dying was frightening. Now we are able to live.”

Nyankombe, 38, is a mother of three girls. She also admires the former president because of his current campaign to corral cervical cancer. Few are screened for the disease, and it now kills more Zambian women than any other cancer.

“By the time a woman knows, she may need radiation or chemotherapy that can have awful side effects, like fistula,” she said. “This is a big problem in Zambia, and he’s still helping us.”

The debate over a president’s legacy lasts many years longer than his term of office. At home, there’s still no consensus about the 2001-09 record of George W. Bush, with its wars and economic turmoil.
In Africa, he’s a hero.

“No American president has done more for Africa,” said Festus Mogae, who served as president of Botswana from 1998 to 2008. “It’s not only me saying that. All of my colleagues agree.”
AIDS was an inferno burning through sub-Saharan Africa. The American people, led by Bush, checked that fire and saved millions of lives.

People with immune systems badly weakened by HIV were given anti-retroviral drugs that stopped the progression of the disease. Mothers and newborns were given drugs that stopped the transmission of the virus from one generation to the next. Clinics were built. Doctors and nurses and lay workers were trained. A wrenching cultural conversation about sexual practices broadened, fueled by American money promoting abstinence, fidelity and the use of condoms.

“We kept this country from falling off the edge of a cliff,” said Mark Storella, the U.S. ambassador to Zambia. “We’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives. We’ve assisted over a million orphans. We’ve created a partnership with Zambia that gives us the possibility of walking the path to an AIDS-free generation. This is an enormous achievement.”

Bush remains active in African health. Last September, he launched a new program — dubbed Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon — to tackle cervical and breast cancer among African women. The program has 14 co-sponsors, including the Obama administration.

Read the rest here:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Obama Is Too Good For Us

Obama Is Too Good For Us. By Charles Fried
The debt deal fiasco proved that any decent, honest politician like the president simply doesn’t stand a chance against the likes of Michele Bachmann. Charles Fried on how the Tea Party ruined America.The Daily Beast, Aug 6, 2011 1:02 AM EDT

Barack Obama is not a skillful strategist like Bill Clinton. He is not a gifted rhetorician like Ronald Reagan. Nor is he a bold and inspiring leader like Abraham Lincoln. And he can’t seem to shake himself loose from the strings that attach him to the trial lawyers, to big labor, and, surprisingly, to the standard banker-economists who got us into the mess we are in now. But he is an honest man. He is intelligent, analytical, and knowledgeable. And he tries hard to think through the dilemmas which confront us and to tell us clearly and straightforwardly what he wants to do and why he wants to do it.

But it doesn’t seem to work.

Contrast this to the politicians he is up against. When John Boehner at the height of the debt ceiling crisis answered him on the national media he simply did not tell the truth. He said that the president would not compromise, would not take yes for an answer, and wanted it all his own way. But he cannot have forgotten that he had negotiated Obama into far more cuts than Obama and his caucus had wanted, thought wise or even palatable in return for a modest increase in revenue to be achieved by closing egregious and unfair loopholes in personal and corporate taxes. This is the same compromise recommended by the “Gang of Six,” which included the extremely conservative and admirably patriotic Senator Tom Coburn, by the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson group, and by Republican economists like Martin Feldstein. It was the Speaker who, Arafat-like, walked away from that deal because he concluded he lacked the skill or the muscle or the spine to sell it to his own caucus. Let it be said that this compromise included recalculating the cost of living formula for social security—a change every responsible economist recommends—but the equally rigid Nancy Pelosi rejected.

And Mitt Romney, supposedly a man experienced in business realities, in a parody of himself, has pronounced that he opposed the deal reached on the very eve of default—because it did not go far enough in the direction of what the Tea Party wanted.

Where can we find leadership that fits today’s circumstances, as Obama’s cool, rational approach and clear-headed rhetoric apparently do not?

I turn to the ancient Greek comic author, Aristophanes, speaking at what must have seemed a similar time. In his play The Knights two citizens are looking for a leader fit for the times. They come upon a sausage-seller and propose him as ideal for the job.

“Tell me,” asks the astonished man, “how a sausage-seller can become a great man.”

“You will be great,” they answer him, “precisely because you are a sad rascal without shame, no better than a common market rogue.”

The dialogue shifts to fit exactly the situation of Sarah Palin (remember the Katie Couric interview), the god-parent of the Tea Party. The sausage seller objects: “But I have not had the least education. I can only read, and that very badly.” And he is answered: “That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to read. A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue. But do not, do not let go this gift, which the oracle promises. . . Politics these days is no occupation for an educated man, a man of character. Ignorance and total lousiness are better. Don’t jettison such god-given advantages.”

Look at the roster of leaders vying for my party’s nomination. At the top of the list stand Mitt Romney, who will say anything, and Michele Bachmann, who assured us that defaulting on the national debt is no big deal, while a sensible man like Jon Huntsman is in single digits.

Oh, I know: it’s not funny, but one must either laugh or weep.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Miss Me Yet? The Freedom Agenda After George W. Bush

Miss Me Yet? The Freedom Agenda After George W. Bush. By Bari Weiss
Dissidents in the world's most oppressive countries aren't feeling the love from President Obama.WSJ, Apr 24, 2010


No one seems to know precisely who is behind the "Miss Me Yet?" billboard—the cheeky one featuring a grinning George W. Bush that looks out over I-35 near Wyoming, Minn. But Syrian dissident Ahed Al-Hendi sympathizes with the thought.

In 2006, Mr. Hendi was browsing pro-democracy Web sites in a Damascus Internet café when plainclothes cops carrying automatic guns swooped in, cuffed him, and threw him into the trunk of a car. He spent over a month in prison, some of it alone in a 5-by-3 windowless basement cell where he listened to his friend being tortured in the one next door. Those screams, he says, were cold comfort—at least he knew his friend hadn't been killed.

Mr. Hendi was one of the lucky ones: He's now living in Maryland as a political refugee where he works for an organization called And this past Monday, he joined other international dissidents at a conference sponsored by the Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University to discuss the way digital tools can be used to resist repressive regimes.

He also got to meet the 43rd president. In a private breakfast hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Bush, Mr. Hendi's message to the former president was simple: "We miss you." There have been "a lot of changes" under the current administration, he added, and not for the better.

Adrian Hong, who was imprisoned in China in 2006 for his work helping North Koreans escape the country (a modern underground railroad), echoed that idea. "When I was released [after 10 days] I was told it was because of very strong messaging from the White House and the culture you set," he told Mr. Bush.

The former president, now sporting a deep tan, didn't mention President Obama once on or off the record. The most he would say was, "I'm really concerned about an isolationist mentality . . . I don't think it lives up to the values of our country." The dissidents weren't so diplomatic.

Mr. Hendi elaborated on the policy changes he thinks Mr. Obama has made toward his home country. "In Syria, when a single dissident was arrested during the administration of George W. Bush, at the very least the White House spokesman would condemn it. Under the Obama administration: nothing."

Nor is Mr. Hendi a fan of this administration's efforts to engage the regime, most recently by deciding to send an ambassador to Damascus for the first time since 2005. "This gives confidence to the regime," he says. "They are not capable of a dialogue; they don't believe in it. They believe in force."

Mr. Hong put things this way: "When you look at the championing of dissidents . . . and even the rhetoric, it's dropped off sharply." Under Mr. Bush, he says, there were many high-profile meetings with North Korean dissidents. "They went out of their way to show this was a priority."

Then there is Marcel Granier, the president of RCTV, Venezuela's oldest and most popular television station. He employs several thousand people—or at least he did until Hugo Chávez cancelled the network's license in 2007. Now, he's struggling to maintain an independent channel on cable: Mr. Chávez ordered the cable networks not to carry his station in January. Government supporters have attacked his home with tear gas twice, yet he remains in the country, tirelessly advocating for media freedom.

Like many of the democrats at the conference, Mr. Granier was excited by Mr. Obama's historic election, and inspired by the way he energized American voters. But a year and a half later, he's disturbed by the administration's silence as his country slips rapidly towards dictatorship. "In Afghanistan," he quips, "at least they know that America will be involved for the next 18 months."

This sense of abandonment has been fueled by real policy shifts. Just this week word came that the administration cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt by half. Programs in countries like Jordan and Iran have also faced cuts. Then there are the symbolic gestures: letting the Dalai Lama out the back door, paltry statements of support for Iranian demonstrators, smiling and shaking hands with Mr. Chávez, and so on.

Daniel Baer, a representative from the State Department who participated in the conference, dismissed the notion that the White House has distanced itself from human-rights promotion as a baseless "meme" when I raised the issue. But in fact all of this is of a piece of Mr. Obama's overarching strategy to make it abundantly clear that he is not his predecessor.

Mr. Bush is almost certainly aware that the freedom agenda, the centerpiece of his presidency, has become indelibly linked to the war in Iraq and to regime change by force. Too bad. The peaceful promotion of human rights and democracy—in part by supporting the individuals risking their lives for liberty—are consonant with America's most basic values. Standing up for them should not be a partisan issue.

Yet for now Mr. Bush is simply not the right poster boy: He can't successfully rebrand and depoliticize the freedom agenda. So perhaps he hopes that by sitting back he can let Americans who remain wary of publicly embracing this cause become comfortable with it again. For the sake of the courageous democrats in countries like Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Colombia, China and Russia, let's hope so.

Ms. Weiss is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

'He Just Does What He Thinks Is Right'

'He Just Does What He Thinks Is Right'. By Peggy Noonan
WSJ, Dec 26, 2009

Cannon to the left of him, cannon to the right of him, cannon in front of him volley and thunder. That's our president's position on the political battlefield now, taking it from all sides. And the odd thing, the unique thing in terms of modern political history, is that no one really defends him, no one holds high his flag. When was the last time you put on the radio or TV and heard someone say "Open line Friday—we're talking about what it is we like best about Barack Obama!" When did you last see a cable talking head say, "The greatness of this man is as obvious as it is unnoticed"?

Is the left out there on the Internet and the airwaves talking about him? Oh, yes. They're calling him a disappointment, a sellout, a DINO—Democratic in name only. He sold out on single-payer health insurance, and then the public option. He'll sell you out on your issue too.

The pundits and columnists, dreadful people that they are, call him cold, weak, aloof, arrogant, entitled.

So let's denounce him again.

Wait—it's Christmas. Let's not. There are people who deeply admire the president, who work with him and believe he's doing right. This week, this column is their forum. They speak not for attribution to avoid the charge of suckupism.

We start with a note from an accomplished young man who worked with Mr. Obama on the campaign and in the White House. He reminded me this week of a conversation we'd had shortly before the president's inauguration. "I remember you asked me back in January if I loved my guy. And in light of all that's happened in this first year, I still do. Even more so. And I also have a strong sense—based not just on polls but on a lot of folks I've talked to who don't always pay attention to politics—that he DOES have that base of people who still love him too.

"It's hard to detect, because the part of the 'base' that's represented on cable and on blogs is so vocal (and by vocal I mean shrill), but it's there. I also read it in the letters he gets. Some of them are amazingly poignant and appreciative of what he's done and what he's doing. Some of them are tough—very tough—but still respectful and hopeful that he's doing the right thing. Even if they're unsure right now, they want him to succeed. . ."

He sees them as a kind of quiet majority, or at least quiet-but-large-group-within-the-electorate.

"[T]hey're not going to run out and defend him on the blogs or start screaming back at his detractors, because they know its fruitless and they're sick of all that Washington nonsense anyway." They want him to cut through the mess and "get things done for them. And they're willing to give him that chance. Still."

The president, he suggested, tends toward the long view and the broad view. "Here's what I know about him. He still has this amazing ability to tune out the noise from Washington, read the letters from the people, listen to their concerns, listen to his advisors, hear both sides, absorb all the information, and make the decision that he honestly feels is right for the country."

He does this "without worrying too much about the polls, without worrying too much about being a one-term president. He just does what he thinks is right. And that consumes a lot of his time. Most of it, in fact."

He is aware that Obama is "perceived as alternately too weak and too Chicago, too left and too right, too willing to compromise and too beholden to his majority, too detached and too much meddling in too many things." The administration needs "to do better in resetting the story and telling it the way we want it told." But "the fractured, petty, biased-towards-the-sensational media today makes that more difficult than ever before."

He knows now, he said, "how the Bushes and the Clintons must have felt," and wonders "if that just happens to all White Houses. I don't know. But I do know that we have some very big, very unique problems right now. And we live in a very cynical . . . time where it's difficult to maintain the benefit of the doubt as you're navigating through the storm." They're giving it their best. "Lots of good people are trying. We won't fix it all, but I think we'll succeed (and think that in some cases, we already have!) at fixing a good deal."

Another staffer spoke warmly of President Obama's warmth. "He's interested in who you are, and it's not manufactured." He sometimes finds himself briefing the president before events. "I know he's just come out of a meeting on Afghanistan" and maybe the next meeting isn't as important, but he wants to know who they are and where they're from and has a gift for "making them feel important."

"He's a young president, young in terms of youthful." Sometimes people come in to meet him and find "they came for a photo and he gives them a game" of pick-up basketball on the White House court. "Those are the things from a human perspective that make him so accessible. Accessible is the right word. He's emotionally available."

He is appreciative of his staff's efforts. "When you're working hard for your country and you know [he cares] it is huge." How does he show his thanks? "It's a little like a basketball game—'Thanks for that, I know what you did.' It's not a note or a pat or a call, it's a guy-to-guy thank you, 'That's cool, that's good.' You think, 'My coach got that I worked my ass off.'"

"As a person he is just an incredible human being who you can't help but love."

A third Obama staffer spoke of last week's senior staff dinner, at which the president went around the table and told each one individually "what they meant to him, and thanked the spouses for putting up with what they have to put up with." He marks birthdays by marching in with cakes. He'll walk around the White House, pop into offices and tease people for putting their feet on the desk. "Sometimes he puts his feet on the desk." He's concerned about much, but largely unruffled. "He's not taken aback by the challenges he has. He seems more focused than he's ever been. He's like Michael Jordan in that at the big moments everything slows down for him." He's good in the crunch.

I end with a story told to me by an old Reagan hand who, with another former Reagan administration official, was being given a private tour of the White House by Michelle Obama. This was last summer. Mrs. Obama led the two through the halls, and then they stopped by the Lincoln bedroom. They stood in the doorway, and then took a step inside, but went no deeper. Everything looked the same, but something was different. "We don't allow guests to stay in this room anymore," Mrs. Obama explained. She spoke of it as a place of reverence. They keep it apart, it's not for overnights.

Unspoken, but clearly understood by the Reagan hands, was: This is where he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. A true copy of it is here, on the desk. He signed it: "Abraham Lincoln." The Reagan hands were impressed and moved. It is fitting and right that the Lincoln bedroom be held apart. It always should have been. Good, they thought. Good.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remarks by the Federal President on Memorial Day

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 25, 2009

Memorial Amphitheater
Arlington National Cemetery

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Admiral Mullen, for that generous introduction and for your sterling service to our country. To members of our armed forces, to our veterans, to honored guests, and families of the fallen -- I am deeply honored to be with you on Memorial Day.

Thank you to the superintendent, John Metzler, Jr., who cares for these grounds just as his father did before him; to the Third Infantry Regiment who, regardless of weather or hour, guard the sanctity of this hallowed ground with the reverence it deserves -- we are grateful to you; to service members from every branch of the military who, each Memorial Day, place an American flag before every single stone in this cemetery -- we thank you as well. (Applause.) We are indebted -- we are indebted to all who tend to this sacred place.

Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.

A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country. As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice. And we've gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air.

Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray.

Old soldiers are pulling themselves a little straighter to salute brothers lost a long time ago. Children are running their fingers over colorful ribbons that they know signify something of great consequence, even if they don't know exactly why. Mothers are re-reading final letters home and clutching photos of smiling sons or daughters, as youthful and vibrant as they always will be.

They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor; who waged war so that we might know peace; who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity; who paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom.
Those who rest in these fields fought in every American war. They overthrew an empire and gave birth to revolution. They strained to hold a young union together. They rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, and stood post through a long twilight struggle. And they took on the terror and extremism that threatens our world's stability.

Their stories are the American story. More than seven generations of them are chronicled here at Arlington. They're etched into stone, recounted by family and friends, and silently observed by the mighty oaks that have stood over burial after burial.

To walk these grounds then is to walk through that history. Not far from here, appropriately just across a bridge connecting Lincoln to Lee, Union and Confederate soldiers share the same land in perpetuity.

Just down the sweeping hill behind me rest those we lost in World War II, fresh-faced GIs who rose to the moment by unleashing a fury that saved the world. Next week, I'll visit Normandy, the place where our fate hung on an operation unlike any ever attempted, where it will be my tremendous honor to address some of the brave men who stormed those beaches 65 years ago.
And tucked in a quiet corner to our north are thousands of those we lost in Vietnam. We know for many the casualties of that war endure -- right now, there are veterans suffering and families tracing their fingers over black granite not two miles from here. They are why we pledge anew to remember their service and revere their sacrifice, and honor them as they deserve.

This cemetery is in and of itself a testament to the price our nation has paid for freedom. A quarter of a million marble headstones dot these rolling hills in perfect military order, worthy of the dignity of those who rest here. It can seem overwhelming. But for the families of the fallen, just one stone stands out -- one stone that requires no map to find.

Today, some of those stones are found at the bottom of this hill in Section 60, where the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan rest. The wounds of war are fresh in Section 60. A steady stream of visitors leaves reminders of life: photos, teddy bears, favorite magazines. Friends place small stones as a sign they stopped by. Combat units leave bottles of beer or stamp cigarettes into the ground as a salute to those they rode in battle with. Perfect strangers visit in their free time, compelled to tend to these heroes, to leave flowers, to read poetry -- to make sure they don't get lonely.

If the fallen could speak to us, what would they say? Would they console us? Perhaps they might say that while they could not know they'd be called upon to storm a beach through a hail of gunfire, they were willing to give up everything for the defense of our freedom; that while they could not know they'd be called upon to jump into the mountains of Afghanistan and seek an elusive enemy, they were willing to sacrifice all for their country; that while they couldn't possibly know they would be called to leave this world for another, they were willing to take that chance to save the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms.

What is thing, this sense of duty? What tugs at a person until he or she says "Send me"? Why, in an age when so many have acted only in pursuit of the narrowest self-interest, have the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others? Why have they been willing to bear the heaviest burden?

Whatever it is, they felt some tug; they answered a call; they said "I'll go." That is why they are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those of us who have not served in uniform -- their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.
My grandfather served in Patton's Army in World War II. But I cannot know what it is like to walk into battle. I'm the father of two young girls -- but I can't imagine what it's like to lose a child. These are things I cannot know. But I do know this: I am humbled to be the Commander-in-Chief of the finest fighting force in the history of the world. (Applause.)

I know that there is nothing I will not do to keep our country safe, even as I face no harder decision than sending our men and women to war -- and no moment more difficult than writing a letter to the families of the fallen. And that's why as long as I am President, I will only send our troops into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and I will always provide them with the equipment and support they need to get the job done. (Applause.)

I know that military families sacrifice more than we can understand, and feel an absence greater than we can comprehend. And that's why Michelle and I are committed to easing their burden.
And I know what a grateful nation owes to those who serve under its proud flag. And that's why I promise all our servicemen and women that when the guns fall silent, and you do return home, it will be to an America that is forever here for you, just as you've been there for us. (Applause.)

With each death, we are heartbroken. With each death, we grow more determined. This bustling graveyard can be a restless place for the living, where solace sometimes comes only from meeting others who know similar grief. But it reminds us all the meaning of valor; it reminds us all of our own obligations to one another; it recounts that most precious aspect of our history, and tells us that we will only rise or fall together.

So on this day of silent remembrance and solemn prayer I ask all Americans, wherever you are, whoever you're with, whatever you're doing, to pause in national unity at 3:00 this afternoon. I ask you to ring a bell, or offer a prayer, say a silent "thank you." And commit to give something back to this nation -- something lasting -- in their memory; to affirm in our own lives and advance around the world those enduring ideals of justice, equality, and opportunity for which they and so many generations of Americans have given that last full measure of devotion.

God bless you, God bless the fallen, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Remarks by the Federal President to the Troops in Baghdad

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 7, 2009


Al Faw Palace
Baghdad, Iraq
6:08 P.M. (Local)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, guys. Let me say Multinational Force Iraq, Multinational Corps Iraq, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq First Corps, America's Corp Band: Thanks to all of you.

Listen, I am so honored.


THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. (Applause.) I am honored -- I'm honored and grateful to be with all of you. And I'm not going to talk long because I want to shake as many hands as I can. (Applause.) And I've been talking all week. (Laughter.)

But there's a couple of things I want to say. Number one, thank you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You're welcome.

THE PRESIDENT: You know, when I was at Camp Lejeune I spoke about what it means for America to see our best and brightest, our finest young men and women serve us. And what I said then is something that I want to repeat to you, which is: You have performed brilliantly in every mission that has been given to you.


THE PRESIDENT: Under enormous strain and under enormous sacrifice, through controversy and difficulty and politics, you've kept your eyes focused on just doing your job. And because of that, every mission that's been assigned -- from getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections -- you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement, and for that you have the thanks of the American people. (Applause.) That's point number one.

Point number two is, this is going to be a critical period, these next 18 months. I was just discussing this with your commander, but I think it's something that all of you know. It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. (Applause.) They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty. (Applause.)

And in order for them to do that, they have got to make political accommodations. They're going to have to decide that they want to resolve their differences through constitutional means and legal means. They are going to have to focus on providing government services that encourage confidence among their citizens.

All those things they have to do. We can't do it for them. But what we can do is make sure that we are a stalwart partner, that we are working alongside them, that we are committed to their success, that in terms of training their security forces, training their civilian forces in order to achieve a more effective government, they know that they have a steady partner with us.

And so just as we thank you for what you've already accomplished, I want to say thank you because you will be critical in terms of us being able to make sure that Iraq is stable, that it is not a safe haven for terrorists, that it is a good neighbor and a good ally, and we can start bringing our folks home. (Applause.)

So now is not the time to lose focus. We have to be even more focused than we've been in order to achieve success.

The last point I want to make is I know how hard it's been on a lot of you. You've been away from your families, many of you for multiple rotations. You've seen buddies of yours injured and you remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.


THE PRESIDENT: There are probably some people here who have seen children born and have been missing watching them grow up. There are many of you who have listened to your spouse and the extraordinary sacrifices that they have to make when you're gone.

And so I want you to know that Michelle and myself are doing everything -- (applause) -- are doing everything we can to provide additional support for military families. The federal budget that I have introduced increases support for military families. We are going to do everything required to make sure that the commitment we make to our veterans is met, and that people don't have to fight for what they have earned as a consequence of their service.

The main point I want to make is we have not forgotten what you have already done, we are grateful for what you will do, and as long as I am in the White House, you are going to get the support that you need and the thanks that you deserve from a grateful nation. (Applause.)
So thank you very much everybody. (Applause.) God bless you. (Applause.) God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)


6:15 P.M. (L)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tribute to President Obama

Celebrities pay powerful, heartfelt tribute to President Obama:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Conservative views: The Myth of the (Bush) Imperial Presidency

The Myth of the (Bush) Imperial Presidency. By Gary J. Schmitt
AEI, Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How will President Barack Obama view his powers once in office? Certainly, the majority of his supporters have argued that President George W. Bush abused the office's powers and expect Obama to take a more modest view of his authority. Yet, in times of war, when U.S. security is threatened, presidents typically push their executive powers forward. This is something the Founders surely understood. While Bush could have been more skillful in making the case for his policies and in his dealings with Congress, he did not exceed his authority.

Turn to most any political science book on American government or legal casebook in constitutional law, and the impression one gets is that the U.S. Constitution has largely been a dead letter for some time now. It is dead, scholars argue, either because the document was written so broadly to begin with that it can be interpreted in any way a politician or justice feels is necessary, or because the principles that originally informed the Constitution are so passé that they rightly need to be ignored if the country is to be effectively and democratically governed.

But against this current of thought runs the actual practice of American politics. In particular, one finds that when presidents make decisions in the area of national security that are unpopular or become unpopular, the opposition will turn to the Constitution to decry the president's supposed misuse of his intended powers. Most often, the charge is that the president has become "imperial."[1] Instead of being an agent of the law and confined within the strictures of the Constitution, a president will stand accused of standing above the law and bypassing our system of checks and balances in the mode echoing past royal rule. Most famously, this was the charge leveled at President Richard Nixon (and to a more limited degree his predecessor, Lyndon Johnson) during the Vietnam War years; it has been resurrected to apply to the Bush administration and its handling of the Iraq war and, more generally, the war on terror.[2]

Hence, it turns out that the Constitution is not so dead--at least when it comes to challenging presidents in time of an unpopular war. Although the instinct to challenge the government's use of power by looking to the Constitution is a healthy one, it remains to be seen whether the actual reading of the Constitution is accurate when applied to presidential powers.

Generally speaking, those who see the president as acting in an imperial manner view the presidency as having limited powers and requiring the assent of Congress in some fashion or another before taking action in critical national security matters. The president is a small "e" executive, occupying an office largely designed to carry out the decisions of the other branches of government.

Against this view, however, stands the commentary of perhaps the greatest analyst of the American political system, France's Alexis de Tocqueville. After describing in volume one of Democracy in America the weakness of the presidency at the time he visited the United States in 1830, he commented:

If the executive power is less strong in America than in France, one must attribute the cause of it perhaps more to circumstances than laws. It is principally in relations with foreigners that the executive power of a nation finds occasion to deploy its skill and force. If the life of the Union were constantly threatened, if its great interests were mixed every day with those of other powerful peoples, one would see the executive power grow larger in opinion, through what one would expect from it and what it would execute.[3]

Tocqueville concluded by noting that "the president of the United States possesses almost royal prerogatives, which he has no occasion to make use of, and the rights which, up to now, he can use are very circumscribed: the laws permit him to be strong, circumstances have made him weak."[4]

For Tocqueville, then, the "whiggish" or weak view of the presidency is misleading. In fact, the president's authorities are inherently substantial--needing only the right state of affairs to be drawn out and exercised. In the 1830s, the country was focused on domestic affairs, and, as a result, presidents of the time were in practice less important than Congress. Issues such as tariffs and internal improvements were bound to be fodder for the House and Senate to exercise their unique talents in debating, horse-swapping, and mustering up legislation to codify the consensus they had reached. But looking more deeply than even his American contemporaries, Tocqueville saw in the presidency an office that would become increasingly commanding once the United States rose to the great-power status he believed it would eventually achieve.

What the Framers Had in Mind

At first reading, Tocqueville's understanding of the presidency appears to be at odds with that of the founding generation, who, after all, revolted against what they saw as the British monarchy's despotic use of its powers. And, indeed, concerns about the potential executive abuse of power did lead them to establish a federal government (Articles of Confederation) that had but a single congressional body to handle all its affairs and create a slew of new state governments in which the vast majority made the governor decidedly subordinate to the legislature.

But a decade's worth (1776-87) of unstable governments and ineffective governance led many in that same generation to rethink the utility of a unitary, independent chief executive. Under the Articles, for example, Congress exercised a variety of powers, some clearly legislative in nature and others concerned with directing the new republic's foreign and defense affairs. It was these latter concerns--which they consistently and explicitly described as being "executive" in nature--that in fact took a considerable bulk of the members' time. Here, time and again, they found the lack of an independent, single executive to be debilitating. Negotiations with foreign powers were needlessly prolonged and muddled, there was poor execution of the decisions that they did make, the war effort was complicated by the constant meddling of Congress, and it proved difficult to keep secrets.[5] As a result, by the time the Constitutional Convention met in the spring of 1787, a priority for key members of that founding generation was to establish an executive that could, in the words of Federalist 70, act with "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch." Unlike the Articles, which had collapsed legislative and executive powers into a single body (Congress), the new constitutional system, based on the separation of powers principle, was intended primarily not to check executive power but actually to free it up.

As noted above, it is a misperception that the founding generation thought that executive power was limited to the administration of a government's laws. Although still working through how exactly to best institutionalize executive power in a republican government, it consistently kept clear the distinction between legislative, executive, and judicial kinds of powers. These powers might overlap in some cases, but, on the whole, when the Founders talked about executive power, they did so in the manner of Locke and Montesquieu, meaning that the holder of that power was concerned not only with the execution of the laws, but also with foreign and defense affairs.[6]

For example, in 1785, when James Madison was asked for his advice about what Kentucky's constitution should look like once the territory became a state, he admitted that he was perplexed when it came to describing the post of governor. The reason he gave is that, other than the responsibility of executing the laws, "all the great powers which are properly executive" had already been "transferred to the federal Government," referring to the contemporary Congress's control of foreign and defense affairs.[7] Similarly, when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention first met, they were presented with an initial outline for the new constitution by the Virginia delegation, the so-called Virginia Plan. Under this plan, the new federal executive was both to "administer" the laws and to exercise the "Executive Rights vested in the Congress" of the Confederation.[8]

Indeed, the real problem facing the Convention was not what constituted executive power, per se, but how to create an executive office that could properly carry out what Madison had called "the great powers" and yet not create a monarch in practice. This is the reason why, when today's constitutional scholars and jurists look to the Convention for guidance on what a particular presidential power might mean, they find little with which to work. The delegates' real focus, on which they spent the vast majority of their time when it came to the presidency, was devising an office that could wield those authorities effectively and responsibly, not defining what those powers were.

For the Founders, the president's list of authorities mattered, but so did the character of office that would exercise them. There was no better example of this "lesson learned" from the period following 1776 than the contrast between the leadership exhibited by the governor of New York and the lack of leadership from Pennsylvania's executive. Although the two executives had a similar list of authorities, the New York governor was considered to be the strongest of the state executives, while Pennsylvania's was judged to be quite weak, if not the weakest. The key difference was that the former was a single executive, elected for a three-year term, with no limits on reelection and limited veto power; meanwhile, the latter was a body of twelve, with rotating membership, no prospects for immediate reelection, and no veto power. New York's governor was the state's unquestionable leader politically, and it was this institutional model that served largely as the basis for the presidency that emerged from the Convention.

The importance of the institutional aspects of the presidency is highlighted by the most authoritative analysis of the Constitution, the Federalist. In the seventieth essay, Publius argues that "energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government" and that "the ingredients which constitute energy in the executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers." Note that "powers" is only one of four elements that go into making a capable chief executive; the other three features are aspects of the office.

When attempting to understand presidential behavior, commentators will typically overlook this aspect of the Founders' work.[9] As the Federalist makes clear, the goal was to create an institution that would have not only powers, but also the independence and interest in using those powers in a forceful and purposeful way. The Constitution's drafters were not interested in an executive who would sit on his hands; they wanted a president who could check the legislature if need be, give direction to the policymaking process as required, and, most critically, meet unforeseen contingencies and threats to the country's security. While the Constitution does not guarantee that a president will always take the initiative in these areas, it does virtually everything it can to allow, even encourage, a president to do so.

Hence, however much one may agree or disagree with the particular decisions made by Bush in the wake of the attacks of 9/11, his overall behavior is consonant with what the Constitution's framers would have expected from a president facing such a threat. And while Bush began his term with the expectation that America was in a period of "strategic pause" and his own policies would be of a more "humble" sort, as Tocqueville noted, the pull of circumstances necessitated a much different agenda and correspondingly different vision of the powers he needed to exercise.

An Imperial President?

Critics of the Bush presidency tell a different story, of course. They see an administration that has ignored standing law; violated treaty obligations; undermined the most basic of civil liberties; and, on the whole, used its powers to avoid congressional, judicial, and public oversight. And perhaps worst of all, it used its administrative sway over the intelligence community to foster a case for going to war in Iraq that was built on a tissue of lies.

Although the last charge may be the most serious, it is also the one easiest to rebut. The fact is, the Bush administration's case against Saddam--be it the failure to abide by standing United Nations resolutions, continuing to work on banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD), or consorting with known terrorists and terrorist organizations--is virtually identical to the case President Bill Clinton's national security team was publicly and aggressively making in 1998 when it believed it might have to go to war with Iraq. Moreover, whatever the debates within the intelligence community over this or that aspect of Iraq's WMD program, the overwhelming consensus within the community (as well as the intelligence agencies of our major allies) was that he was still engaged in trying to develop those capabilities. And although it turned out to be an inaccurate picture, the main reason for the flawed estimates was Saddam's own efforts to hide the fact that he no longer had such capabilities, believing the deception would serve to deter either Iran or the West from taking military action against him.[10]

As for ignoring the law, the most commonly cited example is the White House's decision to engage in warrantless electronic surveillance, ignoring in the process the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to get a court order before targeting any U.S. citizen for surveillance. Indeed, the White House did ignore that law, believing both in intent and design FISA had "grown dramatically out of date."[11] As more than one commentator has correctly noted, FISA was a law intended to help convict known spies, not prevent terrorist acts.[12]

But the president's case for ignoring the specific law was not built on expediency alone. First, it was by no means a stretch for the administration to argue that when Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution in the aftermath of 9/11, it was providing the president with general war-making authority against al Qaeda and its supporters and that, as such, it also carried with it adjunct powers necessary to fulfill the president's obligation "to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States" as stated in the resolution's preamble. In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), for example, the Supreme Court read the AUMF as authorizing not only the use of force, but also powers traditionally thought to be incidental to that broader mandate, of which the collection of intelligence has traditionally been one.

Moreover, as the FISA court itself recognized in a 2002 review, all previous federal appellate courts have "held that the President did have an inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. . . . We take for granted the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."[13] The Court's view was once Congress's view as well. When Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act in 1968, which detailed among other things the procedures federal law-enforcement authorities had to go through to get a wiretap, the law explicitly stated that nothing in this act "shall limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack."

According to the president's critics, however, Bush upped the imperial ante not only by bypassing standing statutes, but also by violating treaty obligations and in so doing suspending perhaps the most fundamental of constitutional rights, that of the writ of habeas corpus.[14]
In the first instance, the administration is accused of failing to abide by the Third Geneva Convention in its handling of captured al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. That accord, signed by the United States in 1949 and subsequently ratified by the U.S. Senate, sets out in fairly extensive detail how prisoners of war are to be treated. Along with the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the treatment of civilians during war, and an addendum to the Third Convention, known as Protocol I, which extends prisoner-of-war status to captured guerrilla fighters, the Geneva Accords seem to leave little room for denying fighters and terrorists captured on the battlefield of Afghanistan or inside Pakistan the rights set out under the conventions.

President Ronald Reagan in 1987, however, explicitly rejected submitting Protocol I to the Senate for ratification. In doing so, the administration maintained an older view that there was still a useful distinction to be maintained between soldiers who fought in uniform under a legitimate sovereign authority and those combatants, such as terrorists, who did not. Here the Reagan administration was in step with a prior Supreme Court decision that "unlawful combatants" were "deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war" and as "offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals."[15]

Nor was the Bush administration flying against precedent and case law when it set up the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay and created a virtual state of limbo for the detainees. Over the years, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, the base at Guantanamo had been used to house for indefinite periods Haitian and Cuban refugees whom the government intended neither to put on trial nor to allow into the United States. Both the Clinton administration and the earlier Bush administration had used Guantanamo precisely because they believed doing so put the detainees outside the reach of the U.S. courts and, hence, precluded challenges to those detentions by writs of habeas corpus.

Here again, the Bush administration had court precedent on its side. In 1950, the Supreme Court explicitly rejected a habeas appeal by foreign combatants held by American forces outside U.S. sovereign territory. In the majority opinion, Justice Robert Jackson dismissed the appeal (made by German prisoners convicted of war crimes by an American military commission operating abroad) by pointedly noting that there was "no instance where a Court, in this or any other country where the writ is known, has issued [a habeas corpus writ] on behalf of an alien enemy who, at no relevant time and in no stage of his captivity, has been within its territorial jurisdiction. Nothing in the text of the Constitution extends such a right, nor does anything in our statutes."[16]

Even Bush's use of "signing statements"--written pronouncements issued by a president upon signing a bill into law--to announce his intention not to be bound by some feature of the law on constitutional grounds is not an administration invention. Signing statements have been around since the time of James Monroe, although they have come into much wider use during the past four presidencies. It was the Clinton Justice Department that wrote: "If the President may properly decline to enforce a law, at least when it unconstitutionally encroaches on his powers, then it arguably follows that he may properly announce to Congress and the public that he will not enforce a provision of an enactment he is signing."[17]

And while civil libertarians decry (sometimes justifiably) how the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are employing the new investigative powers granted them by the Patriot Act and other laws, those measures were duly enacted by Congress, and they remain on the books. For all the worries about abuse of power, nothing this administration has done compares with previous executive branch responses to perceived threats on the home front--be it Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt's mass internment of Japanese immigrants and U.S.-Japanese citizens at the start of World War II, or the so-called Palmer Raids in which Woodrow Wilson's administration rounded up thousands of suspected anarchists and leftists after World War I.

As these last examples suggest, the assertion of presidential power may not always be wise and may well be constitutionally debatable. But it is a virtual certainty that, in times of war or when American security is perceived to be directly threatened, presidents will ignore laws they see as violating their larger constitutional duties to wage war successfully and to protect the homeland. And, in turn, they will use gray or uncharted areas in the law to push their executive powers forward. Given how little prepared the United States was in its laws, institutions, and tools to deal with the global jihadist threat following 9/11, it should come as no surprise that Bush moved as aggressively as he did. Undoubtedly, neither the Constitution's framers nor Tocqueville would have been surprised.

Principle and Prudence: Lessons from the Past

Bush's presidency has not been the imperial presidency its critics claim. Indeed, on the most important issue--going to war, both in Afghanistan and Iraq--he has sought and received congressional approval. Lest we forget, there have been any number of presidents (Harry Truman in Korea and Clinton in Kosovo, to take but two obvious examples) who have gone to war without the sanction of Congress or the traditional justification of using the military to protect American lives or property. And, again, while the president's harshest opponents do not accept the legal and constitutional grounds the administration has put forward to justify his decisions, any objective assessment would conclude that Bush has acted within the general bounds of what the laws and precedents permit.

If there is any kernel of truth to the charge that Bush's presidency has been imperial, it rests with the fact that the Constitution invites presidents, through its broad delegation of "the executive power" and the office's unique institutional features, to be assertive in times of crisis. But if so, then what does it mean to call something "imperial" when it is fueled by the fundamental law of the land itself?

Take, for example, how George Washington handled the first major foreign policy crisis that arose under the new constitution. Fearing that a general war in Europe in 1793 between revolutionary France and the surrounding monarchic powers would inadvertently drag the young (and unprepared) United States into the conflict, Washington issued on his own authority the Neutrality Proclamation. He then followed up the proclamation with decisions and a set of administratively instituted rules intended to enforce it. In doing so, Washington was asserting a prerogative to interpret treaty obligations that involved matters of war and peace and to constrict the behavior and commercial activities of private citizens, all done without the color of any guiding law or consultations with Congress.[18]

Then, of course, there is the example of Lincoln during the country's greatest crisis, the American Civil War. Lincoln, on his own authority and guided by his presidential oath "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution," spent monies never appropriated by Congress, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, created military commissions to try civilians, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and openly defied the Supreme Court by refusing to abide by Chief Justice Roger Taney's order to uphold the writ in the case of Marylander and Southern sympathizer John Merryman.[19]

It is also useful to note, however, that in time both Washington and Lincoln turned to Congress for its stamp of approval for the actions they had taken in the immediate stages of the crisis each faced. In Washington's case, he waited until Congress was scheduled to come back into session (December 1793)--more than six months after the proclamation's issuance and time enough for his decisions to take hold and allow for the American public's desire to come to France's assistance to cool down. In contrast, Lincoln called Congress back into special session for July 4, 1861, five months before the regularly scheduled session. Yet he did so in mid-April, allowing more than two and a half months for the members to make their way to Washington. "At a time when telegraphs and railroads were common, Congress surely could have been convened sooner. Implicitly obliged to convene Congress to deal with the national crisis, Lincoln used both the independence of his office and the discretion built into the convening authority to give himself a bit more leeway--and thus a bit more power to control the national government's response to the crisis--than would have been the case if Congress had been convened at the earliest possible moment."[20]

With these two examples, we see presidents exercising their authorities to the fullest but in a manner that also seems prudent constitutionally. Yes, the Founders had created a presidency designed to take the lead in such instances and empowered the president with both the authorities and autonomy to do so, but they also set in place a potential check on the president's decisions by creating a system in which Congress or the Supreme Court would play "Monday morning quarterback"--exposing malfeasance when called for; adding or cutting off funds when necessary; passing laws to regularize the exercise of executive discretion without undermining it; and, in the face of truly egregious behavior, being ready to impeach a president. It is a wise president who understands that reality as well.

At some point, it is inevitable that Congress or the Supreme Court will want its say in these critical matters. Reading the Constitution as though it is simply a legal document in which the powers of each branch are distributed in a 100 percent coherent, black-and-white manner, as many a presidential lawyer is wont to argue, is a recipe for problems down the road. The fact is, the broad discretion a president wields in many of these instances will bleed into the rights and authorities of the other branches and, hence, will be seen by them as something to be contested. Moreover, as history shows, having Congress confirm what a president does in times of an emergency is not particularly difficult; nor is it a zero-sum game in which one is simply conceding to Congress the right to define a presidential prerogative. What we remember and cite in the cases of Washington and Lincoln is, after all, not what measures Congress eventually passed, but what actions the two presidents took.

Since the 1970s there has been a good deal of confusion about the appropriate division of powers under the Constitution when it comes to foreign and defense affairs.[21] The Bush White House has been right in principle to push back against the idea that Congress is either its equal in this policy area or that it has the power to define exactly how a president may exercise his authorities. But could it have been more adroit in how it went about making that case? Almost certainly.[22] The cost has been new laws and new Supreme Court decisions that, instead of upholding precedents and authorities friendly to the exercise of presidential power, have begun to curtail them. Whether the issue is one of electronic surveillance, military commissions, due process rights for detainees, or even interrogation techniques, what the president once might have gotten without much compromise has become a partisan issue in which the president is given less discretion. Again, it is understandable why the administration took the positions it did. What is less certain is whether it was prudent to do so.

Gary J. Schmitt is a resident scholar and the director of the Program on Advanced Strategic Studies at AEI.

Full article w/references:,filter.all/pub_detail.asp

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Open Thread: Appreciation of Past and Current Federal Commander-in-Chiefs

Please add your appreciation posts for past and current Federal Commander-in-Chiefs here.

Let's start with the current one:

1 President Bush Attends Military Appreciation Parade with Chairman of the Joint of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Fort Myer, Arlington, Virginia, January 6, 2009

10:21 A.M. EST

ADMIRAL MULLEN: President and Mrs. Bush; Mr. Vice President; Secretary and Mrs. Gates; members of the Cabinet; distinguished members of Congress; fellow members of the Joint Chiefs; members of the Armed Forces of the United States, past and present; ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for honoring us with your presence, and welcome to the grounds of the Old Guard, which both sanctify our past and herald our future.

On behalf of the 2.2 million uniform men and women of our Armed Forces, I am humbled to be able to formally thank President and Mrs. Bush for all they have done for our military and for our nation. More than 280,000 are walking point right now on the front lines. They stand tallest with us on this day, and it is right to thank them for making this celebration possible. (Applause.)

Truly it is not my privilege alone to tell the story of the Bush name -- a story that waits not only to be said in volumes, but one carried in the hearts of those patriots out there; a story which rushes with the oral history of life, warm with gratitude, flush with inspiration; a story best told by the voices of our service members themselves, who recently had an opportunity to place in a journal their thoughts to President and Mrs. Bush. Deborah and I passed that journal to the troops as we recently traveled around the world.

And so if you don't mind, Mr. President and Madam First Lady, I wanted to share a few handwritten lines from them.

"Mr. President, thank you and your family for your service. I am proud to serve under you, sir. You are awesome, and made a difference in the world." Staff Sergeant Ward, Queens, New York.
"Sir, nice to see that our President is still quick on his feet after eight years in office." (Laughter.) "Next time, pick up the shoe and throw it back." (Laughter and applause.) "We got your back." Master Sergeant Michael Frazier, United States Air Force.

"Sir, you truly set the standard to uphold the peace and our very way of life so our kids can grow up in a peaceful world. We will always stand tall, one great nation and one great state -- Texas." (Hoo-ah.) Sergeant First Class Claude Corey, Waco, Texas.

"Mrs. Bush, your class and dignity were an inspiration to us all." Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rainey, United States Army, Baghdad.

"Sir, thank you for your service, example and leadership. We have not faltered, we will not fail. With greatest respect and honor, we serve." Signed simply, Your Soldiers.

Those voices are an answering volley to you for your high regard and great respect for every single man and woman who serves this nation.

After this nation was attacked by a rising evil, the same evil which later murdered many others in places like London, Madrid, Islamabad and Mumbai, you quickly led us from the grip of fear to a serenity of purpose and unity of action -- serenity well beyond our dreams on September 12th, when all thought further attack was not only likely, but gravely imminent. And through your vision, a new national security was rendered to reach our enemies where they hid and trained and celebrated deadly crimes.

We sent our forces to hills and caves, alongside tribesman on horseback to root them out and hunt them down. We liberated Iraq from tyranny, now on the road to renewal. And we are shifting our focus to Afghanistan. We applauded as you, Mrs. Bush, worked for the freedom and education of young women, and gave hope to children scarred by hate. And always, sir, we felt your unmatched confidence in us, which only made us better.

Yes, we know these images well and we treasure them. But what wasn't always often an image was how you, as our First Family, fully embraced our military family with words of love and prayers of hope. For you have proven that how well we care for our wounded and the families of the fallen defines who and what we really are as a nation. You made it personal, and that has made all the difference.

With quiet dignity, you stretched out hands to those touched by loss, unimaginable loss that can never be made whole so they might be touched yet again.

There are many moments I will never forget, such as when you, Mr. President, presented Michael Monsoor's family with the Medal of Honor, and how in that very presidential setting you were so visibly moved. We will never know of all the private embraces and words of healing that you provided, but we do know the wholeness they created. For with every minute which melted into many gracious hours spent with our veterans and families, you gave something precious to us all -- gifts which will forever adorn our chords of memory.

Indeed, not far from these grounds where both Union and Confederate soldiers lay in white, tented hospitals, President Lincoln also walked through the lines and personally brought the meaning of hope and sacrifice to those straining to touch it from every side. So true today. A reporter who followed Lincoln wrote, "From the outset, he was the personal friend of every soldier he sent to the front, and somehow, every man seemed to know it." So true today.

In my 44 years of wearing this uniform, I have never seen the American public and our military as bonded in understanding, purpose, and spirit as I do right now. For this, Mr. President, we owe you our greatest gratitude.

Finally, sir, I want to personally thank you for your trust in me as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and, honestly, a trust I do not hold alone, a confidence every other uniformed member also holds so dear: the honor to serve and represent the American people.

Mr. President, you have selected a tremendous civilian leadership team in Secretary Gates and the Deputy Secretary, our former Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England. It is a great personal honor to serve alongside them.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Secretary of Defense, the honorable Robert Gates. (Applause.)

SECRETARY GATES: Thank you, Admiral Mullen.

Some of you of a certain generation might remember a line from the John Wayne movie, "Red River" -- an epic story of a thousand-mile cattle drive across Texas. At one point, one of the characters says, "There's three times in a life -- in a man's life when he has the right to yell at the moon -- when he marries, when his children come, and when he finishes a job he had to be crazy to start." (Laughter.) Well, before President Bush finishes his job, I'm pleased to have this chance, on behalf of the United States military, to pay tribute to our Commander-in-Chief, and to give him proper thanks.

The legacy of George W. Bush in matters of war and peace began taking form more than a year before he first took the oath of office. In the fall of 1999, then Governor Bush gave a speech at the Citadel, titled, "A Period of Consequences." He observed that nearly a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States military was still organized more for Cold War threats than for the challenges of a new century -- what he called an era of car-bombers and plutonium merchants and cyber-terrorists and drug cartels and unbalanced dictators, all the unconventional and invisible threats of new technologies and old hatreds.

On a bright Tuesday morning in September, eight months into President Bush's first term, we learned how dangerous and unpredictable this new era could be, and saw in the starkest terms how necessary was the task of transforming the American defense establishment to meet these challenges. It was a task inspired by the vision of President Bush, propelled by the energetic advocacy of Secretary Rumsfeld, informed by the experience of our senior military leaders, and accelerated by the urgent demands of two unconventional ground wars.

The result is an American military that has become more agile, lethal, and prepared to deal with the full spectrum of 21st century conflict -- and on a personal note, a force that is dramatically more deployable and expeditionary than when I last served in government 15 years ago.

Consider just a few of the historical changes: The Army has undergone its most significant restructuring in more than two generations, moving from a division-based to a modular brigades-based force. The Navy's fleet response plan has nearly doubled the number of strike carrier groups that can be surged in the first weeks of a crisis.

America's Special Forces have seen vast increases in budget, personnel, authorities, and most importantly, in capabilities in the campaign against terrorism worldwide. The number of unmanned aerial vehicles has grown some 40-fold, to more than 6,000, and we have seen a genuine revolution in the military's ability to fuse intelligence and operations.

Cold War basing arrangements in Germany, Korea and Japan have been modernized and sized to better reflect the security requirements of this century. New authorities and programs enable the military to build the capacity of allies and partners in cooperation with civilian agencies and organizations. And much, much more.

As this historical institutional shift was underway, President Bush led our military through two major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a broader struggle against terrorist networks worldwide. He has not flinched when faced with difficult wartime decisions, including the momentous decision two years ago to send more troops into Iraq and revamp our strategy there.

Nor has the President ever hidden from the human consequences of his decisions. We have seen this in countless visits with the wounded at Walter Reed, Bethesda, and other military hospitals. And there are the meetings that he and the First Lady have held with thousands of family members of wounded and fallen troops. The President's deep regard and affection for our service members and their families has played out in ways big and small: Surprise visits to Iraq and Afghanistan to shake hands and high-five, and personal phone calls to those deployed over Thanksgiving, even the occasional chest bump to unwary cadets.

Some might remember the story of Staff Sergeant Michael McNaughton of Louisiana National Guard. In January 2003, he stepped on a landmine 30 miles north of Kabul, and lost his right leg. President Bush visited Michael at Walter Reed, and suggested they go for a run when he received his prosthetic. Months later, Michael and the President jogged around the South Lawn of the White House together. A single promise to a single soldier: A small act that reflects President Bush's commitment to care for and honor every member of the Armed Forces.

Mr. President, every day these volunteers execute your orders with courage and determination, facing down danger for the greater good of America. On behalf of more than two million men and women in uniform, we are deeply grateful for your leadership and service to America in a time of war.

Finally, and personally, I would like to thank you for granting me the opportunity to serve as Secretary of Defense. It is true that I have been known to grouse from time to time about coming back to Washington, D.C. Yet working every day with our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines has been the greatest honor of my life. And I will always owe you a debt of gratitude for that. I have appreciated your steadfast confidence and support over these past two years, and I wish you and Laura the very best as you begin the next phase of your lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. At ease.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for the kind introduction -- and thank you for being an outstanding Secretary of Defense. (Applause.) For a while, we expected this event to be a joint retirement party. It didn't turn out that way, did it? (Laughter.) I am pleased that President-Elect Obama has asked you to stay on, and I am confident that you'll continue to be a strong leader as the Secretary of Defense. (Applause.)

And, Admiral Mullen, thank you for your strong advice, your clear thinking, and your years of service to our country. (Applause.)

I want to thank you for honoring Laura, who's been a fabulous First Lady. (Applause.) The military gave her the Distinguished Service Award -- a lot of friends from Texas think she deserved the Purple Heart. (Laughter.) I wish I'd have thought of the roses.

Mr. Vice President, I am proud to have served with you for eight years. The military has had no stauncher defender in my administration than Vice President Dick Cheney. (Applause.)
I thank members of the Cabinet, members of the administration, and former members of the Cabinet, especially the former Secretary of Defense, who did an outstanding job -- Secretary Don Rumsfeld. (Applause.)

I thank the current members of the Joint Chiefs and their families, as well as the former members of the Joint Chiefs and their families for joining us today. I want to thank those who wear the uniform; distinguished guests.

As my time in office winds down, the days bring a series of "lasts." I made my last overseas trip on Air Force One. I have delivered my final college commencement as President. And after much consideration, I pardoned my last Thanksgiving turkey. (Laughter.) These have all been wonderful experiences. But nothing compares to the honor of standing before you today, and addressing America's Armed Forces as your Commander-in-Chief.

Over the past eight years, I have seen the valor of the American military time and time again. I saw your valor on September the 11th, 2001, in service members rushing into smoke-filled corridors to save their colleagues at the Pentagon -- and in planes patrolling the skies above New York City and Washington. I saw your valor in the days after the attack, when Americans crowded into recruiting centers across our country, raised their hands to serve, and pledged to defend our people and our freedom.

I saw your valor in the forces who deployed to Afghanistan. Within weeks of September the 11th, you closed down the terrorist training camps, and you drove the Taliban from power. I saw your valor in the fearless troops who stormed across the Iraqi desert -- and destroyed a regime that threatened America. I saw your valor in battle-tested warriors who signed up for a second, or third, or fourth tour -- and made the surge in Iraq one of the great successes in America's military history.

The valor of America's Armed Forces have made our nation safer. Because you've taken the fight to the terrorists abroad, we have not had to face them here at home. And the world has seen something that almost no one thought possible: More than seven years after September the 11th, there has not been another attack on American soil.

The decisions I made as your Commander-in-Chief have not always been popular. But the cause you have served has always been just and right. The missions you have carried out have always been necessary. And the work you have done has every bit -- has been every bit as courageous and idealistic as that of any generation that came before you.

In the years since the war on terror began, America's Armed Forces have led the largest military liberation since World War II. Because of your actions, more than 50 million Afghans and Iraqis have seen the chains of despotism broken -- and are living in the liberty that the Creator intended. The new wave of freedom in the Middle East has made America more secure at home -- because it is undermining the culture of tyranny that fosters radicalism.

There will become a day when your grandchildren will ask, what did you do during your time in uniform? And you'll be able to say: We made the military stronger. We made the world freer. And we made America more secure.

You'll be able to tell them the story of the first decade in the 21st century -- their early days of a generational struggle against terror and extremism. It is a story of a global coalition led by the United States that is dedicated to eliminating the forces of oppression and fear. It is the story of the Iraqi people proudly holding up ink-stained fingers to show that the threat of violence could not break their commitment to liberty. It is the story of young girls going to school in Afghanistan after years when educating a woman could be punished with beatings or imprisonment. It is the story about the character in men and women who volunteered to leave the comforts of home to defend freedom and keep our nation safe.

On behalf of the American people, I thank you for making that sacrifice. I know you have not shouldered the burdens of military life alone. You've had the support of strong and loving families to sustain you. And this morning, I want all of you and your families to hear your Commander-in-Chief loud and clear: We appreciate you, we love you, and we honor your service. (Applause.)

We also honor our wounded warriors -- and those who never returned home from the field of battle. In their sacrifices, we see one of the extraordinary legacies of our Armed Forces -- the willingness to give everything to secure safety at home and liberty abroad.

As the Admiral pointed out, we saw that selfless spirit in people like Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who served in Iraq. In the fall of 2006, on a rooftop in Iraq, Mike threw himself onto a grenade in order to save the lives of his teammates. As Admiral Mullen mentioned, I had the honor of presenting Michael Monsoor's parents his posthumous Medal of Honor in the White House. On that day, I saw the deep sadness that is familiar to anyone who has lost a loved one in the line of duty. But I also saw the pride that comes with such noble sacrifice -- and the recognition that our freedom and our security only endure because of the acts of bravery like Michael Monsoor's.

That kind of courage, character, and devotion defines our Armed Forces. So this morning, I cannot accept your kind tribute unless I'm allowed to return the favor. To the men and women of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and all those who serve in the Department of Defense: You have the respect of a grateful nation that you have kept safe. You have the admiration of millions around the world who would have never tasted freedom without you. You have the undying love and respect of a man who has been proud to call himself your Commander-in-Chief.

Two weeks from today, Laura and I will take our final trip back to Texas -- or, as you Texans understand, back to the promised land. We have the honor of doing it onboard a 747 piloted by the United States Air Force -- Colonel Mark Tillman will be the lead pilot. This brings a fitting symmetry: The military brought me to Washington eight years ago -- and on January the 20th, the military is taking me home.

We will take with us many fond memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. We will always remember that you answered the call to serve when your nation needed you most. We will always remember that you did your duty with honor and dignity. And we will always remember the debt of gratitude that each of us who lives in freedom owes to each of you who has protected it.

May God bless you. And may God always bless the United States. (Applause.)

END 10:49 A.M. EST

2 Tribute to President Obama

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Celebrities pay powerful, heartfelt tribute to President Obama

3 Remarks by the Federal President to the Troops in Baghdad

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Al Faw Palace
Baghdad, Iraq
6:08 P.M. (Local)

4 Remarks by the Federal President on Memorial Day

Monday, May 25, 2009
Memorial Amphitheater
Arlington National Cemetery

5 'He Just Does What He Thinks Is Right'

Wall Street Journal, Saturday, December 26, 2009
By Peggy Noonan

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Time Magazine On Obama: 'His Genome Is Global, His Mind Is Innovative, His World Is Networked'

Time's Person of the Year 2008: excerpts of article by David Von Drehle.

Stop and look back at those last few words, because they are a telltale sign of Obama's pragmatism. A persistent question during the campaign -- it became the heart of John McCain's message in the closing weeks -- was whether Obama was some kind of radical, a terrorist-befriending socialist masquerading as Steady Freddy. As he builds his Administration, though, he is emerging as a leader who just wants to "get some things done."


Unveiling these and other picks at a series of daily press conferences, Obama assured the public that he wanted to move fast, so fast that trainloads of money might be ready for him to dispatch across the country with a stroke of his pen on Inauguration Day. The idea of another wave of spending horrifies America's surviving conservatives, but most economists support it -- some with enthusiasm, some with resignation. Obama realized that the stimulus package could be a vehicle for launching his broad domestic agenda. His ambitious campaign promises — to reform health care, cut taxes for low- and moderate-income earners and steer the U.S. toward a new energy economy — had seemed doomed by the yawning budget deficit (some $200 billion a month, according to the latest projections). But call these projects "stimulus," and suddenly a ship headed for the reef of economic disaster might sail through Congress flying the flag of economic recovery.

With even Republican economists talking about hundreds of billions in new spending, the sky's the limit. A dream of health-care reformers -- electronic medical records -- is now economic stimulus because Obama will pour money into hospitals for computers and clerical workers. His tax cut is stimulus because it puts spending money in the pockets of working Americans. His pledge to repair the nation's infrastructure is a stimulus plan for construction workers, while his energy strategy is stimulus for the people who will modernize government buildings, update public schools and improve the electrical grid.


Podesta had long been planning the return of a Democrat to the White House, and his think tank, the Center for American Progress, was already preparing detailed briefings on conditions in the various departments of government. As the financial system went into free fall in September, Podesta's team pressed the FBI to work overtime on security screenings of potential Obama nominees. Now, as he boarded a 6 a.m. flight to Chicago, Podesta carried a list of more than 100 candidates who had passed their background investigations and were ready for confirmation on Day One.


Obama had been pondering whether he should step to center stage or wait in the wings as the turbulent last months of the Bush Administration played out. His aides were all over the map. Some advised him to go quietly about his business in Chicago and insist that America has just one President at a time. For Obama to succeed, they argued, the country needed to see his Inauguration as a clean break, a new sunrise. Others floated the idea of immediately starting the First Hundred Days, perhaps asking George W. Bush to appoint Obama's choices to key offices so that they could get to work by late November.


They told Hart they were drawn to Obama's self-assured and calming personality. They felt he was "honest," a "straight shooter" -- in other words, a person who does what he says he will do. Their confidence in Obama wasn't starry-eyed; they hadn't been swept away by his stadium speeches. They saw a man who can get some things done, at a time when so many of their leaders, from Pennsylvania Avenue to Wall Street, cannot. He made moderates feel hopeful, and even among many core Republicans who did not ultimately vote for him, Obama inspired admiration. Viewing these comments through the results of his national surveys, Hart discerned a surge of good feeling that he had not seen in a generation: "a sense of real hope," he says, "and the kind of broad bipartisan support that has not been in evidence since the 1980 Reagan election."


A few days after this interview, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reminded the country that some aspects of politics will never change. Government is a human enterprise, after all, and Obama, like everyone else, is bound by its limits and subject to human frailty. Nevertheless, if he has shown anything this year, Obama has made it clear that he knows how to write new playbooks and do things in new ways. Which is a compelling quality right now. His arrival on the scene feels like a step into the next century -- his genome is global, his mind is innovative, his world is networked, and his spirit is democratic.