20 January 2009 by Published in: General musings 35 comments

Today, our country stands on the brink of truly historic events. Barack Obama is being inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, joining the most exclusive club in the world. The thought of an African-American in the White House was unheard of just twenty-nine years ago in 1980, when I voted for the first time as a nineteen-year-old college student. But here we stand on the precipice of history, having finally closed the circle on the stain on America that was slavery. Yes, these are events that boggle the mind.

I am hopeful for our future. I am not sorry to see the present administration leave, as I am convinced that this country has only ever had one President worse than George W. Bush in James Buchanan, who presided over the unraveling of the Union. Susan thinks Bush is the worst. I do know this: this administration presided over a nearly unprecedented economic meltdown, did more to erode our civil liberties, and did more to drive a wedge between Americans than any other, and from where I sat, it could not have ended soon enough. Indeed, I have been counting the days for some time now.

Now, we have an energetic, brilliant, and purposeful man in office who has a real vision for the future of this great country, and I am hopeful for the future for the first time since the dark day that George W. Bush took office in 2001. What Obama did last night in feting John McCain and in embracing the man who was his opponent is almost without precedent, and it gives me hope that petty partisan politics can be overcome for the good of us all. To be sure, we face a lot of painful days until the economy turns around, and we face a lot of hurdles across the globe. But, for the first time in eight long, dark, bleak years, I awoke this morning believing that this country is back on track again.

The historian in me celebrates the uniqueness of today’s events. The American in me prays for the health and success of our new President, and the human being in me is proud of what we’ve done in electing this man President.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Brooks Simpson
    Tue 20th Jan 2009 at 10:45 am

    Please don’t overlook Andrew Johnson. Buchanan bumbled: Johnson intentionally destroyed.

  2. Tue 20th Jan 2009 at 11:07 am

    “What Obama did last night in feting John McCain and in embracing the man who was his opponent is almost without precedent, and it gives me hope that petty partisan politics can be overcome for the good of us all. ”

    I don’t know if I’d go as far to say it was without precedent. Classy, yes. Unprecedented…. well only if I discount a couple dozen previous events.

  3. Michael Aubrecht
    Tue 20th Jan 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Even this cranky-Libertarian was touched. Amazing Speech. (Rick Warren did a great job too.)

  4. Mark Peters
    Tue 20th Jan 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Eric, I write with all due respect. The more I see of Obama, the more I am reminded of Tony Blair. I hope that you are not as disappointed, as so many were in the UK.

    Perhaps the symbolism of what Obama has achieved has become more important, for the moment, than the major hurdles he has to already overcome. Let alone, the ones to follow …

    Best wishes,

    Mark

  5. Jim Pearson
    Tue 20th Jan 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Eric, I agree with your thoughts on President Bush, except that I see James Buchanan more as a person bewildered by powerful forces that no one at that time could change. I believe no political figure could have done anything positive in 1858-60 to either avoid war or prepare the country for war. His failures to stop Southerns from gaining some military advantage does not seem, in the long run, to have mattered much.

    I would like to read a post from you on this.

    Thanks,

    Jim

  6. Jim Epperson
    Tue 20th Jan 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Somehow, Eric, I thought you would have something like this. I sent a note to a good friend (Brian Hampton), to the effect that I was going to sleep tonight in a country where George W. Bush is *not* President. Hallelujah!

    JFE

  7. Dave Smith
    Wed 21st Jan 2009 at 2:21 pm

    President Obama has everything in place he needs to bring about substantive change. Congress is of his party, so he should have every chance to move forward as he wants.

    I hope he knows what he’s doing.

    BTW, I”m not sure Jimmy Carter wasn’t a worse president.

  8. Todd Miller
    Wed 21st Jan 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Eric,
    From someone who was there at the inauguration (although back by the second jumbotron), I can attest to the magical nature that was in the air. One could feel the crowd’s optimism and hope for the future that I haven’t felt in quite some time. For eight years I have felt that the country was being led by someone who wasn’t as smart as I was. With Obama, I feel that we finally have a president who is an intellectual in the White House. An amazing historic event and one that I will remember for the rest of my life (after I thaw out that is). Hopefully we have moved past voting for the president Americans would most like to have a beer with.
    Todd
    PS I was in Gettysburg and overhead another conversation about vandals spraypainting a local shop. I guess the buzz is that it might be the same individuals.

  9. J. David Petruzzi
    Thu 22nd Jan 2009 at 2:09 am

    I have to agree with Dave – I think Carter was far worse that W…
    Eric, you know my politics, and you know I didn’t vote for Obama. Yesterday, however, the historian and proud American in me was quite touched by the peaceful transfer of power that we exercise every 4 or 8 years, and by how far we’ve come in just a few decades.
    Having said that, I truly hope Obama and his administration are successful. No one could hope for anything else – because if he fails, our country fails. But I’ve watched him now for nearly 2 years saying absolutely nothing of substance. He’s a terrific preacher, and says time and after time what goals we need to attain, but nary a syllable about how to get there.
    I am also very fearful that he’s another in a long line of classic liberals who believes that the way to solve our problems is to sling money at it. The $350 B previous bailout was a massive failure. A complete waste of money. Obama’s proposed $850 B bailout, I fear, will be even worse. I think it would be far better to eliminate all taxes for 2009 on individuals and families – which wouldn’t cost much more than his program. Statistics show that in such bailouts, it takes, on average, 2 years for only 1/3 of the money to make an effect. By then, of course, the economy has already begun to naturally turn itself around (as it’s done a thousand times before). After 4 years when the rest of the money makes it through the system, the recession is already long over. Then we spend 100 years trying to pay it off.
    Lousy economics.
    But – Bush already put us on the track to nationalizing our banking system and much of our private businesses. For that, I am very disappointed.
    I fear that with the likes of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid at the helm, the US will become a social democracy. I honestly believe we will come to sorely regret it, and will take several hard decades to get ourselves back on track.
    Let’s hope I’m wrong. Families and businesses are really hurting. Small business, which provides 82% of the employment in this country, is what Obama/Pelosi/Reid are going to be gunning for soon in the form of higher taxes. That would be a huge mistake. In 2008, layoffs were up 59%. If the trio wishes to raise that number, all they have to do is follow through with what they promised.
    Again, I hope I’m wrong. Obama has voiced absolutely nothing of substance, nor a single plan of what he plans to do. Let’s hope his advisors lead him to the right decisions. That will be good for all of us.
    J.D.

  10. Chris Van Blargan
    Thu 22nd Jan 2009 at 9:12 am

    Eric

    While I share your sentiment regarding the historic nature of President Obama’s inauguration, I must respectfully disagree with your historical assessment that Bush “did more to erode our civil liberties” than any previous administration. This does not take into account Woodrow Wilson who, because of his anti-war/anti-German crackdowns and detentions and Palmerite tactics during the Red Scare, probably deserves that distinction. Ask anyone of German decent who had family on the East Coast during this time period what it was like. It’s also hard to imagine placing Bush in front of the pro-slavery presidents like Polk who did everything in their power, and to a large degree succeeded, in spreading slavery west of the Mississippi. You can also add Rutherford B. Hayes who, by ending Reconstruction without condition, ushered in 75+ years of Jim Crow. Even Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and Roosevelt interned Americans of Japanese descent based soley on their race, two awful precedents for civil liberties. While I am deeply suspicious of any intrusion on civil liberties such as the Homeland Security measures, I don’t think they rise to the level of what has come before.

    Respectfully,

    Chris

  11. Bill
    Thu 22nd Jan 2009 at 11:02 am

    I agree totally with JD. He said it very well for rational people who happen to think that Obama hasn’t really expressed what he wants to do or what direction he sees for the counrty. In fact, most of his campaign promises he has already started to back off and this will add to confusion and eventually frustration for his supporters.

    As far as bad presidents, if any president should have been jeered at his successor’s inauguration it was Carter. That did not happen. It did happen this year. How about some respect for the office…not to be found. I also don’t remember Reagan taking any classless shots or not “embracing” his opponent after the election. If Obama is going to unite the country he has just as much work to do on the left as he does on the right. We have to remember that 60 million Americans did not vote for Obama.

    I wish the new president well. I hope that he can find a common ground for all of us that can work to keep our country great. He needs our support but not blind adulation.

    Bill

  12. Thu 22nd Jan 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I don’t fall for political theater and hoopla–ever.

    As someone who dislikes nearly ALL politicians of both major parties, my position is very clear: Leave me and my family the hell alone. You work for us, and the Constitution is a limiting document. Get out of my way, and leave my money in my pocket. Seems pretty simple to me. The larger the government is, the fewer freedoms I possess.

    When it comes to protecting the country–do whatever is necessary to win. If we are at war, win the damn war. If we are not at war, then take us off a war footing and let me get on a plane without having to show you the color of my undergarments. I can’t stand equivocation when it comes to victory.

    When it comes to growing government and a socialist agenda (which I see coming big time–I live in California, after all, the largest outdoor insane asylum in the world), I hope Obama fails miserably. Completely. Utterly.

    I wanted Bush to fail, too, when it came to his spending like a damn drunken sailor, his immigration policy, his Medicare drug program, his bail out plan, etc.

    Politicians? The only way to look at one is . . . down. Single party rule is dangerous. I did not like it and spoke out against it when the Republicans were in control of the Presidency and both houses, and how I am speaking out against the same thing.

    That is where this small business owner and proud American stands.

    –tps

  13. Thu 22nd Jan 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I’m in with JD as well.

    I’m hoping that we can avoid becoming the Social Democracy but I’m having my doubts. I’m not a economics guy at all. I can balance my checkbook and weed my way through buying / refinancing my home but the vageries of Macro Economics is well above my pay grade. What I do know is you can’t spend your way out of debt and that seems to be the plan here.

    I wish President Obama all the luck in the world and pray fervently that he succeeds. He has my complete support as Commander in Chief and representative among our fellow Nations on this rock. He has A LOT of expectations to meet and I fear that he can’t meet them all. I read yesterday where Susan Sarandon compared him to Christ…I pretty sure he’s going to fail in meeting that standard.

    Bill is right, he needs and frankly deserves our support. As with President Clinton, I will support this President until he gives me a reason not to. That reason has to be a BIG one.

  14. Chris Shelton
    Thu 22nd Jan 2009 at 4:20 pm

    I hate to jump in here because I realize anything I say will perhaps reveal more politically about myself than I would like to share. However, I’d be curious what specific civil liberties we supposedly lost. I can’t think of one thing that I’m consciously aware of that I have lost. I don’t need a passport to cross state lines. I don’t even have to show ID. I’ve entered several state capital buildings with little to no complication. Perhaps those are poor examples, but I can’t personally attest to anything that’s different in my life when compared to 8 years ago.

    I would add that the economy was doing well enough before the Democrats took over Congress in 2007. There’s blame on both sides.

    I would also hope that there is a healthy amount of skeptism due to the fact that the Dems control everything and the media has been in the tank for Obama since who knows when. So we have one party in charge (which is probably never good, regardless of party) and a media slobbering all over the President, which limits the amount of accountability. Hopefully this fullblown lovefest will end soon so that the media can show a little more objectivity. (Well, some objectivity.) Seriously, when a Chris Matthews states that Obama gives him a tingling feeling up his leg and will do anything to help this Presidency work, I have to wonder how many other “media elite” feel the same way. Is that the job of the media all of a sudden?
    And now we just approved of a Treasury Secretary who can’t even pay all of his own taxes on time. Is this administration going to go after Charlie Rangel?

    Fortunately for Obama, he won’t be given the same “courtesy” that Bush was shown for the last several years. And I don’t really expect the Bush bashing to end as if this administration fails, they will have that built in excuse to fall back on.
    Thank goodness for term limits, but what I don’t want to hear at every bad turn is, well he’s no Bush. This is our President now and he should judged by his own merits and not how he compares to his predecessor. He and the media have set the bar really high. Hopefully it’s not a set up for failure.

  15. Thu 22nd Jan 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Brooks is right. Andrew Johnson was the worst, but the guy who just left screwed 99% of us pretty bad. Rarely has there been a more vivid illustration of the old cliche that it is possible to have addition through subtraction. I do give W credit in one area, though, we no longer have economists worrying that we are paying down the national debt too fast! (Oh, for the days of Clinton.)

    And for all the Carter bashers out there: Who was the guy who began the revitalization of the military after the neglect of the Nixon-Ford administrations? Carter. Who was the guy whose appointment of Volker as the head of the Fed was critical to the taming of inflation? Carter. Who was the guy who tried (in vain it turned out) to get us to develop a reality-based understanding of our challenges, especially in the area of energy? Carter. Who was the guy who stood up to the Iranians, instead of bending over for the Ayatollah when he took hostages and killed hundreds of Marines in Lebanon? Carter. Who was the guy who forged the Camp David accords? Carter. But of course, he didn’t know how to put out enough flags or deny away problems (especially those he was creating) with sufficient skill to look good in photo ops, so I guess Carter really did suck.

    And for those who lament Social Democracies, God forbid we have the same system that provides Europeans far better health for far less money and a generally higher level of satisfaction with their quality of life (how much time did you get off this year to spend with your family?) By all means, yes, let’s repeal the 20th century and go back to the good old days when we had a depression every twenty years!

    The economy was doing well enough in 2007? Huh? Unless you were in the very upper end of the economic scale, or were at the receiving end of state spending (hello!), there was in fact NO economic growth during the Bush years–and in fact quite the opposite. It is correct, though, that there is blame enough for both sides. Far too many Democrats over the past few decades have acted like Republicans in their eagerness to suck up to Wall Street and business interests to a degree that was little short of criminal.

    But to say we have gotten no results from the bailout and therefore the bailout was a wrong decision is to deny reality. There was in fact a real danger of a catastrophic meltdown in the credit markets last fall. Not doing the bailout simply was not an option. That it has been faulty in its structure and implementation–the failure to demand absolute transparency from its corporate beneficiaries being especially disgusting–is true and an inevitable consequence of the emergency conditions under which it was put together. It was also the unavoidable cost of getting the White House and enough congressional Republicans to go along with any plan. The new administration has made clear it will address the shortcomings with the bailout going forward, one of many areas where–contrary to the bellowing right-wing noise machine mantra that the president has laid out nothing of substance–it has made clear its policy agenda.

    And dear God, do whatever is necessary to win wars? If we are going to throw away the things that make our civilization worth defending and become like our enemies, why bother fighting at all? If you can find CPT Ian Fishbeck’s letter to John McCain on the matter of torture, I highly suggest you do so and read it with the care it deserves.

    Of course, I understand the fury of those on the right. Had the last few decades completely discredited my deeply held political and economic beliefs and values I would be bitter too. This is one reason I agree with those who predict there will be a serious terrorist incident on U.S. soil in the next few years, but think it is far more likely to come from a domestic source than from overseas, with its perpetrators lashing out out of impotence and frustration–and egged on by the aforementioned noise machine. After all, you have to do whatever is necessary to win.

  16. Fri 23rd Jan 2009 at 10:00 am

    Ethan,

    What was the incident in Lebanon in which Marines were killed during the Carter Administration?

    Craig

  17. tps
    Fri 23rd Jan 2009 at 10:56 am

    Ah, if only we lived in a social democracy like the countries in Europe (where, by the way, people over a certain age who need operations or dialysis go home to die, and those with money come here for their medical procedures):

    In a stunning decision, a Dutch court has ruled that Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders has committed criminal “hate speech” due to his public criticisms of Islam, and should be prosecuted. (See the International Free Press Society release below).

    When a court takes such a step in a country as “progressive” as the Netherlands, every person who cherishes liberty and the right of free speech should shudder.

    Mr. Wilders has, at the risk of his own life, courageously spoken out against Islamofascism and everything that comes with it. The decision of the Amsterdam Court of Appeals is a crushing blow to free speech and a victory for radical Islamists who are bent on suppressing any public criticism of their ideology.

    This is why we keep issuing warnings and action alerts to you about how politically correct governmental actions, in league with radical Islam, are moving us ever closer to the day where we cannot speak out against an evil that has produced 270 million deaths and caused untold suffering over the past 14 centuries.

    This is why we must build a powerful, informed and organized citizen action network that will stand in unity against the evil of Islamofascism and the political correctness that aids and abets it. Whether we are Democrats, Independents or Republicans…conservatives, moderates or liberals…there is no choice. We cannot allow America to sink to a place where an American prosecutor would obtain an indictment against a Member of Congress for criticizing Islam.

    If you would like to help us further this effort, whether by making a contribution or helping to start or get involved in a local chapter, please log on to http://www.actforamerica.org today.

    While the Dutch court seeks to censor, through unjust criminal prosecution, the kind of political speech that has been the hallmark of free countries, it looks the other way when radical Muslims in its country call for the death of infidels and praise Hitler for what he did to the Jews.

    The message is clear. It’s okay for a radical Muslim to call for your death, but don’t you dare criticize the Muslim for doing so.

    ——————————————————————————–

    The International Free Press Society
    http://www.internationalfreepresssociety.org

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    Defend Geert Wilders and Freedom of Speech

    January 22, 2009 – Washington, DC and Copenhagen, Denmark: A Dutch court yesterday ordered the criminal prosecution of Geert Wilders, Dutch parliamentarian and leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), for his statements – written, spoken and filmed -regarding Islam. The Amsterdam Court of Appeals has deemed such statements “insulting,” declaring that they “substantially harm the religious esteem” of Muslims.

    Clearly, the effect of this Dutch court order is to set new limits to public debate in Dutch society, in this case about the highly controversial but nonetheless crucially important subject of Islam. This makes the prosecution of Geert Wilders an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech in Western society.

    Having ordered a criminal prosecution for the opinions of a duly elected leader of a legitimate political party, Dutch authorities have dealt a devastating blow to political expression. While Dutch prosecutors prepare their indictment and Geert Wilders’ future hangs in limbo, who in The Netherlands will dare discuss political and cultural matters related to Islam – Islamic law, Islamic integration, Islamic crime, Islamic policy – openly, freely and fearlessly? The chilling effect is instantaneous. If, indeed, Wilders is ultimately convicted, free speech will cease to exist in the heart of Europe.

    The International Free Press Society believes this court-ordered prosecution against Geert Wilders, a central figure in the fight against the Islamization of the West, amounts to a dangerous concession to the strictures of Islamic law, which prohibits all criticism of Islam, over Western traditions of, and rights to robust and unfettered debate. As such, it is tantamount to a surrender to totalitarian influences that undermine all Western freedoms. And as such, it must be resisted.

    It is important to recall recent history. Two Dutchmen, Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, have been murdered for their outspoken opposition to Islamization in The Netherlands. Another Dutch politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has been infamously forced into exile. Wilders alone now carries this debate over Islam in Dutch society forward – forcefully but logically, outspokenly but reasonably, and always peacefully. In order to do so, this member of Dutch parliament lives in a virtual prison, consigned to 24-hour guard by Islamic death threats against his life. Now, Dutch authorities have ordered him to be prosecuted for the Orwellian crime of committing “insulting” words.

    As Wilders puts it, “If I have to stand trial, I will not stand trial alone, but also with the hundreds of thousands of Dutch people who reject the Islamization of The Netherlands.” He will also stand trial with those in The Netherlands and beyond who reject government prosecutions of free speech. In recognition of this dire situation, the IFPS immediately calls on every supporter of free speech to come to the aid of Geert Wilders. To assist in this effort, the IFPS has launched an international campaign in defense of Geert Wilders and his freedom of speech.

    To support these efforts, we urge you to contribute to the Geert Wilders Defense Fund. Donation information can be found at the IFPS website at http://www.internationalfreepresssociety.org.

  18. Fri 23rd Jan 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Craig: The murder of the Marines in Lebanon–241 servicemen in all–at the hands of Iranian-backed terrorists occurred in 1983 during the Reagan administration, which in a bold display of contempt for the fallen, subsequently decided we should pay ransom and sell weapons to the folks that murdered them. I apologize if the impression was given that this was something Carter would have been craven enough to do. I can see from the construction of the sentence that this might be the case.

    And, tps: people die in this country due to denial of medical care by private insurance companies. You can play the anecdote game all you want and not prove anything but isolated acts of stupidity. More relevant to the debate are the systematic evaluations of the WHO and calculations of per capita costs for health care. By those measures, we truly suck due to a twisted system in which we pay private health insurers to cover treatment when we are sick when it is in their economic interest not to cover the treatment we are paying them to provide when we are sick. Hopefully someday we will be as good as the French (how loathsome is it to know they are outperforming us in anything), but that day is certainly not today.

  19. Mark Snell
    Fri 23rd Jan 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Ethan, my old friend:

    Glad you corrected yourself concerning the deaths of the US Marines in Lebanon; I remember it well. I was a company commander in 1983 at Fort Benning at the time, and one of my Columbus neighbors lost his son in the suicide attack. Concerning President Carter’s handling of the DoD from 1977-1981: as a serving officer at the time I must tell you he was the worst Commander-in-Chief during my more than two decades of service. Budget cutbacks, extremely low morale, crappy equipment, etc. He might have inherited a mess, but he certainly made the mess much worse. You had to be there to understand what I’m talking about. That changed dramatically when RR became president, but it still took quite some time to straighten things out.

    One more thing: having just returned from teaching in England, I was the recipient of the UK’s National Health Care System (I should have given up soccer years ago). Luckily, I had private health care insurance, otherwise it would have taken me at least three months for an MRI on my knee. The system is OK, and my surgeon (a retired British army surgeon) did a great job, but the bureaucracy makes the system lethargically slow. By the time I would have gotten an MRI under the national system, my knee most likely would have been damaged beyon repair.

    BTW, your Antietam tour-guide manual is outstanding.

    Mark

  20. Fri 23rd Jan 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Eric,
    Way to get a discussion going!
    I can add that I have never seen the twenty-something crowd more enthusiastic and hopeful. A good thing.

    Rene

  21. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 10:55 am

    Ethan,

    I still have a hard time understanding what exactly the point is of your statement. Are you saying that Carter dealt a hard line to Iran, and Reagan did not?

    I’d dare say the events that unfolded in 1983-4 bear out the opposite effect. Do you recall the reaction made to the barracks bombing? The crater left behind by the USS Iowa’s guns are still visible from space, mind you! Even further out, why would the USS Vincennes be patrolling the Persian Gulf in 1988? A “bold display of contempt for the fallen?” Doesn’t sound like it. More like the President using gunboat diplomacy to play the hard line (that Carter did not do). Say what you want about Reagan, but he did not “pay the Barbary Pirates” and leave the room.

    As for “ransoming” alleged, we all seem to forget the deal struck by the Carter Administration to get the embassy hostages out in 1980. For the sum of $8 million, Carter “bought” those hostages back. And of course that was after he and his staff had bungled our only real attempt at military action, in true “Bay of Pigs” style. To me that sounds just like a brazen display of contempt for those who died at Desert One! (Then again, we did get to keep four new destroyers the Shah had bought…)

    Further to your point, I cannot believe any historian could fail to place the “Arms for Hostages” deal for anything but what it was – Bismark-style diplomacy. Illegal? Oh, yes. Motive? Bolster the insurgency in Nicaragua while at the same time ensuring that two clear adversaries of the US in the middle east (Iran and Iraq) continued to waste themselves in a pointless war. You can argue the effectiveness of the action, I’ll give you that. However, some experts point out it bought the US time to close the Cold War before starting a deeper engagement in the Middle East (till ’91 for Iraq, and til 2001 for Iran). And it was far from some display of contempt.

    Craig.

  22. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I recall the response to the Beirut bombing. After proclaiming we were “standing tall” (it looked good on TV–Reagan always did), Reagan pulled the troops out and his Secretary of Defense laid out a “doctrine” designed to avoid anyting that risks a bloody nose. If Reagan’s response to the Beirut bombings was so strong, it certainly begs the question of why Osama and his friends point to it to support their claim that the U.S. lacks the stomach to see through a tough situation.

    Unlike Reagan, whose approach to dealing with Iran was “you take our hostages and kill our troops, we give you weapons,” Carter did little more in 1980 than release assets that had been frozen at the beginning of the crisis. What more he could have done is hard to see. While it would have been wonderfully cathartic to turn Tehran into glass, it is hard to see how sending the hostages to the harp farm would have done them much good.

    And as for Eagle Claw . . . the truth is that equipment failures made it impossible to contine the mission from Desert One. Then there was the accident. While it is true that the buck stops with the president (who in this case took full responsibility for the failure), Carter made his decisions regarding the planning and execution of the mission in close consultation with his military advisors and the leaders of the force on the ground. As is clear in Mark Bowden’s account of the whole fiasco, the tragedy was less attributable to anything Carter or his subordinates did (although someone clearly should have been aware ahead of time of the haboobs) than to the terrific complexity and riskiness of the mission, and what Clausewitz calls the friction of war. And you know, if we had been much smarter in our approach to energy (i.e. listened to Carter–go read Andrew Bacevich’s new book on the matter), we would not be stuck with the deeper engagement in the Middle East we are enjoying today.

    And Mark, while I cannot speak from experience in the 1970s military, even you have to concede that there was only so much Carter could fix in four years. And to be sure, it certainly did not help that he did not get started until 1979. Still, even you have conceded he inherited a lot of problems. He deserves credit for his role in at least beginning the process of reversing them, and there was going to be a significant lag time before the improvements he initiated and supported would be seen in the armed forces. (How long, after all, did it take for the Big 5 to go from concept to hardware?) But let’s not forget, to provide one specific, that it was the man Carter appointed to run the Army, Meyer, who set in motion the process of doctrinal reform that resulted in Air Land Battle and pushed important institutional reform in the Army whose fruits would only be evident years later.

    And yes, Mark, you are lucky you have health insurance. Problem is, having insurance should not be a matter of luck, as it is in our system. And the results speak for themselves. We spend far, far more per capita for health insurance than any other country and get worse results overall according to the World Health Organization than most other modern societies. This is a consequence of having a system where, I will say it again, we pay private health insurers to cover treatment when we are sick when it is not in their economic interest to cover the treatment we are paying them to provide when we are sick.

    I’m not saying Carter belongs on Rushmore. All I am saying is the knee-jerk dismissal of him is not warranted–nor is holding him as a negative reference to support the cult of personality that surrounds his successor.

  23. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Ethan,
    It has been many years since I was at the school house in Kansas, so maybe the interpretation has evolved a bit. But in my CAS3 course on Army doctrine, we were taught that Air-Land Battle was really a refinement of DePuy’s “Active Defense.” It was Starry who was doggedly shoving it through the TRADOC (I hesitate to call it a bureaucracy, but maybe that is the best word for the post-Vietnam training command). If I’m not mistaken, we referred to Romjue’s work on this subject during many of our discussions. I don’t recall anyone saying Meyer had a hand in FM 100-5.

    As for Meyer and Carter, didn’t Meyer himself state in a congressional hearing during the summer of 1980 that he had a “hollow army” due to lack of funding, training and personnel, alluding to the Carter administration’s defense policies?

    Just seems to me the more we try to build Carter up, the more his feet of clay let him down.

  24. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Mr. Savas:

    You make more sense here than all the other comments combined (no disrespect meant to those who differ). I couldn’t agree more.

  25. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks Richard.

    I scratch my head how some people hold up politicians and place their hopes, happiness, and future in their hands. They are nearly all out to screw us.

    The first night of nearly all my classes I write two things on the board:

    FREEDOM / EQUALITY

    Choose.

    You can’t have both.

    With the former you make the choices, and depend upon your friends, church, neighbors, family, etc. for your basic needs. You look out for one another. You have the power, and loan bits of it to the government.

    With the latter, there has to be a ruling class to dole out your “equality.” Slaves were equal. Serfs were equal. People in communist countries are equal. But the ruling class is not. I don’t want the people who have been driving our country into the ground for 60 years to “help” me.

    And universal health care? I experienced a terrible infection in a finger in Austria in 1979. It took days to get help, and when I did, I could not get a doctor, but a nurse. She lanced it, drained it, and left it open about 1/8 of an inch. No stitches (she did not “do” that), no antibiotics (“You Americans want those for everything”) and it only cost me six bucks.

    My finger swelled twice its normal size and the top of my hand was getting discolored as I journeyed down Italy and over to Greece. As a college pianist at that time, I was freaked out, frankly. God was looking over my shoulder when I missed a bus and got on another one. A man across the isle saw the bandage and asked me what was wrong with my finger. Turned out he was a Boston hand surgeon on vacation. I just about cried with happiness.

    He examined it, told me the nurse cut and drained it wrong, and that she spread the infection into my finger/upper hand. He told me to jump into the sea the first minute I could, open it up a bit, and irrigate it. It would hurt terribly, but it would be good for it. (The Austrian health care system told me exactly the opposite.) Then he gave me a name and number to call with a friend he had with the American embassy. That ended up getting me a real doctor, antibiotics, stitches–and saved my finger and possibly my hand.

    My wife is a nurse (24 years). She was in dialysis for two decades. Some of her patients were from France and England, traveling on visas. They were older (70 something +). Why were they “living” in America, the Virgin Islands, and other holdings in the Caribbean? Because after a certain age, the government dispensers of free health care tell the poor and middle class you are no longer entitled to be dialyzed, and you are sent home to die, which you do terribly in about one week. Why? Because you no longer offer the government or other citizens “a return on their investment.” (Exact words, heard over and over.) The wealthy (and those who run the system) leave the country to get treated. Some were here to get operations denied in other countries that ended up saving their lives.

    Now my wife works with a huge health care organization and they see all kinds of people who have money from Canada buying policies here so they can be treated in AMERICA. They can’t get MRIs, operations, specialists in wonderful Canada. Why? Because once the government controls it, cost and resources become more important than your individual health.

    But heh, it is free.

    As Gerald Ford said, “A government large enough to give you everything you want, is powerful enough to take away everything you need.” (Or words to that effect)

    We need to wake up, keep the power in OUR HANDS, and not in the hands of politicians of ANY party. It is a head scratcher to this simple Iowa plains boy how that statement is taken by some to be controversial.

    Just my humble opinion. Not intended as an attack against anyone.

    –tps

  26. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Craig: Whoa! AirLand Battle was merely a refinement of Active Defense? Who the heck told you that? Air Land Battle was the product of an outright revolt in the Army against the 1976 FM 100-5 and was not a tweaking, but a wholesale revolution in doctrine: offense, not defense; operational rather than tactical focus; the intangibles rather than system analysis. (Starry’s role in all of this is one of the most fascinating stories will find in modern U.S. military history.) And yes, it was indeed Meyer who warned of the “hollow army”; at the same time Carter has to be given some credit for (without doubt belatedly) beginning the process of reversing the neglect of the armed forces of the 1970s that produced the hollow army. That is all I am saying. As far as Meyer’s role in doctrine revision, it was Meyer who appointed Richardson to command CAC with directions to fix the place. In that office and subsequently as commander of TRADOC, Richardson shared, recognized, and took advantage of the revolt in the Army against DePuy’s work to initiate the process that led to the revision of FM 100-5 and important reforms at Leavenworth, one of the products being the CAS3 course where evidently you got some really, really bad poop.

    Ted: If you truly believe that freedom and equality cannot be compatible, how on earth do you read or teach the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address, or recite the Pledge of Allegiance without wincing? Do you tell your students to ignore them on the grounds that they, and thus the foundations of our republic, are worthless? “Once the government controls it, costs and resources become more important than your individual health.” And when private companies control something, the opposite is the case? Again, for every anecdote of someone having trouble with one of the socialized health care systems, there is one of someone who put off treatment or were denied treatment due a lack of insurance or the road blocks insurers put up to care. (Again, we get back to the “we pay people to cover us when we are sick when their economic interests demand they resist providing the coverage we are paying them to provide.”) For every person who comes here from Canada for care, there is an American who crosses the border to get health care needs met that are not by our system. We are talking about apples and trees. There are bad apples (anecdotes) on every tree (the system). The question is the health of the overall tree, and I yet to hear a counter to facts that are indicative of the respective merits of the systems. Namely, that we spend far more per capita on health care and get worse results than almost every other modern society. That is a systemic issue (the tree), not mere anecdote (the individual apple).

  27. Matt McKeon
    Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Ethan,
    A couple of excellent posts.

  28. tps
    Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 8:49 pm

    We shall agree to disagree, Ethan. I stand by what I wrote.

    People on this list are smart enough to judge for themselves what the limiting nature of our Founding documents mean, and what sort of government they were intended to create.

    If you really want to live under a socialized medical system, then it blows my simple mind away.

    be well

    tps

  29. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Ted:

    No, of course, no attacks – just vigorous disagreement and debate, which is healthy for our republic. I just left my parents’ home – both liberal Democrats and Obama supporters. We agree to disagree.

    Best,
    RGW

  30. Sat 24th Jan 2009 at 9:10 pm

    And there is where I believe this discussion should be left. The discussion has been great, but I think that it’s run its course.

    Thank you for keeping it civil.

    Eric

  31. billy
    Sun 25th Jan 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Gee whiz, why cut it off? This is a pure interchange of ideas.

  32. billy
    Sun 25th Jan 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Oops. I see it is still open. Please ignore my comment above.

  33. Chris Shelton
    Mon 26th Jan 2009 at 6:00 pm

    With all due respect, if this page went off track a bit, it’s with the very first post. I wasn’t exactly expecting what I got in a post titled, “Hope”…not nearly on the same level, but it’s a reminder of the picture of Rahm Emmanuel thumbing his nose at the outgoing President on inauguration day. (You’d think a man in such a position wouldn’t act like a little child at recess. Wasn’t it enough that HIS man was now going to reside in the White House?)
    The negativity was really the only reason I replied. I try to stay away from modern politics.
    Can we not just for a moment be happy for a brighter day without pointing to perceived cloudy days of the past? That goes for the bigger picture as well. I won’t belittle another person’s happiness so long as there is a civil discourse. For me, any hope for Barack Hussein Obama is tempered by the fact that he has fans in Rosie O’Donnell, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Keith Olbermann, the Daily KOS, etc.

    I’d hope that whoever’s in office does well (which usually means that they govern in ways that I would hope they would.) I just don’t see this individual (Obama), who was one of the most far leftists when they were in Congress, doing that. I’m also concerned that he wasn’t properly vetted by the media, that he won on a campaign slogan, and that I can’t really point to any accomplishments he had in Washington other than getting elected.

  34. Mon 26th Jan 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Chris Shelton,

    With all due respect back to you, this is my blog. I pay for it. That means that I get to choose what the content of it is. If you didn’t like my post, that, with all due respect, is your problem and not mine.

    If you don’t like a post, skip it. If that’s not acceptable to you, then feel free to skip my blog altogether.

    Eric

  35. Dan
    Mon 30th Mar 2009 at 1:08 pm

    After reading most of the comments I concluded that it is such a diversity of opinion that divides the country. The conflicting philosophy in Congress about equals the populous.

    Obama like George Meade talks a good line but it was Grant that fought the war. When you compare all Presidents to Harry S Truman they all seem secondary. Only history will decide.

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