‘A crazy vehicle,’ &c.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta


Sequestration is “looming.” Sequestration is, indeed, upon us. I wrote a little about this in the January 28 issue of National Review. The piece was called “Defense Is Different.” Let me give you some comments that people have made, with regard to sequestration — particularly with regard to the defense budget. The comments did not find their way into my piece. But I collected them (and others), in preparing the piece.

This is Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, in May 2012: Congressmen must not “just allow sequestration to take effect. I mean, the whole purpose of sequestration, or even developing a crazy vehicle like that, was to ensure that they would exercise leadership to prevent it from happening.”

Here is Panetta more recently, making the same point: “Sequestration was never intended to be implemented and there is no reason why both sides should not be able to come together and prevent this scenario.”

Here is Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina: “This is the dumbest idea that Congress has come up with — and we’re known for doing dumb things. The idea that, if a bunch of politicians fail to do their job well and correctly, you’re going to destroy the military and fire a bunch of soldiers . . . Fire the politicians, keep the soldiers.”

The most important player in all this is President Obama. In a debate last fall, his opponent, Mitt Romney, expressed concern about the defense budget. Obama was, of course, dismissive, and not exactly honest: “First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed. It’s something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”

Yeah, right. The American people did something momentous when they reelected Obama on November 6. The price, I’m afraid, will be terrible.

Obama did an interview with Al Sharpton the other day. Let me tell you something about Sharpton, or remind you: During the Tawana Brawley hoax, he smeared a man named Steven Pagones. This was no ordinary smearing: He accused Pagones of raping Brawley. Pagones was an assistant district attorney. When he was cleared of this crime — a fictitious crime, in any event — he held a press conference. Sharpton tried to crash it, bellowing, “Your accuser has arrived!”

No accuser of Sharpton ever arrives. He’s a star of this left-wing network, MSNBC. The president comes to sit by his side. Sharpton has never apologized to Pagones, for his evil lies. He has proudly said he will not apologize. He is a Christian minister, or something like that. People call him “Reverend,” or “Rev.”

Would Obama ever sit down with Steven Pagones? Hard to see it happening. Yes, the American people did something important when they reelected Obama in November. They, we, said something about our character.

I thought of Frederick the Great when I read this news report: “Kerry has said he is eager to discuss new ways of persuading Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and usher in a democratic transition” in a country “wracked by escalating violence that has killed at least 70,000 people.”

Frederick was an interesting fellow: king and musician (flutist). He said, “Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments.”

The Czech Republic has done something superb — a little late, you might say, but not too late, and, again, superb. Here is the story:

The Czech government signed deals with representatives of 16 religious groups on Friday to pay them billions of dollars in compensation for property that the country’s former Communist regime seized from them.

The move is considered highly controversial in the Czech Republic, and the left-wing opposition has asked the country’s highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court, to stop it.

The prime minister, Petr Necas, called the compensation “an act of justice.”

I would like to quote one more paragraph, and then make a media comment, if I may. Here it is:

The story harks back to 1948, when the Communists seized power in what was then Czechoslovakia, a mostly Christian country. The Communists confiscated all the property owned by churches and persecuted many priests. Churches were allowed to function only under the totalitarian state’s strict control, and priests’ salaries were paid by the state.

Okay, here’s my comment: While Eastern Europe was Communist, our mainstream media would never — ever — have referred to the government of Czechoslovakia as “totalitarian.” (The report I have been quoting is from the Associated Press.) They would not likely have said “the Communists” either. Only since 1989, I guess, has it been safe to speak plainly.