Tags: Leon Panetta

Obama’s Tuned Out, Rice Is Mendacious, and We Didn’t Appreciate Panetta Enough


Also in today’s Jolt, some impressions confirmed and contradicted by the revelations about the Bergdahl deal:

Obama’s Tuned Out, Rice Is Mendacious, and We Didn’t Appreciate Panetta Enough

The revelations of the ever-worsening Bergdahl deal tell us that two of our early impressions have been confirmed by subsequent events, and one has been contradicted by subsequent events.

Impression One: Obama has mentally checked out of his presidency.

In light of everything that we’ve learned about Bergdahl in the past few days, we must consider two possibilities. One is that Obama knew that Bergdahl opposed the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, that he told his father he was ashamed to be an American, that he renounced his citizenship before disappearing, that other soldiers lost their lives because of his decision to leave his post, and that he may have been helping the Taliban in their bomb-building and ambushes . . . and Obama went ahead with the trade anyway.

Guy Benson offers the supremely cynical “they knew” assessment:

They figured that the feel-good nature of the “POW” returning home narrative would be blindly seized upon and enabled by a media exhausted by the egregious VA scandal story. Unpleasant details would be white-washed or mostly ignored, and the only real outrage would emanate from the usual suspects on the Right. They thought they could counter critiques of the nature and terms of the trade with faux-indignant questions about whether skeptics were in favor of “leaving Americans behind.”

The other possibility is that Obama didn’t know any of this, and he approved the deal — and invited Bergdahl’s parents to the White House! — poorly-briefed and ill-informed about this supremely consequential, life-and-death decision. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Obama has been called “disengaged” on matters of war or the first time someone suggested that “White House officials have not been reading their briefing books.”

In a long, detailed profile piece, Politico paints a picture of a president increasingly ready to wrap it up and move on to post-presidential life:

With his daughters around less, the Obamas are taking fuller advantage of the perquisites of the office, such as squeezing “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway into a recent Manhattan fundraising trip.

In a departure from a long practice of keeping his personal circle strikingly tight and rarely lingering at official events, Obama has been hosting star-studded dinners that sometimes go on well past midnight and inviting a few newcomers such as former NBA star Alonzo Mourning into his social sphere. He’s playing golf more than any other year, replacing basketball as his go-to sport, partly because of concerns about getting injured . . . 

The presidential dinners, inside the White House and beyond, are more and more frequent. At one dinner, not previously disclosed, the Obamas hosted U2’s Bono, Gen. Colin Powell, Apple CEO Tim Cook, investor Warren Buffett and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Another drew actors Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson, along with journalist Gayle King. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, attended a dinner with fashion-industry insiders.

The guests don’t appear on the public visitor logs because they are considered “purely personal” visits. Multiple White House aides claimed not to know about them. Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser and longtime confidant of the Obamas who organizes the dinners, appears to be the only regular from the West Wing . . . 

The president has traveled more during the first half of 2014 than he has at any other time of his presidency, except when he faced reelection in 2012, according to a review of his schedule. He’s left town at least once a week since the State of the Union address.

As the crisis in Ukraine escalated in early March, White House aides turned to a less consequential matter: Should Obama travel to Florida for a planned weekend golf getaway?

Earlier in the presidency, current and former aides said, they probably would have canceled the trip. Obama, and his image protectors, had always been mindful about doing anything that could be turned into a Republican attack line.

This time, Obama saw no need to stay back in Washington, in part because the situation in Ukraine had cooled by that Friday. He told an aide that he’d be making the same calls to foreign leaders whether he was in the Situation Room or sunny Key Largo.

At a leisurely dinner with friends on that Saturday night, Obama expressed no regrets about the mini-vacation at the lush Ocean Reef Club resort or the publicity surrounding the trip, which reportedly required planes, five helicopters, more than 50 Secret Service agents and airspace restrictions over South Florida. After a difficult few weeks dealing with an international crisis, he relished the break, which included two rounds of golf.

He’s got presidential senioritis.

Impression Two: Susan Rice is a partisan hack masquerading as a policy expert.

The evidence for this reputation goes back a long way. From April 1994:

At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, “If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.”

Of course, since then she’s offered the infamous Benghazi lies, but now we’ve gotten a rerun, raising the question of just how frequently and blatantly a national-security official can lie to the American public without career consequence:

“Sergeant [Bowe] Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice insisted on Sunday morning in an appearance on ABC’s This Week. “He served the United States with honor and distinction.”

Adding cryptically that there will be time to “learn what has transpired in the past years,” Rice went on to inform the public how they should feel about Bergdahl’s release. “[T]his is such a joyous day,” she swore.

Well, 48 hours after that appearance, it seems the public is not taking Rice’s advice. As more details of Bergdahl’s service emerge, none of which looks especially exemplary, some have begun to ask if Rice had again disseminated misleading information on the Sunday morning talk shows.

On Tuesday, no less a figure than Ret. U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey definitively asserted that she had.

“I think what bothers people is having our commander-in-chief on television putting a glow of euphoria around this guy,” McCaffrey began, summarizing what he thought was fueling the backlash against this prisoner swap. “And then followed on with Dr. Susan Rice, who’s such a brilliant person, calling him having him served with honor and distinction when they knew full well this wasn’t the case.”

Impression Three: Leon Panetta was a tired old Washington hand, probably too old to be much more than a placeholder at the CIA.

Mea culpa, Mr. Panetta. From the perspective of us on the Right, Panetta may have been the best choice Obama has made so far. We now know he opposed trading any captured Taliban for Bergdahl. You may recall that when he was CIA director, he pushed back hard against Nancy Pelosi’s convenient claim that “the CIA lies to us all the time.” Despite some doubts at the start, Panetta proved to be a pretty solid director at Langley, having a big hand in the bin Laden raid. Later, as secretary of defense, Panetta asked other Obama administration officials why they were picking a fight with Catholic bishops over contraceptive coverage. Most recently, he supported the creation of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks, saying, “I hope Democrats participate, and it really is a legitimate effort.”

I’m sure conservatives can find Panetta decisions they disagree with, but let’s face it: In a national-security team that included or includes the likes of Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Tommy Vietor, he looks like George S. Patton.

Tags: Barack Obama , Susan Rice , Leon Panetta

An Ominous Deal, Looking Worse With Each Passing Day


From the Tuesday Morning Jolt, we have no choice but to start the day with the worsening details of the Bergdahl deal . . . 

New Revelations About the Bergdahl Deal So Awful, It’s Hard to Understand . . . 

Some days, you read the news, and find yourself asking, “is this real?”

Massive Problem Number One: Apparently a lot of our intelligence guys didn’t want these five captured Taliban released under any circumstances.

A report that will leave a sick feeling in your stomach, from Eli Lake:

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, according to three U.S. intelligence officials, flat out rejected the release of the five detainees, saying there was too high a risk these Taliban commanders would return to the battlefield and orchestrate attacks against Americans.

Clapper was not alone. Leon Panetta, who was then the Secretary of Defense, declined to certify that the United States could mitigate the risk to national interests of releasing the Taliban commanders.

A lot has changed since 2012. To start, President Obama won reelection. Panetta is gone, and in his place is Chuck Hagel, a Republican former senator who has been much more in sync with Obama’s views on the war on terror than his predecessors.

But current U.S. intelligence and defense officials who spoke to The Daily Beast on Monday say the process for exchanging Taliban for Bergdahl this time was rushed and closely held, in some instances leaving little room for any push back against a policy clearly favored by the White House.

For what it’s worth, Clapper’s spokesman said he is on board with the deal now.

Massive Problem Number Two: The whole deal wasn’t legal.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin declared on Monday that President Barack Obama “broke the law” when his administration failed to give Congress notice of at least 30 days before releasing five ranking Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay. Toobin said that a presidential signing statement did not absolve Obama from culpability for failing to abide by the law mandating congressional notification.

“I think he clearly broke the law,” Toobin said. “The law says 30-days’ notice. He didn’t give 30-days’ notice.” Toobin added that Obama’s opinion expressed in a signing statement “is not law.”

“The law is on the books, and he didn’t follow it,” Toobin added.

Massive Problem Number Three: Fresh off violating our national obligation to take care of our veterans when they return, our government is violating its national obligation to the families of fallen soldiers. Or at least stirring fresh pain anew:

Robert Andrews believes his own son might still be alive if U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had not gone missing from his Afghan guard post on June 30, 2009.

As Bergdahl emerges from five years of Taliban captivity, former comrades are accusing him of walking away from his unit and prompting a massive manhunt they say cost the lives of at least six fellow soldiers, including Andrews’ 34-year-old son, Darryn, a second lieutenant.

“Basically, my son died unnecessarily, hunting for a guy that we shouldn’t even have been hunting for,” Andrews told Reuters.

What on earth can anyone say to these families?

Sondra Andrews’ son, 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, is one of six soldiers killed reportedly while searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The sergeant’s return to captivity has stirred “very raw emotions.”

“It gets really hurtful when I think, this guy was worth my son’s life? My son who was patriotic? Who was a true soldier? Who defended his country with his life?” Andrews told Army Times via phone on Monday. “That guy was worth that? I don’t think so.”

Massive Problem Number Four: Meet the guy we rescued, before he disappeared from his post:

“The future is too good to waste on lies,” Bowe wrote. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

The e-mail went on to list a series of complaints: Three good sergeants, Bowe said, had been forced to move to another company, and “one of the biggest s*** bags is being put in charge of the team.” His battalion commander was a “conceited old fool.” The military system itself was broken: “In the US army you are cut down for being honest . . . but if you are a conceited brown nosing s*** bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank. . . . The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.” The soldiers he actually admired were planning on leaving: “The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same.”

Massive Problem Number Five: Here’s a disturbing report of the captivity:

A captured American soldier is training Taliban fighters bomb-making and ambush skills, according to one of his captors and Afghan intelligence officials.

Private Bowe Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 while based in eastern Afghanistan and is thought to be the only U.S. serviceman in captivity.

The 24-year-old has converted to Islam and now has the Muslim name Abdullah, one of his captors told The Sunday Times.

A Taliban deputy district commander in Paktika, who called himself Haji Nadeem, told the newspaper that Bergdahl taught him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb.

Nadeem claimed he also received basic ambush training from the U.S. soldier.

’Most of the skills he taught us we already knew,’ he said. ‘Some of my comrades think he’s pretending to be a Muslim to save himself so they wouldn’t behead him.’

Massive Problem Number Six: This graphic spread far and wide Monday, claiming to depict six U.S. soldiers killed in the course of the years-long search for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released over the weekend by his Taliban captors:


Asked about the claims, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said it’s “impossible” to confirm right now whether anybody’s death was directly linked to the hunt for Bergdahl.

But the Pentagon will look further into the circumstances of the deaths being associated with the search, he said.

Not something you usually see on Jake Tapper’s program:

“He is at best a deserter, and at worst a traitor,” says former U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Korder. Korder served with Bergdahl in Blackfoot company, 2nd platoon in Afghanistan, and was recently discharged from the military.

Tags: Afghanistan , Bowe Bergdahl , James Clapper , Leon Panetta

Obama’s Faith-Based Initiative, Believing in Himself


Plenty of CPAC fun and a bit of talk about the media’s coverage of the 2012 GOP presidential primary, but also this thought in the final Morning Jolt of the week:

Panetta, Biden, Daley See the Folly That Obama Can’t

JakeTapper offers a fascinating portrait of the Obama administration’s internal debates on the contraception rule:

“What are we doing here?” asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, stepping outside his wheelhouse to ask about a rising storm involving the Obama administration and the Catholic Church. “What’s the point?”

It was the Fall of 2011 and Panetta had read about a proposed Obama administration rule that would require employers — excluding houses of worship but including religious organizations such as charities, hospitals, and schools — to offer health insurance that fully covered contraception.

Panetta — a Catholic, former U.S. Representative, and White House chief of staff — didn’t quite understand why the Obama administration would be stepping into this conflict.

The Obama administration did not accidentally stumble into this controversy. They’re in it because some members of the White House staff — and ultimately, President Obama himself — wanted this controversy. They wanted to find those who they disagree with and punish them, to force them to bend to their will. They’re absolutely certain that enough Americans feel so favorably about birth control that they will applaud the federal government forcing institutions to pay for it even if those institutions consider it a sin. In their minds, there is absolutely no reason significant enough for an employer to not pay for it, certainly nothing as obscure and intangible as a faith’s interpretation as the Will of the Almighty. It pales in comparison to the Will of the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

This controversy is another manifestation of the argument of the individual mandate. Life is full of good things, or popular things. The goodness or popularity of a particular good or service doesn’t mean Americans want their government telling them that they must purchase it.

Obama has heard the controversy, and is, so far, refusing to back down. His faith in his own infallibility is clear.

UPDATE: Backing down? Depends upon your perspective:

ABC News has learned that later today the White House — possibly President Obama himself — will likely announce an attempt to accommodate these religious groups.

On source described the attempted accommodation as “Hawaii Lite” — a reference to that state’s law which allows religious groups to opt out of coverage that includes birth control, as long as employees are given information whether such coverage can be obtained.

This announcement would not go that far. Sources say it will involve health insurance companies helping to provide the coverage, since it’s actually cheaper for these companies to offer the coverage than to not do so, because of unwanted pregnancies and resulting complications.

Great news, religious organizations. The government might not force you to pay for something you consider a sin; you simply have to help your employees obtain something you consider a sin!

Tags: Barack Obama , Kathleen Sebelius , Leon Panetta

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review