Our Post-Election Quandary

election2014

Another Election Day is in the books.  We can stare at the carnage, the breakthroughs, the piles of cash thrown into the winds of political expediency … or we can look ahead to the challenges that will determine the political future.

I choose to look forward in this post, although those piles of cash … estimated at $4 billion for the 2014 general election … is a disturbing image in my rearview mirror.

Nationally, it was a bad day for the Democrats.  Losing control of the U.S. Senate (52-45 Republicans, 2 Independents, Louisiana’s race into a runoff) and now facing a 65-seat Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

No doubt this was a referendum on President Obama and his administration, most particularly his Leadership or more appropriately the lack thereof.  In some parts of the world, such polling would result in a coalition-busting dissolution of Government and the forming of new coalitions.

OK … So maybe I am glancing back at Tuesday’s carnage.  Maybe in a bit of satisfaction … but you have to know where you are to get where you want to go.

My post-election quandary can be stated quite succinctly:

My kingdom for a Leader!

In my home state of Pennsylvania, the same storyline – described above – played out in the Governor’s race, only this time in favor of the Democrats.  No confidence in Governor Tom Corbett led to a loss of support across all demographic groups except those over the age of 65.

PA Governor-elect Tom Wolf

PA Governor-elect Tom Wolf

Now that he’s been elected, the real problem for Tom Wolf is he is faced with the same Republican-dominated legislature that denied Corbett some of his most cherished legislative initiatives, like liquor privatization and taking action on the State’s unsustainable public pension problem.

How will Mr. Wolf provide Leadership for a legislature completely controlled by the opposition party?  (Hint: Don’t look to The White House for an example!)

Leadership … a quality many believe our President fails to possess in any way, shape, or form.  From his refusal to get acquainted even with the Democrats in Congress, his hands-off management style, an administration fumbling the basic functions of government, and his failure to take quick, decisive action in times of international crisis, President Obama set out the finest silverware when inviting the poll whooping Democrats received last Tuesday.

Leadership … the one trait you want any Chief Executive to demonstrate regardless of whether you voted for them or against.

Tom Wolf will have his opportunity to show what kind of Leader he can be.  Can he work with those across the aisle, as he must to be successful?  Will he be able to build relationships with his powerful political opposition?  Can Wolf set a tone of Leadership that will allow him to cultivate alliances with a Republican Legislature and get things done?

Wolf’s off to a rocky start, choosing divisive Katie McGinty, Pennsylvania’s former Environmental Protection Secretary, as his Chief-of Staff and throwing down the gauntlet on Medicaid expansion, which the PA Legislature is all too aware will only be partially funded by Washington after the first years.

Not exactly your political olive branches …

Cats are plain creepy!

Creepier only on the face of a politician …

The President, given what we have seen over the past six years, most likely will not even try leading with the fully Republican-controlled Congress.  He will give lip service to working together and the fine Art of Compromise.  But in the wake of an election where most Congressional Democrats treated Obama like he himself was Ebola-infested, it’s doubtful the message from Tuesday’s shellacking will resonate with the country’s Chief Executive.

No, it’s far more likely he will give Congressional Republicans his best Cheshire cat smile while all along fingering the nuclear option … government-by-executive-fiat.

Now despite my proclivity to criticize Democrats, nothing here absolves our esteemed Republican representatives in Harrisburg or in Washington, D.C. from showing a bit of Leadership themselves.  In fact, it would be a breath of fresh air if perhaps we can expect the same kind of across-the-great-divide behavior from our legislative majorities!

As a close admirer (?) of mine recently cautioned, taking those first steps should never require that one abandon core principles.  And I agree.  But core principles rarely get anything accomplished on their own.  They are anchors that should define one’s approach to policy.  It’s the recognition of those principles as a foundation for making sound decisions and – when appropriate – suitable compromise that result in getting The People’s work done.

And somewhere in between perhaps the twain shall meet!

As I searched for a pithy way to wrap this up, I wanted something that would best characterize the implications of what occurred in voting booths this week and how it defines our political near-future, particularly for Mr. Wolf and our Pennsylvania State Legislator.  (Unfortunately, I have given up on the D.C. crowd.)

Instead of referring to the wisdom of Aristotle, Benjamin Disraeli, or Napoleon Bonaparte, I stumbled on this little gem written just weeks ago by a Lt.Col. Stacy Clements, Deputy Commander, 821st Air Base Group in a commentary on Leadership from the cozy confines of Thule Air Base, Greenland.

To me, it says it all …

Leadership: It’s not about you, it’s up to you!

Some relevant excerpts:

As a leader, you need to take the initiative to solve problems, take action to get results, and take ownership of the responsibility for getting things done.

As a leader, your actions can inspire and influence others – or can create a toxic environment where work may get done, but not as effectively as it could be. To help and influence others, you need to be trustworthy and approachable; try to understand those you lead, what motivates them, and be open to helping them achieve their goals.

Don’t focus all your attention on the image in the mirror – focus your efforts on making things better and helping people become better. Remember, it’s not about you, but it is up to you.

Hopefully, someone will take the advice!

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Worst trade ever …

BergdahlSo after five years Bowe Bergdahl is heading home.  But there is hardly unrestrained joy and relief outside of the small community of Hailey, Idaho, where Bergdahl grew up.  In fact, Hailey decided to cancel its planned celebration in the face of much doubt over his circumstances and the deal to exchange five Taliban military leaders for his freedom.

For the time being, you will not hear me calling him by service branch and rank.  From what I have read, he doesn’t deserve it.  I do not take this position lightly, even as one who never wore the uniform.

Normally, I stay silent in cases where an investigation is clearly warranted.  It’s not for me to judge.  But this situation truly makes my skin crawl.

Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen and ...

Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen and …

By all reports, accepted as truth by those who served with Bergdahl, he willingly; knowingly; and worse of all recklessly relative to the safety of his fellow troopers, walked off his duty station to “start a new life“.

Bergstrom did not simply walk out the gate or go under the perimeter wire; he may have even hid in a contractor’s vehicle to secretly exit his outpost.  He went out of his way to send many personal belongings home before abandoning his unit.

Bergdahl’s desertion is unforgivable for no other reason than the danger in which it put other troops once he was listed as missing.  When that happens, the U.S. military – whether you are on land, in water, or missing from the air – is going to try to find and recover you. They will not leave a man behind if at all possible.

That puts a number of military personnel in an order of magnitude several times greater than your personal worth in harm’s way; exposing themselves to all the dangers of that theatre of operations; going into dangerous and volatile situations they would normally avoid just to find you.  Bergdahl’s actions in this regard were unconscionable.

... Private First Class Morris Walker were killed by IED while searching for Bergdahl.

… Private First Class Morris Walker were killed by IED while searching for Bergdahl.

Certainly Bergdahl deserves his day in court, privileged by the assumption of innocence as provided by those very principles he decided to leave behind when he so clandestinely worked to melt into the Afghan countryside.  Hopefully the truth will come out, though I doubt he will receive more than a dishonorable discharge if found guilty.

Of course, that assumes he doesn’t receive a White House pardon.

The troops who served with him and who lived closest to him before he deserted his post are very free in their feelings towards Bergdahl.  They are – to say the least – angry at his selfishness and furious at the losses incurred on his behalf.  They knew him to be a loner, though no sin in itself.  They knew he didn’t want to be there.  They saw him gaze into the mountains near their base, wondering if he could reach China by heading in that direction.

They are the ones to whom we should be listening.  They are the ones who knew him best.  They could tell whether he was with them in duty or looking for a way to salve his disillusionment with his chosen profession.

When Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel went to Afghanistan and announced the release and repatriation of Bowe Bergdahl, his announcement was met with stony silence from the American troopers in attendance.  Don’t buy the story line of young American troopers showing “reluctance to display emotion in front of the Pentagon chief”.  That never seems to be a problem with emotion when the Commander-in-Chief shows up.

Their lack of reaction and none-so-fond memories of Bergdahl’s fellow unit members are good enough for me.

Democrats for Governor: Playing Sharks and Jets

West-Side-Story-west-side-story-27587742-461-346The Democrats’ contest to pick a candidate to unseat Tom Corbett in the race for Governor of Pennsylvania is in full swing.  I’m sure I am not the only Pennsylvania Republican who has been enjoying the spectacle of Democrat cannibalism.

The Democrats love eating their own as much as Republicans do.

It’s a real accomplishment for any incumbent challenger to be successful in a general election after surviving a competitive and contentious primary.  The zeal both political parties take in tearing down their own candidates during primary seasons is frankly bizarre.  Whether it’s Allyson Schwartz‘s scorched-earth strategy for defending her 13th District Congressional seat or Republicans playing Whack-a-Mole on their best candidates before challenging a vulnerable President.

It’s hard to win a horse race when your prized steed – “winner” of the preliminary heat – is lame and limping off to the glue factory.

But if you are supporting an incumbent, who enjoys the safety of a challenge-less primary, patiently waiting for the battered primary victor to emerge, it’s a bit more rewarding to grab the popcorn; find a comfy chair; and commit to paper all the great attack lines your primaried opponents will hand you in their attempts to survive the intra-party process.

Whack-a-MoleFor Democrats the home stretch for the May 20 primary is within sight; and the heat has been turned up by the two biggest names in the race; both struggling to keep up with 25-point front-runner, Tom Wolf.  If you have been paying attention during this internecine combat, you have learned much about how for the Democrats will go to unseat Tom Corbett and how they will govern should they win.

For weeks now, I have been waiting for Schwartz to resort to the nuclear option in what must be an extremely frustrating struggle for Schwartz, who had already picked out the Executive Mansion drapes.  Instead, it was Rob McCord who decided to drop the bomb … a race bomb!

Divisiveness has blossomed as a favored tactic of Democrats running for executive offices, seeking to ingratiate themselves with specific – and obvious – voting blocks.  They present their arguments like this …

  • There are two groups.  (Let’s call them the Sharks and the Jets, so I don’t end up being hung at high noon by the Political Correctness Police.)
  • The groups can be split along a few different fault lines … economic (1% vs. 99%), geographic politics (urban vs. rural), corporate/consumer, gender, race, religion, etc.
  • “I am a Jet, just like you!” as opposed to being one of those nasty, selfish Sharks.  (This is aside from the fact that very often those claiming to be Jets are in fact Sharks.  More on that a little later.)
  • “Vote for me and I will level the playing field at the expense of those big, bad Sharks!”

McCord’s tactic was all too obvious.  Appeal to the large concentrations of votes in Pennsylvania’s biggest cities by alleging racism by Tom Wolf.

The incident, a killing during the 1969 race riots in York, Pennsylvania (Wolf’s hometown), returned to haunt the 2001 re-election campaign of then-Mayor Charlie Robertson.  When faced with the 2001 indictment, Robertson was persuaded to resign from the election after having already won the primary.  Wolf was one of several advisers who talked Robertson into resigning.

So really, Tom Wolf was simply standing by a friend,who had not as yet been tried (and was later acquitted) of the charges against him.

Of course that didn’t matter to McCord.  He got what he felt he needed, a wedge with which he could pry votes his way.  But it also gives you an insight into what a McCord Administration of State might look like .. a lot of bodies under a lot of buses.

Divisiveness, then conquer … a recurring theme …

Just ask Nate Kleinman what it's like!

Just ask Nate Kleinman what it’s like!

Schwartz – of course – jumped right on the Railroad Wolf train.  But then again, she doesn’t have much else to fall back on.  Her own Philadelphia connections have not been impressed with her constant harping of support for President Obama and his administration’s stilted, stuttering policies.  Most of all the Affordable Care Act …

Not exactly political genius by the Schwartz campaign, given the abominable handling of the ACA rollout, the Obama Administration’s opaque-ness when it comes to ACA sign-up/payment information, and well, just about everything they do – or don’t do – internationally.

Schwartz’s biggest problem though, when trying to connect to Joe Voter, is that when it comes to playing the 99% Jets off the 1% Sharks, she can’t hide the fact that she is – in fact – a Shark!

Then again, so are all the Democrats running for Governor!

Check out the income tax statements of the Democrat candidates who released their tax returns, keeping in mind that as late as 2012, the standard for being considered a 1% income earner was roughly $380,000.

200397812-001All figures are from 2012 tax returns:

  • Tom Wolf – $2.2 million in total (unadjusted) income (Taxes paid: $263,000 … Secured a loan for $4 million to partially finance campaign.)
  • Allyson Schwartz – $666,000 (unadjusted) income (Taxes paid: $140,000 … $5 million in campaign fund remaining as of April 8)
  • Rob McCord – $333,500 (unadjusted) income (OK … He’s a 1.5%’er!  Loaned campaign $1.7 million.)
  • Katie McGinty – $1.0 million (Taxes paid: $251,000 … Loaned her campaign $535,000.)

Now certainly there’s nothing wrong with being a successful 1%’er as it results from your hard work, highly demanded capabilities, or entrepreneurial spirit.  No, my point is this …

When these candidates look you in the eye and try to tell you they know what you are going through; that they are on your side; and they will help your Jets even the playing field with those richie-rich Sharks, you need to ask yourself the one question that really matters, when your family could live quite comfortably on what these candidates pay in taxes alone …

Wolf may the rue the day his Jeep joined the campaign.

Wolf may the rue the day his Jeep joined the campaign.

Who’s kidding whom?!?

The same story applies to how budgets and taxes will work should one of these esteemed liberals defeat a vulnerable Tom Corbett.

All four Democrat candidates rail against the $1 billion lost to education in the Pennsylvania budget.  They will all restore it.  Cost: $1 billion

By the Way …

The $1 billion cut to education in Pennsylvania was not a Corbett budget cut, as Democrats will lead you to believe.  The cuts were the result of the loss of $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars committed to the education budget by former Governor Ed Rendell and lost when the federal stimulus program ended in 2011. 

The 2013-14 state budget faces a $500 million shortfall, largely the result of overly optimistic projections of tax revenues that have not materialized.  Projections suggest the same could hold true for FY14-15, which begins on July 1.  So the State is really looking at a $1 billion budget gap.

The Democrats running for Governor all want to fix that of course.  Cost:  $1.0 billion over two years ($500K a year)

Total costs of fixing both the education funding gap and the State budget shortfall:  $1.5 billion annually

And how will Democrats fix this problem?  The unanimous answer is RAISE TAXES!  A large chunk of their proposed solution would be extraction taxes on the natural gas industry.

The problem for those of us who identify as middle class?

If you were hoping that Pennsylvania’s huge gas resource would result in cheaper local energy costs, it would be us – as consumers of this Pennsylvania gas – who will end up paying those taxes as increases to the wholesale/retail prices … of the gas itself and the products that rely on that gas for production and transportation.

shark-repellent-sharep-b_2Increased taxes are never paid solely by the businesses that are taxed.  They are simply pushed out to the consumer, who pays those added taxes in increased costs of what they buy and the services they use.  In addition, the fact that Pennsylvania already taxes energy companies with the second highest marginal corporate income tax rates in the country renders further taxation a potential drag on the economy and killer of jobs.

So when a Pennsylvania Democrat candidate for Governor comes calling; looks you in the eye; tells you they are a Jet, just like you; that they have your back; and will work oh-so-very-hard in your interests, make sure you have that Shark repellent handy!

Presidential wabbit hunting season

Felmer Dudd

Elmer the wabbit stalker

The running of the wabbits is off to an early start this presidential election cycle … or so it seems.

The signs are unmistakable.  Hunters crashing through forests of subpoenaed documents and confiscated e-mails.  Their media blasts are shotgun wild; blowing up chunks of soil and biting off chunks of helpless tree bark.

The wabbits scurry off to chuckle at the Hunters’ futility.

The Hunters are so anxious to bag any front-running, though undeclared Republican presidential hopeful they cannot shoot straight.

They are the Elmer Fudds of wabbit hunting.  All noise, no results.  You can almost hear the Fudds screaming “I’ll get you, you wascally wabbit!”

But the wabbits – so far – are having all the laughs.

Certainly all the constant media attention is having some effect.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie‘s favorable ratings have taken a hit; but at 49% after all this, he ain’t exactly bleeding to death over staff-initiated lane closures that few people outside northern New Jersey and NYC care about.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – on the other hand – is fighting off unproven accusations that are three years old, involving staffers illegally performing campaign work on government time, when Walker was still a little known County Executive.  People, who worked for Walker, went to jail; but a Democrat prosecutor found no evidence of Walker’s knowledge or acquiescence.  Still the hunt for Walker’s presidential future continues.

Despite Democrat attempts to tie the Christie and Walker controversies together as an indictment of general Republican malfeasance, the only thing that’s common between the two is their potential aspirations for The Oval Office.

Hence all the hunting and drama …

For voters – still two years away from having to declare their preference for a Republican presidential candidate – the Democrats’ strategy should be disturbing. For the Democrats are not interested in uncovering official misbehavior; their only objective is clearing the field for Hillary Clinton.

Bugs+Bunny+4Shhhhhhhhh … We’re hunting wabbits!

But the wabbits aren’t cooperating.  So far the Democrat hunters have only proven two things.  One is that the wabbits are much, much smarter than the Fudds.  The second is surely an unintended consequence that should come back to bite the Fudds right on their Clintons!

These same hunters of Republicans hopefuls will tell you looking into Hillary’s own history with a husband who cheated on her from the Oval Office; and who – more recently – failed to protect embassy personnel in a largely lawless country, would be an unproductive undertaking.

Needless to say anyone, who take their decisions on Chief Executive qualifications, should disagree.

Even Daffy can figure out why!

Clinton’s experiences in her White House tour as First Lady carry both weight and significance in assessing her suitability for the Highest Office in the Land.  I scratch my head over assertions that what happened in the Clinton White House 20 years ago is somehow not pertinent to Hillary’s foregone run in 2016.

First off, for all those touting her as an ideal candidate to be the first female President, how does one reconcile her enabling behavior in regards to her husband’s predatory behavior towards other women.

This has long been a pet peeve of mine when it comes to Clinton 42.  As a federal employee, I could well have been promptly and righteously removed from my job for using even the appearance of supervisory authority and it’s perceived power to press an inappropriate advantage towards a female employee, even if she were a consenting participant.

How could a Chief Executive behave so brazenly; performing exactly the kind of behavior over which those working for him could easily lose their jobs?

As a much touted example for women, it should be equally appalling that Hillary throughout the Clinton history, enabled Bill’s behavior through her repeated acquiescence.  It didn’t happen only with Monica in the West Wing with the cigar, dear Fudds!  It was a pattern of behavior that first caught the attention of the press and government watchdogs when Bill was still the Governor of Arkansas.

Biil and MonicaImagine how strong Hillary would have appeared had she nipped her runaway Lethario in the bud!  At face value one could conclude this was at best a psychologically abusive relationship; and isn’t that something women are encouraged to end or leave?

If the definition of insanity is expecting different results from doing the same thing over and over again, the question should be what was Hillary’s mindset when she repeatedly forgave Bill?  And what does that say about her judgement and decision making at a time of crisis?

Then again, she probably wouldn’t be where she is today hadn’t forgiven Bill’s wanderings over and over again.

One might surmise that Hillary traded a Proximity to Power for those oft-repeated acts of forgiveness.  Did she trade the potential for future incidents for a bright political future of her own?  Is it hard to imagine Hillary conditioning her forgiveness on Bill’s backing of her own political future when it became her turn?  Does anything other than a marriage that evolved into one of political convenience explain her behavior?

How is it that some think this fundamental character flaw is not worthy of intense scrutiny for one positioning herself to become President?

Character is developed over an extended period of life and living.  Leadership is forged from making the tough decisions and difficult choices.  Strong women do these things every day.  Does Hillary get to skate on the choices she made or didn’t make and how they affected other women – Bill’s future conquests – down the line?

gty_benghazi_dm_130425_wblogBenghazi is another matter unto itself which I will not got into here.  Suffice it to say that it’s beyond indecent that a few lane closures on a local bridge – even for New York City – has garnered more media coverage than the legitimate interests of finding someone responsible for the breach of physical security that ended the lives of four Americans including an Ambassador!

It’s one thing for President Obama to declare that he is “ultimately responsible” for embassy security; but that’s simply a catchall.  Someone was more directly ultimately responsible, and that person would be in the State Department.  So when no one is held officially responsible with whom does the problem lie?

Where’s a good hunter when you need one, Elmer?

Hillary should certainly be subject to her own time in the crucible, if the mainstream media reciprocates their bottomless fascination with lane closures and three-year-old cold cases (How likely though is that?); but at least “What difference – at this point, does it make?” is going to make one cutting campaign commercial!

How Snowden turned U.S. intel into a healthcare.gov Tech-Apocalypse

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The Federalist‘s Ben Domenech wrote a great analysis of how Eric Snowden‘s revelations hurt the U.S. when he released information on U.S. international intelligence operations that really had no relation to the protection of American privacy.  It only hurt U.S. intelligence efforts around the world.

And if you really think the U.S. shouldn’t be doing this at all, as if no other countries do whatever they can to figure out what the U.S. is up to or what our interests might be internationally, you are quite the naive one!

The other interesting development from President Obama’s speech yesterday was the decision (See second paragraph.) to allow his subordinates to determine and design a system for allowing access to U.S. phone records when needed for reasons of national security.

The president said he no longer wants the National Security Agency to maintain a database of such records. But he left the creation of a new system to subordinates and lawmakers, many of whom are divided on the need for reform.

Wait a second …

Isn’t this the same creative team with the same management and executive leadership that came up with the healthcare.gov website?!?

So how well will all of you be sleeping NOW with that little nugget of info???

No man is an Island … unless an Island he is

zombie-hands

Now I know what a Zombie Apocalypse
might look like …

I stand alone.  It’s official.

At some point this week, my last hope that good parenting, a quality standard of living, and the example – so often set here – that a grounded political philosophy can hold up to any intellectual challenge was smothered in the simple act of renewing a Pennsylvania driver’s license.

My youngest son changed his voter registration to Democrat.  And he is the smart one!

Was the smart one …

How did he express his change of affiliation when asked?  “I changed my mind.”

He made it sound like he was changing his socks.

Maybe it’s a statement on my Leadership.  Maybe I didn’t politically proselytize enough when the boys were so impressionable the correct politic would have been permanently ingrained, like their Philly accents.  Maybe I made one too many mistakes as a parent.

Oh well …

So now I am surrounded.  But that’s OK.  I can take solace in the following.

    • Neither one of them votes to my knowledge; and unfortunately, getting an Absentee Ballot is about to get a lot harder for one Temple Owl!
    • Mr. Hoot is also going to love taking the Broad St Subway back to school in the company of so many of his Democrat buds!
    • The two lost offspring who still list our home as primary residence do not as yet have to buy their own healthcare on those sterling examples of Government efficacy and Democrat “know how”, those Obamacare exchanges.  (I just want to be in the room when they find out how much they will be paying!)

doctor-obamacare

    • Neither have they had to worry about supporting themselves entirely on their own, and by doing so discover just how hard it is to stay ahead of the curve all the while supporting so many who simply don’t bother trying.
    • Nor do they possess the baseline from which they can gauge all that marvelous Hope and Change to which they are obviously drawn.
    • I still hold very limited influence over my Better Half. Carol votes Republican – I think – but has little interest in changing party affiliation for some reason.

In the end, I will continue to stand as the Lion at the Gate.  Politely accepting the political materials dropped off at the house by my Democrat opposition during elections cycles and quietly sorting the mail.   Not sure why those materials never seem to arrive with their intended receivers.

I guess all’s fair in Love and Poltics!

Of course I told the house’s latest Democrat that he will always be welcomed back into the real Party of Progress … once he regains his senses!

But for now, I am the lone Grand Old Party stalwart beating back the political zombies seeking to weaken the ramparts, while keeping the inmates calm and reassuring them that they can have their political say the second Tuesday of every November!

Changing Hearts and Minds through Weakness

Leadership a foreign concept

Leadership – a foreign concept

Have to give President Barack H. Obama credit.  He has changed my mind on the prospects of taking action against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria in the face of alleged – and all but certain – use of chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians.

My nut is not an easy nut to crack.  I have long-held the personal belief that the United States held a special place in the community of nations.  It’s a place – to my own thinking and values – where a World Superpower belongs.  It’s the role that goes beyond the kind of standard-setting usually the purview of the United Nations.  It’s the role of enforcing those standards of common decency when it comes to the bitter realities of armed conflict.

A lot of Americans will categorize this simplistically as the role of World Cop.  Many disagree with me on this premise, that our country should be involved in events overseas that appear to have little or no direct impact on U.S. interests.

Those sentiments are well-founded and reflect the commonly held belief that American military personnel and U.S. treasure should be risked only in those situations linked to National Security in almost all cases.  So maybe my viewpoint is quite firmly in the minority.

Yet it is a role that in my mind comes with being a World Leader and Superpower.  It is a role we have filled many times in the past in various regions of the world in varying degrees of participation.

images-1I am not fond of unilateral U.S. action.  I do not favor the use of American boots-on-the-ground, especially in a situation like Syria.  What I look for is an American-led process of Consensus Building; the development of a common sense and purpose amongst our primary allies, major world powers, and those countries in closest proximity to the danger and most likely to be affected by any widening of a regional conflict.

My view is of the United States as The Point Man on the diplomatic front and The Muscle when it comes to the military response for which we hold a decided advantage (i.e. technological, hardware, delivery systems, weaponry).  When it comes to boots on the ground, the only enforcement situation where this should apply – in my humble opinion – is as part of a multi-national approach to a controllable environment (e.g. Bosnia; Clinton 1999) or where an immediate U.S. response would be sufficiently overwhelming (e.g. Grenada; Reagan 1983).

Now when it comes to Syria, President Obama has sufficiently altered the course of my thinking in a situation where a struggling regime gassed an overmatched military uprising and a defenseless civilian population …

… for all the wrong reasons.

Introducing the Freedom Muffin!

Introducing the Freedom Muffin!

Suddenly, under his mislaid concept of “leadership”, the U.S. looks timid, indecisive, and unfocused.  American efforts to build an International Coalition of the Willing was shot in the foot by its biggest allie (Great Britain) before it even got rolling.  (WIll we have to rename the English muffin?)

The Office of the President – long The Decider when it comes to the use of U.S. military power in short, direct, and sometimes personal (Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, 1986) responses to violations of international norms – appears confused by Britain’s rejection and unsure as to what to do next.

Instead the country’s Decider punted the issue – just as British Prime Minister David Cameron did – to the Legislator.  From my perspective, this has the look of a President hoping someone will get him off the fish-hook he firmly set in his own mouth.  When you use terms like “red line”, you had better have a plan of action with several iterations to account for unexpected developments like your Biggest International Allie getting cold feet.

The alternative, fall-back strategy?  Apparently there wasn’t one.  Which leads one to the obvious question … Who was doing the Leading?  Right now, it looks like Cameron and the Brits.

Where's Margaret Thatcher when you need her?

Where’s Margaret Thatcher when you need her?

So now Syria mocks us.

To fill the role of International Leader, you must be convinced of your Righteousness; firm in your ability to Lead, even if it means you must lead without your closest friends and allies at your side; and when all else fails, you must be prepared for bold action if necessary and if supported by the facts.

These are the kind of considerations President Obama should have kept in mind before speaking of “red lines” in August 2012.  Obviously he and his National Security team didn’t.

And this is what ultimately changed my mind.

If you can not be a strong, prepared, flexible leader, you have no business  drawing lines; making promises; and scheduling attacks when you do not have the backbone for the toughest decisions … actually sending Americans to clean up the World’s ugliest messes.

God help the Syrian people …