Tag Archives: commander in chief

It all starts at the top

I happen to admire John Kelly greatly. The White House chief of staff is a man of tremendous honor who has served his country — our country — with distinction and valor.

The retired Marine Corps general has given too much. His son died on an Afghanistan battlefield, which hands him the title of Gold Star father. Gen. Kelly spoke with great eloquence today in talking about a phone call that Donald Trump made to the widow of a soldier who was killed in an ambush in Niger. He praised the president and expressed “shock” and “heartbreak” that a member of Congress would discuss publicly the content of that phone call.

I want to disagree with great respect to Gen. Kelly on a particular point, however. The president of the United States — Kelly’s boss — is the man who made this a public issue. It was Trump who stated that previous presidents didn’t generally call the loved ones who died in battle.

So, we can debate whether Rep. Frederica Wilson spoke out of turn. We can argue over the propriety of her to interject herself into this highly sensitive and emotional issue.

However, as is his habit, the president chose to make this an issue in the first place because of his own untrue statements regarding how his immediate predecessors performed the heart-wrenching task of serving as commander in chief.

How many more ‘worst weeks’ can POTUS endure?

It’s been said over the past couple of days that Donald J. Trump’s list of “worst weeks of his presidency” has become too numerous to count. Suffice to say that the week just past likely qualifies as his last “worst week.”

They rioted in Charlottesville, Va., over a Confederate statue. A young woman — someone who was there to protest the neo-Nazi/Klan/white supremacists who objected to the removal of the statue — was run over in what has been called an act of “domestic terrorism.” The president first blamed “many sides” for the violence; then he blamed the KKK and neo-Nazis for it; then he blamed “both sides” and accused the “alt-left” of provoking an angry response from the Nazis/KKK.

It got real crappy for the president.

A new week is about to convene for the commander in chief and he’s got a chance — or so it appears — to do something right. He’s going to speak to the nation at 8 p.m. (CDT) Monday to announce a new “strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia.”

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years, the longest stretch of open warfare in the nation’s history. The 9/11 terrorists declared war on the United States and President Bush responded quickly. The war continued through his two terms and through two terms of Barack Obama’s presidency.

What is the current president going to tell us? Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis would reveal it. He chose wisely to leave it to the president to make his own announcement.

What should Trump do? My sincere hope was that we could end the contest in Afghanistan. That won’t happen. The war we’ve fought there hasn’t produced the ironclad strength in the government we installed when we threw the Taliban out of power in 2001.

The nation will wait to hear from the president about how he intends to continue prosecuting this war. That’s his call.

I’ll just ask one favor: Please, Mr. President, stick to the issue at hand and spare us yet another boasting of how smart you are, how rich you are, how many “really smart people” surround you, and how you won the presidency against all odds.

We’ve got young Americans in harm’s way, Mr. President, and now is the time to present yourself as a commander in chief who knows what the hell he’s doing.

Stand tall, David Frum

David Frum has emerged as my newest favorite conservative thinker/writer/pundit/analyst.

I actually have become enamored over the years with a number of such folks: William F. Buckley, William Safire, Peggy Noonan, George F. Will, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, Jennifer Rubin all come to mind. They are great thinkers, solid in their beliefs, but not crazy.

Now we have David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He’s also a persistent critic of Donald J. Trump, who’s come along to become president of the United States. He has been astonished — along with many of his fellow Americans — at how wholly unprepared Trump is to serve as president and commander in chief.

The president said in an interview with Reuters that the office to which was elected is tougher than he thought it would be.

Who knew?

Frum’s response — delivered in a series of tweets — is utterly classic.

Here it is. http://occupydemocrats.com/2017/04/28/trump-just-whined-hard-job-bushs-speechwriters-response-epic/


How do ex-presidents cope with it all?

Try putting yourself into a spot that most of us — at least everyone within my sphere of friends and acquaintances — will never experience.

That would be transferring oneself instantaneously from being the most powerful human being on Earth to being just another ordinary guy.

My mind does tend to wander into strange places at times. This is one of them.

After the election of a new president, I try to transport myself into the shoes of the individual who goes from being Somebody to a relative Nobody. How does that feel? Is there a palpable, discernible sense of great weight being lifted from one’s shoulders? Is there a temptation to thumb one’s nose at the successor or offer a snarky “Take it away, pal”?

Or is there a temptation to worry oneself silly over this or that crisis?

Barack Obama might be feeling a little weird today as he continues his transition to husband, father, son-in-law, friend, next-door neighbor.

MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews — who in a previous life served as a speechwriter for President Carter and was on hand to watch his boss hand it over to President Reagan in 1981 — offered an observation the other day I found so very fascinating.

He said the Secret Service presidential detail keeps its eyes riveted on the commander in chief and his immediate surroundings at all times. On Inauguration Day, their attention shifts dramatically at the instant the chief justice of the Supreme Court says, “Congratulations, Mr. President” to the new head of state.

It’s a ritual repeated with utmost precision and without the slightest impact on the event that’s taking place. It happened this past Friday as Barack Obama passed the baton to Donald Trump.

We’ve been focused, quite naturally, on the new president’s activities — and the protests that have greeted his arrival on center stage.

For reasons, though, that have little to do with my affection for the most recent former president, I will hope he adjusts as smoothly to a “normal life” as he did when he became the focus of billions of us living on Planet Earth.

This farewell won’t be your usual farewell

I miss Barack H. Obama already … and he’s still on the job as president of the United States.

Tonight, though, he’s going to bid us all farewell in a speech delivered in Chicago. I don’t usually remember specifics of presidential farewells, other than recalling how I felt in real time as they were delivering them.


I anticipate a mixed feeling tonight as I listen to President Obama recount his successes and, perhaps, his failures. As with all presidents, they have their high- and low-water marks.

My appreciation for this man hinges on the dignity he brought to the office. He stood proudly as the leader of the free world and as commander in chief. He seemed to wear both titles well, which is saying something for the latter, given that he didn’t serve in the military. He brought a certain bearing to that role.

I trust, too, he’ll remind us yet again about how difficult life had gotten in this country when he became president. He’ll tell us of the measures he pushed through Congress to stimulate a collapsing economy.

Yes, I’ll miss him.

It might be as well that my feelings for Barack Obama — and his family — are tinged in large measure by the feeling I harbor toward his successor. I won’t belabor that particular point here, except to say that the juxtaposition of those two emotions highlights and underscores my sense of sadness as I watch the current president say goodbye.

I won’t predict that we’ll hear a signature phrase that we’ll take away from this speech tonight, but neither will I be surprised to hear one. I guess the most memorable of those phrases in my lifetime came from President Eisenhower, a one-time general of the Army and hero of World War II, who warned of the “military-industrial complex” wielding too much power in the future.

Imagine such an admonition, coming from Ike, of all people!

It’ll be a watershed moment to be sure.

POTUS pays glowing tribute to those ‘who do the work’

Barack Obama said it as well as it can possibly be said.

The president bid farewell this week to the men and women who serve and protect us. They wear the uniform of the “greatest military in the history of the world,” he said.

The president reminded them — and the rest of the nation — that he is the “front man.” As commander in chief of that awesome military establishment, he gets his share of the credit for the successes achieved in defense of the nation.

“You do the work,” he told the men and women who he served as commander in chief.

Americans heard a lot of rhetoric during the recent presidential campaign about a military establishment in decline. They heard from the president-elect, who declared he knows “more about ISIS than the general.” Americans were subjected to put-downs and insults of our military forces who fight every day against international terrorists.

That kind of characterization does them a profound disservice.

I was glad to hear the commander in chief say the things he said to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, to Vice President Joe Biden, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the service secretaries and to the warriors who take essentially the same oath taken by the president himself.

President Obama also stated correctly that the young Americans who answer the call to put themselves in harm’s way “are among the greatest generations.”

Let us never forget what they do.

Thank you as well, Mr. President, for your service to the country.

What does Don King bring to the discussion?

I will concede that even presidents-elect are entitled to take some time off from preparing for office.

Donald J. Trump, though, isn’t your normal commander in chief-in-waiting. The guy knows nothing about government; damn little about policy; I truly wonder if he has laid eyes on the U.S. Constitution.

He ought to be spending, therefore, all his waking hours talking to serious experts about the task he is about to assume. He’s going to become president of the United States of America.

Who, then, is he palling around with in Florida? Don King, boxing promoter, convicted criminal, a flim-flam artist extraordinaire.

I cannot help but wonder: What in the name of all that is holy does Don King bring to the president-elect’s stable of experts?

Nothing, man!

Trump’s got just a few more days before he stands on the stage in front of the U.S. Capitol Building and takes a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

Get busy, Mr. President-elect, and learn about the job of governing the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

And yes, sir, we’re still the greatest nation on Earth.

To salute or not to salute?

I’ve wondered about previous presidents and whether they would adhere to a particular protocol, so I’ll ask it once again about the next president: Will the new commander in chief return military salutes given by the men and women in uniform who are required to salute him?

I’ll presume that Donald J. Trump knows how to snap a salute. He attended a military high school, which he once said was virtually the same as serving in the military. I’m betting young Donald’s instructors taught him how to salute.

Believe me when I tell you this: It’s something one never forgets how to do. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle … you know?

Of all the presidents in my lifetime — I was born during the Truman administration — I can recall only four commanders in chief who would return the salute: Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Of those men, only two — Presidents Reagan and Bush — had actual military experience; Reagan, I regret to say, would snap what a friend of mine (a retired Army major) would call a “Hollywood salute.”

All the rest of the presidents during my lifetime, didn’t return the salute, not even President Eisenhower, the former general of the Army and supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II. Nor did President Kennedy, a Navy officer who saw intense combat in the Pacific Theater. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Bush 41 all served on active duty. They didn’t salute, either.

And so the question will persist as we await a new commander in chief. There’s no rule that requires a president to return the military salute.

It is my own personal belief that the commander chief, despite his civilian status, should return the salute as a matter of courtesy to those who are fulfilling their obligation as military personnel.

Still, I’ll await the next president to see how he treats the servicemen and women who serve under his command.

Putin gets high praise — again! — from Trump


I’m  trying to imagine the outcry — indeed, the outrage! — we would hear if, say, a young U.S. senator from Illinois running for president in 2008 had denigrated the quality of leadership provided by an American president while praising a ham-handed dictator’s leadership style.

What would be the Republican reaction if Barack Obama had done that? What might the GOP establishment think of a candidate for the U.S. presidency holding up someone such as Russian strongman Vladimir Putin?

The current GOP nominee, Donald J. Trump, did as much Wednesday night while taking part in that commander in chief forum sponsored by NBC News.


Trump told NBC’s Matt Lauer that Putin is a better leader than President Obama.

I am trying to fathom that context.

He talked about the “great control” Putin has over his country. Really?

He said Putin enjoys an 82 percent approval rating in Russia. Seriously?

Trump said he takes Putin’s lavish praise of the real estate mogul as “a compliment, OK?” Give me a break.

Aren’t the Russians supposed to be a major world adversary, if not an outright enemy? And this clown — Trump, I mean — thinks Putin’s leadership style is worthy of praise?

I’m trying to catch my breath.

Commander in chief test? Trump’s already failed it


Politico asks in a story whether Donald J. Trump will flunk the commander in chief test.

Republican Party brass is terrified, Politico reports, of Trump getting nominated and then having to answer difficult questions regarding national security.

Trump already has failed that test, in my oh-so-humble view.

In spades.

Time and again on the campaign trail, Trump has exhibited a shocking ignorance of such things as the “nuclear triad,” which is the nation’s three-pronged nuclear weapons system involving land-based missiles, submarine-based missiles and bombs dropped from aircraft.

He cannot articulate with anything approaching precision how he intends to solve the myriad defense-related issues. His answer to illegal immigration is to “build a wall” and “make Mexico pay for it.”

He praises leaders such as Russian leader Vladimir Putin and — get this — North Korean despot/maniac Kim Jong Un for their “leadership” skills.

But I keep coming back to the wackiness of this campaign.

It has produced surprise upon surprise all along the way.

Trump has been criticized by leading conservatives for not understanding the details of foreign and military policy. Never mind what progressives are saying about him; it goes without saying that they would be highly critical of the real estate mogul/reality TV personality.

Before you get all twisted up, I’m also well aware of those who believe the current president has failed the commander in chief test — while he’s been on the job. I simply do not share that criticism.

I totally get that one man’s buffoon is another man’s statesman.

You know where Trump fits in that equation as far as I’m concerned.