Browsing the archives for the Veterans tag.

The Shinseki myth and the Obama administration

Politics, US Politics

When news broke, a few days ago, that Barack Obama would appoint retired army general Eric Shinseki as head of the Department of Veteran Affairs, the choice was widely praised. “General Shinseki is widely-respected, honest and experienced,” the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said, for example. “He is a man that has always put patriotism ahead of politics, and is held in high regard by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Shinseki is a nonpartisan man, and his choice means that Democrats whose names had also circulated as possible nominees, like former Sen. Max Cleland and Tammy Duckworth, were passed over. That’s a disappointment; who wouldn’t wish Cleland, a liberal favourite, a return to national politics after the way he was smeared in his re-election campaign? But reading the accounts reminding us how Shinseki “warned Donald Rumsfeld that a large force was needed to invade Iraq,” and was dissed by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz for it, it was easy to feel reassured. Here was a brave man who had spoken up for what was right.

Or was he? On the CNN site, Jamie McIntyre takes on what he calls “one of those Washington myths that are almost impossible to dispel”. Critics of the war, he writes, “have lauded Shinseki’s prescience and his willingness to speak truth to power,” but “the facts as we know them are not nearly so complimentary to the retired Army chief”.

You see, Shinseki never made any recommendation for more troops for Iraq. [..] According to senior military officers who were in the pre-war meetings, Shinseki never objected to the war plans, and he didn’t press for any changes.

When the joint chiefs were asked point-blank by then-Chairman Gen. Richard Meyers if they had any concerns about the plans before they went to the president, Shinseki kept silent.

[He] was a very private leader who did media briefings only when ordered to and rarely gave interviews. If he had concerns about the Iraq war plans, he kept them to himself. [..]

Knowing his opinions were not particularly welcome, Shinseki kept his mouth shut.

None of this, of course, means he will not be a good V.A. Secretary. It is not disputed that he is a very intelligent and experienced man, with a heart for the military. It also doesn’t mean that Shinseki didn’t, in fact, disagree strongly with Rumsfeld; he probably did. But a man who spoke truth to power, maybe not so much.

Which makes his appointment seem in line, in some ways, with those of people like Tim Geithner, Jim Jones and Robert Gates. Exceedingly smart inside players, who seem to have had a keen sense of what was going wrong even as they were themselves to some degree part of it; but who were indeed part of those ventures that went so wrong, whether it was financial deregulation or the Iraq war, and who were cautious, maybe overcautious, in approaching the matter.

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The 10 cities with the highest percentage of veterans: how did they vote?

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

On the occasion of Veterans Day, Facing South last week had a post up about veterans in the South and veteran care. Part of the post was a list of the “10 Cities with Highest Percentage of Veterans”. Nine turn out to be in the South. 

It made me curious: Southern cities with a high percentage of veterans, those can’t have been the most promising locales for the Obama surge, can they? The lone non-Southern city was the conservative redoubt of Colorado Springs, after all.

Looking up the results for the counties in question yielded an unexpected mish-mash of votes, however.

First, here is the list of the top 10 cities and the counties they are in – note that in Virginia, the cities are their own counties. (For a methodological note, see footnote 1).)

Table 1: Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000

Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000

Now for the election results from 2004 and this year in those top 10 cities that had the highest share of veterans in 2000 (respectively the counties they are in). As said, it’s a very mixed picture:

Table 2: Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000 (resp. the county they are in): how did they vote in 2004 and 2008?

Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000 (resp. the county they are in): how did they vote in 2004 and 2008?

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What Does “Support the Troops” Mean to McCain?

McCain Speaking at a Veterans Day Event in South Carolina

McCain Speaking at a Veteran's Day Event in South Carolina

John McCain presents himself as the champion of the military.  The truth is the complete opposite.  Brandon Friedman over at Huffington Post has collected a list of McCain’s votes for veterans and it’s truly scary. Worse, it reflects a type of military elitism that the press will never recognize, but that those of us who have served see all the time. McCain’s father and grandfather were admirals and he made captain. That’s rarified territory in the US military and far from the high school grads looking to trade in service for the growth in skills and maturity that the military can offer. No where was this more evident than in McCain’s opposition to the new GI Bill.

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