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May 27, 2009

Obama’s flip-flops for combat boots

Kevin E. Dayhoff

When President Barack Obama took office, even the most politically unengaged citizen knew huge changes were afoot in the look and feel of the American presidency and our nation’s future. For those who voted according to a particular candidate’s national defense outlook, who knew that our new president would wear flip-flops for combat boots.


For the American voter who pulls the lever behind the curtain according to economic and national defense issues, the shiver on Inauguration Day last January was not just from the bone-chilling cold.


It came from the hope and fear of the coming months and years in which we would be able to see just exactly who is this unknown, untested, inexperienced, enigmatic man that is, who was about to have such a profound impact upon our pocketbook and our safety.


As for economic policy, President Obama has, so far, been everything that was feared – and so much more.


However, when it comes to national defense, the journey of the last 125 days or so has been a strange trip indeed.


On national-security matters, the president has been, well, bewildering. However, that has not been such a bad thing.


Many had hoped that once he took office, he would realize the folly of his idealistic populist election campaign pronouncements and tack a different course.


After all, in the education of President Obama, it was predicted that he would soon have a rude awakening and learn that governance is not as easy as campaigning.


In a recent Wall Street Journal commentary, “Flip-Flops and Governance – Our president isn't quite as advertised,” Karl Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, called President Obama’s approach, in office, to national-security, “a stunning and welcome about-face…”


Mr. Rove elaborated at great length, “Making adjustments in office is one thing. Constantly governing in direct opposition to what you said as a candidate is something else. Mr. Obama's flip-flops on national security have been wise; on the domestic front, they have been harmful…


“In both cases, though, we have learned something about Mr. Obama. What animated him during the campaign is what historian Forrest McDonald once called ‘the projection of appealing images…’ Such an approach can work in a campaign, as Mr. Obama discovered. But it can also complicate life once elected, as he is finding out.”


Mark Tapscott was even more animated in his observations on Tuesday in The Washington Examiner, “President Obama following Bush lead on key terrorism issues.”


“Like being shot at and missed, the prospect of being called to account by voters for supporting President Obama’s planned closing of Guantanamo Bay and relocating its 240 War on Terror detainees to prison facilities here in America apparently concentrates the mind of U.S. senators,” wrote Mr. Tapscott.


Even the equally enigmatic Democrat Virginia Sen. Jim Webb has had a strange epiphany of sorts. For those who have assiduously followed his career, it is easily understood that Senator Webb is a walking, talking, one person circular firing squad, who knows nation defense issues; but all too often he gets distracted by the populist cracked mirror in which he gazes at his navel.


Mr. Tapscott calls to our attention on May 17 Senator Webb’s case against the Obama plan.


“We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases. There are cases against international law. These aren't people who were in the United States, committing a crime in the United States. These are people who were brought to Guantanamo for international terrorism. I do not believe they should be tried in the United States.”


As noted by many news accounts in addition to Mr. Tapscott’s on-the-money editorial, just three days later “the Senate voted 90-6 against funding Obama’s proposal, even though it was a centerpiece of his 2008 presidential campaign. Obama still insists that closing Gitmo is the right thing to do, but Congress has delivered a clear message.”


Read it again. That was 90-6. There is not enough expedient political spin in the world to smooth that over.


Of course, if you want to have the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 atrocities – and the gentleman who beheaded Daniel Pearl; senior Al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri held in the Frederick County Detention Center, by all means, please speak up.


One can only be sure that they are great guys and could good work in the community on work release. They are just misunderstood.


Abu Zubaydah, if you will recall, was one of the “28 Arabs linked to Osama bin Laden of conspiracy to carry out terrorist attacks on U.S. and Israeli targets in Jordan,” according to allegations made by Jordan's military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Mahmoud Obeidat, on April 20, 2000.


Next time you travel abroad, consider that Abu Zubaydah, hopefully still in custody, was one of the 28 who has “‘plotted to destabilize public security’ and ‘possessed and manufactured explosives’ to use unlawfully against U.S. interests and Israeli and American tourists…”


Allegedly, according to a classified FBI report, this is the gentleman who was involved in the planning to blow-up the airport in Los Angeles.


Heckfire, he could do work release by doing odd maintenance work at the Frederick airport?


Well, maybe not. Besides, it has been suggested that he still isn’t feeling well after his capture in Pakistan on March 28, 2002. He was allegedly shot by an AK-47 in the stomach, thigh, and testicles. How perfect?


However, one must keep in mind that Scott Shane wrote in The New York Times on April 17 that during Abu Zubaydah’s questioning “at a secret C.I.A. prison in Thailand,” it has been “asserted that the brutal treatment (he received) may have been “unnecessary.”


That his real name is Zein al-Abideen Mohamed Hussein, and that he “was not a leader, but rather a helpful training camp personnel clerk who would arrange false documents and travel for jihadists, including Qaeda members.”


That’s it; he could clerk on work release at the Frederick Department of Planning and Zoning.


Although other accounts suggest that “Abu Zubaydah gave up perhaps his single most valuable piece of information early, naming Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom he knew as Mukhtar, as the main organizer of the 9/11 plot.”


Speaking of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, he is the, no doubt, a misunderstood, gentleman who is charged with participating in the planning and preparation for the attack on the USS Cole in the Port of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. Is he still in custody?


Mr. al-Nashiri could teach swimming – and boating – lessons with parks and recreation, if he were to be available.


If you will recall, it was the planning by al-Nashiri that precipitated the attack that killed 17 sailors, wounded 47 more, and severely damaged the ship; however, didn’t President Obama intervene on his behalf?


Oh, that’s so special? No word if President Obama plans to speak with this gentleman personally. That’ll do the trick.


Oh, did I mention that although President Obama has flip-flopped on certain national-security matters, his leadership remains a mixed bag.


Military personnel and members of the intelligence community have been known to whisper carefully that they remain skeptical as to whether or not President Obama, or the Democrat leadership of Congress, has their back.


In spite of his two steps forward, in the correct direction, and then three steps backward, many civilians also continue to worry whether or not this president has our backs as well – or will we be considered expendable when it is otherwise politically expedient to promote the radical liberal politics of appeasement of the extreme left wing of the Democrat Party.


Actually, may we all pray that President Obama continues his love affair with flip-flops for footwear.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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