Shinseki: No Trial Balloons

Athenae, always the wordsmith, captures the beauty of the Eric Shinseki pick to lead Veterans Affairs.

Obama To Bush

"How would you like to SUCK MY BALLS?"

Spencer, writing with the seriousness and respect Shinseki deserves, has more.

To say this is an inspired choice underscores its magnitude. Shinseki’s personal courage and virtue are close to unparalleled in the current generation of general officers. He knows the sacrifices of war personally, as he left part of his right foot in Vietnam. The new generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans — already underserved by the country that sent them to war — can know that he has their backs. After all, before the war began, he all but ended his career (Rumsfeld had announced his successor months before after they feuded over the Crusader artillery system) by telling Congress that the indefinite occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of troops to keep the peace, far beyond the antiseptic and now-discredited estimates of the Bush administration. At his retirement ceremony, Shinseki gave a prescient and impassioned speech imploring the Pentagon to "beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division Army."

Last year, an exemplary soldier named Paul Yingling wrote a scathing essay indicting the generals who acquiesced to the Bush administration’s inadequate plans for the occupation. It was titled "A Failure in Generalship." Yingling accused the current generation of generals of cowardice, egotism, careerism and dereliction of duty, putting self-interested deference to the administration before integrity, intellectual honesty and service to both the frontline soldier, sailor, airman and marine and the country itself. Ric Shinseki was the man who stood against this unfortunate trend, and he paid for his integrity with his career. To see him vindicated is to witness a proud moment in American history.

But there’s one more point I’d like to make. 

Perhaps it’s because I’m not tied into veterans circles (so it may be that I’ve just missed it), but this is the first major nomination Obama has made for which he hasn’t first sent out a trial balloon: Chief of Staff, Treasury, State, DNI, even Commerce. Even at AG, DHS, and NSA, there were public discussions about who he would pick ahead of time. 

This time around, the news didn’t get out until the Saturday evening before Obama went on MTP to announce it, at a time when the choice was already made. 

That does two things. First, it focuses attention on Obama’s timing: the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

More deliciously, if you’re going to say "suck my balls" to someone, including the element of surprise really adds to the effect.

26 replies
  1. BlueStateRedHead says:

    Hi EW.

    I am OT here. but as the only commenter, OT is better than NoT.

    A couple of weeks agao a new to us poster offered a comment that BMAZ highlighted about HRC’s value in the DOD/State relationship. IIRC, it included thoughts about a strong SoS reenabling among other things the mobility that DOD had denied them (which is why they had turned to Blackwater). You later diarized about the comment, methinks. Handle began with n.

    Trying to get a friend to come to the lake and my description of this comment that got him interested. Find the comment as we clinch the deal.

  2. phred says:

    Thanks for the post EW. Shinseki is an inspired choice. Now if we can just get Obama to reconsider his economic team ; )

    • MadDog says:

      Whether probable or not, an excellent thought!

      Oh and in all due respect to the great Athenae, we must all steal borrow that Bronx cheer to Junya:

      “How would you like to SUCK MY BALLS?”

  3. Mary says:

    The only balls in my house are dog toys, so there’s not much in it for me to make that query, but I’m glad to see Shinseki get a slot. I’d also like to see Taguba and some of the Generals who had to retire to speak out also get some kind of appropriate kudos/rewards.

      • brantl says:

        I think that he should order Lt. Watada’s expenses reimbursed and that he be paid any back pay due him, order him promoted and then give him his options on whether he’d like to leave the service, or not. I also don’t think Watada needs to be “pardoned” as he’s done absolutely nothing wrong.

  4. Arbusto says:

    While I agree with the statement”…the current generation of generals of cowardice, egotism, careerism and dereliction of duty, putting self-interested deference to the administration before integrity, intellectual honesty and service…” what did Shinseki do for the Service or our country by remaining a “good soldier” after his forced retirement. Did he speak out or counter the talking head military experts on Fox, CNN, News Hour, etc. Not that I ever found. No, he collected his retirement pay and kept silent.

    Will he be a good VA secretary? Well, like Obama, any change is an improvement over the current head.

    • Jkat says:

      Did he speak out or counter the talking head military experts on Fox, CNN, News Hour, etc. Not that I ever found. No, he collected his retirement pay and kept silent.

      if you’ll read the UCMJ you might discover why he didn’t ..

    • PJEvans says:

      I believe that it’s been pointed out many times, in many blogs, that they are forbidden to speak out before retirement. (They can be punished after retirement, too, but it’s not required then.)

      • Arbusto says:

        Sorry, that begs the question why didn’t Generals Odom or Clark face Courts Martial for speaking out. The other question is why is it ok to support the lies of Rummy and the DoD, as the Military Talking Heads did, to the detriment of our armed forces and Iraqi civilians, and face no consequences?

        • Nell says:

          why didn’t Generals Odom or Clark face Courts Martial for speaking out

          Because they were already retired when they spoke out.

          What is it you’re not understanding about that?

  5. johnSwifty22 says:

    The primary selection of Shinseki would have to be because he is undeniably one of the very, very best people suited for the job. A potential side benefit can, of course, be described as the aforementioned metaphorical ball sucking proposition to the outgoing administration. The administration that was singularly pronounced in discrediting Shinseki’s opinion of Iraq war troop requirement which, in retrospect, managed to show two very distinct things: one) Shinseki’s knowledge and experience allowed him to project troop estimate requirements that were dead-nuts on in complete opposition to the administration attempting to discredit him; and; two) that administration decidedly deserves to be invited to suck the collective balls (or some other sign of abject subservience) to anyone with a brain.

    So, while the Obama transition team might not have intended to make ball-sucking metaphors the primary focal point of the Shinseki selection, it is certainly a fact that a vast need for ball-sucking requests do exist vis a vis the outgoing administration.

    That being said, it is highly unlikely that the outgoing administration will be able to comprehend the subtleties of a metaphorical ball-sucking proposition, particularly when it is only an adjunct occurrence to an otherwise very serious and necessary Secretary selection, for reasons alluded to earlier. Very few in the outgoing administration possess what could be considered a brain; particularly a brain capable of discerning the subtleties of metaphor. Fortunately, David Brooks will be available to do just this sort of translation for the remaining remnants of the neo-con faction. This is fortunate for Brooks, as well, because his particular brand of intelligent idiocy does not appear to have a future; but perhaps he can make hay explaining the past to the morons who made the present what it is. Tell them about the sucking, Mr. Brooks, and tell them to suck hard!

  6. rosalind says:

    ot: a good article in the LA Times focusing on GM’s intertwined foreign & domestic car production.

    The president of GM’s Colombia unit, Santiago Chamorro, worries that news of problems in the U.S. could scare away car buyers in South America. “Bankruptcy is not in the interests of our employees, shareholders, suppliers or clients,” he said.


  7. KiwiJackson says:

    Who better than Gen. Shinseki to understand U.S. veterans needs. Ric Shinseki was wounded 3 times in Vietnam and left part of his foot over there.

    All sucking of balls aside a superb choice to head the VA.

  8. radiofreewill says:

    Because the Uniqueness of Bush’s UE Claim – Executive Secretly Elevated Above and Immunized From The Law – rested upon Bush being both President and Commander-in-Chief in a Time of War – Our Military has been walking the Most Dangerous of Fine Lines: Loyalty to an Unlimited President of Questionable Character, or Protection of the Rule of Law, and thus their own Fellow Citizens – the People – as in the “We the People” part of the Constitution.

    The selection of Gen. Shinseki by President-Elect Obama is a Strong Move that Supports the Military returning to its Professional Fighting Force Mission given in the Constitution, and Away from Bush’s Police-Action, Nation-Building, Ideology-Projecting, mis-use of Our Military.

    Thankfully, imvho, it was the Military who recognized that Loyalty beyond Principle Destroys the Will to Fight. If the Military hadn’t taken it’s own measures to protect itself from Bush’s Lack of Character – by aligning itself behind Stronger Leadership than Myers and Pace – then they almost certainly would have devolved into the Banana Republic Thuggery that Bush’s “leadership-style” demands.

    One of the Prime Fighting Principles of Our American Professional Military has always been “We don’t leave anyone behind.”

    Bush put no more thought into Vets Health Care than he put into Pre-Invasion Force Levels or Post-Invasion Governance – he just wanted to play 6-Star General and use All the Toys for a few months…before putting it all back in the box like it never happened.

    And so, after yet Another Example of Bush’s Lifelong Pattern of Obsessive-Personal-Interest/Extreme-Human-Neglect: Sending Troops to Liberate Iraq from Tyranny/Can’t Be Bothered with Vets Health Care – with President-Elect Obama’s selection of Gen. Shinseki, Our Troops – especially Our Iraq and Afghanistan Vets – are Hearing our New Leadership Say Loudly and Clearly – Enough! – We’re not going to Leave Our Good Men and Women on the Battlefield (where Bush dropped them)…We’re bringing them All Back and Honoring their Sacrifice with the Care and Thanks of the Nation.

    The Military under Bush has been in a tough spot during the UE-era. It’s perfectly understandable that they bent in the wind of Bush’s Hubris, but it’s also terrifically inspiring that they didn’t break and become Bush’s Un-Principled Strong Arm, either.

    I think the Military probably had several, or more, opportunities to fall-over that Fine Line, but to their Great and Everlasting Credit they didn’t, and there’s every reason to think they Saved the Republic with their Solid Character and Good Judgment because of it, too.

    Our Professional Military Didn’t Fail US – the Depraved and Craven Bush did.

  9. njr83 says:

    Saturday evening Obama was interviewed and said “tomorrow I will name” and named Shinseki and his attributes, the host prefaced a question with the disagreement with Rumsfeld’s numbers… Obama cut him off and instead of listening to a question firmly stated “He was right” It’s the closest I’ve heard Obama come to barking. It was the closest I’ve seen to him putting up with NO GUFF.

  10. Gerald says:

    General (Ret.) Shinseki is a good and honorable man.

    There are others too.

    You must realize that sometimes a man must make the choice of either being a public gadfly or doing his job superbly well and protecting his men and his country.

    If good men in the military spoke up immediately whenever the opportunity to cross the White House came up, we wouldn’t have any good men in the military. And that wouldn’t be a good thing.

  11. Leen says:

    When you listen and watch people like Shensiki (listened to him testify before the invasion) and Comey etc it gives one hope in the integrity of our country and military.

    Shinseki inspires! Have been talking with the Vet circles of folks I have the pleasure of knowing. They feel inspired by Obama’s choice

  12. timbo says:

    My guess they’re grooming Shinseki for DoD Secretary after they figure out what the situation is. It’s a great stick if you think about it–Gates has to do everything like Obama sez by the book and instanter or…!!! Obama’s first political move as a really, really tough politician in Washington. My guess that the sycophantile GOs are going to be cringing for awhile…plus, it will be fascinating to see what Shinseki thinks of their retirement bonus requests! And, yeah, it happened on Dec 7th…

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