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CNN's Helen Thomas to Obama: Admit Failure in Afghanistan

Today CNN is running an opinion piece that offers up five valuable lessons to President Obama from veteran reporter Helen Thomas. The article is clearly labeled as opinion so my usual observations about media bias are not a concern here.

Some of the initial points are just fine. For example, she implores President Obama to be open about his administration's policy making process.

Presidents usually come into office vowing to conduct the most open administration in history. In the White House pressroom, we tend to snicker at such promises. They are not kept.

The openness or secrecy of an administration depends on the president. It is your job, Mr. President, to set the tone and lay down the rules for how your White House staff views the public's right to the truth.

There is subtext in the following paragraphs that scolds the White House for its battle against FOXNews. All well and good.

Then Ms. Thomas turns her attention to Afghanistan and suggests the following.

The theme of your campaign was summed up by the title of one of your books, "The Audacity of Hope." You've given us hope, Mr. President. Now show us the audacity.

In Afghanistan, Mr. President, you risk repeating Lyndon Johnson's disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War after listening too much to the generals. Again, the Pentagon wants more troops for a tricky war, vowing success in Afghanistan if you only agree. That's what the British and the Russians thought before they utterly failed to subdue their foes in Afghanistan's difficult terrain

Have courage to resist such pleas if your instincts say otherwise, Mr. President. That is why the founders of our nation put a civil servant in charge of the military. You are the decision-maker, not the follower.

While it is true that blindly putting your trust in any adviser is a dangerous path, I can't help but notice the tone here. Your generals are wrong, Mr. Obama. Generals have always been wrong. Is the suggestion that generals are nothing but a bunch of warmongers and only have one suggestions, regardless of the circumstances?

President Obama is in a difficult place in that he has no prior military policy experience and his previous evaluations as a senator--we have lost Iraq--have proven to be inaccurate. Who then should he listen to? Joe Biden? The same Joe Biden who's counter-terrorism plan couldn't find a single supporter in the Pentagon? Apparently he should listen to Helen Thomas. I am not exactly sure how an distinguished career as a White House reporter qualifies her to make such advice. When I see Helen Thomas, I don't think 'military strategy expert' ...


... but I will let you decide for yourself.


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Comments (17)

Helen Thomas is living (?) ... (Below threshold)

Helen Thomas is living (?) proof that one can stay on the national stage too long. Helen evidently has the opinion that it is the military who start wars. As for Barry, he's in a difficult place precisely because he has NO experience in anything, other than running for political office.

Over half, possibly more, o... (Below threshold)
recovering liberal democrat:

Over half, possibly more, of the Democrats think "O" should follow her advice. Pathetic.

Helen Thomas is living (?) ... (Below threshold)
Not Quite A Zombie - Helen Thomas:

Helen Thomas is living (?)
Posted by GarandFan | October 25, 2009 3:45 PM |

Why yes I'm alive and well by my standards.
I'm up to 5,000 volts of electricity to get the heart going in he morning.

Ms Thomas needs to recogniz... (Below threshold)

Ms Thomas needs to recognize the problem isn't because Obama is listening too much to his generals. Apparently it's next to impossible for them to get face time with him. On the contrary, they seem to be giving him the analysis that would best lead to progress. I resent Ms Thomas' inference otherwise. If there is any reason to get out it is because Obama is not a president who has the most basic capacity to make tough, confident decisions and to own those decisions that allow the United States to make progress in Afghanistan. All of his bravado on the campaign trail regarding this 'just' war has not translated at all into purposeful action since becoming president. I absolutely hate the thought of the United Sates giving up again as in Vietnam, but Obama has no heart in this at all and it is exceedingly depressing. The American public, for the most part, remains unimpressed with the number of times they were lied to during Obama's campaign.

. . .you risk repe... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
. . .you risk repeating Lyndon Johnson's disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War after listening too much to the generals.

Johnson didn't listen to his generals, but tried to manage the war from the White House. The lesson from the first gulf war is that to win a military victory the President sets goals and then gets out of the way and lets the professionals conduct the war. That worked for the second gulf war as far is defeating Saddam's military machine. Yes, there should have been more troops sooner, but you have to remember that the U.S. positioned the needed troops in Turkey and it was the government of Turkey that prevented them from entering Iraq. Nation building is relatively easy once order and security are achieved, it just takes a lot of money.

If Obama wants to win in Afghanistan he needs to provide the military with what they need to do the job and then get out of their way and let them do it. Yes it will cost lots of money. The alternatives are to either cut and run, or dither around and pass the problem on to the next President.

Ms. Thomas' ideaologies are... (Below threshold)

Ms. Thomas' ideaologies are different from mine and I rarely agree with her, but of course I do here. What I DO like about her is that at least she's sticking it to Obama as she would any president. She's telling him to man up and quit posturing. I'm starting to like that old bird on that basis alone.

I should clarify that I agr... (Below threshold)

I should clarify that I agree with her telling him he needs to shut up on the hope and audacity thing and act. I DON'T agree with her that he shouldn't listen to his generals. That's what he's not doing already and he needs to or we're toast!

"When I see Helen Thomas, I... (Below threshold)

"When I see Helen Thomas, I don't think 'military strategy expert' ..."

I do. After all, she is an old battle axe.

Helen Thomas is an expert o... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Helen Thomas is an expert on Afghanistan. After all she sees the rocky mountains, steep valleys, desert wastelands, and barren hillsides every morning when she looks into the mirror.

Helen Thomas belongs in a m... (Below threshold)
Victory is Ours:

Helen Thomas belongs in a mental institution according to this well respected writer".



fishc**t... (Below threshold)


Helen Thomas has declared d... (Below threshold)

Helen Thomas has declared defeat in virtually every military conflict since Antietam.

Dementia had obviously set ... (Below threshold)

Dementia had obviously set in... Right after WW1.

Put here face on leaflets d... (Below threshold)

Put here face on leaflets dropped on the Taliban and Al Qaeda that she is virgin they will get from Allah. Victory is ours!

Ken, "Put here fac... (Below threshold)


"Put here face on leaflets dropped on the Taliban and Al Qaeda that she is virgin they will get from Allah. Victory is ours!"


Uggggh! I dont doubt Shes a vigin but...? Yeah, that'll work!

Such a non-elected, histori... (Below threshold)

Such a non-elected, historical figure, just makes you believe that everything is going to be all right.

What ticks me off is Obama'... (Below threshold)

What ticks me off is Obama's speeches when he say he will take long careful deliberation before he send troops into harm's way. Doesn't he know troops are already in harm's way and what he deciding now is wither to send in reinforcement or not. When Obama talks it as if we are not at war yet.






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