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« Obama's Last Press Conference of the Year | Main | Rubio Misses Cloture Vote on Omnibus Because Of Course »
December 18, 2015

Chuck Hagel, The Idiot Who Thought He Could Work With Obama, Talks About Obama's Ineptitude, Micromanaging, and Petty Viciousness

At Foreign Policy.

Hagel took issue with Obama's reversing himself after declaring a "red line." Hagel drafted a plan for air strikes -- minor, I'm assuming -- which would have at least technically satisfied Obama's declaration that if that "red line" were crossed he'd respond, but Obama, of course, overruled him.

"A president's word is a big thing, and when the president says things, that's a big deal," he said.

Hagel, now that time has passed and he's willing to discuss his tenure in office, cited the episode as an example of a White House that has struggled to formulate a coherent policy on Syria, holding interminable meetings that would often end without a decision, even as conditions on the ground worsened and the death toll grew steadily higher.

The 69-year-old former Nebraska senator and Vietnam War veteran, speaking for the first time about his treatment by the Obama administration, said the Pentagon was subject to debilitating meddling and micromanagement by the White House -- echoing criticism made by his predecessors, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.

Looking back on his tenure, Hagel said in the Dec. 10 interview that he remains puzzled as to why some administration officials sought to "destroy" him personally in his final days in office, castigating him in anonymous comments to newspapers even after he had handed in his resignation.

Although he does not identify her by name, Hagel’s criticisms are clearly aimed at Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, and some of her staff.

Susan Rice turns out to have been every bit the competent leader you imagined her to be:

The White Hous'’s policy deliberations on Syria and other issues run by Rice and her deputies seemed to lead nowhere, according to Hagel.

"For one thing, there were way too many meetings. The meetings were not productive,"Hagel said. "I don't think many times we ever actually got to where we needed to be. We kept kind of deferring the tough decisions. And there were always too many people in the room."

Some of these meetings would go on for four hours. Hagel tries to walk back his criticism, saying that the length of the meetings proves how "rigorous" they were and how complex the problems they were grappling with.

Then he attacks Rice again anyway.

Hagel, however, said there was too much time spent on "nit-picky, small things in the weeds," while larger questions were ignored. "We seemed to veer away from the big issues. What was our political strategy on Syria?"

Meetings with the bored, disengaged, TV-loving semi-retired president were much briefer. Oddly enough.

In contrast, national security meetings led by the president were efficient and focused, with no time wasted on tangents, he said.

Well I don't doubt that. Obama can't have national security meetings cutting into his Sports Center time.

Hagel notes the Administration, as we've seen again and again, is swift to attack those who tell the truth to the public.

Asked at a press conference in August of that year about the nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State, Hagel told reporters that "this is beyond anything that we’ve seen." He cited the group's military skill, financial resources, and adept online propaganda as an unprecedented danger that surpassed previous terrorist organizations.

Some administration officials were not happy with Hagel’s description, and "I got some criticism from the White House," he said.

At a hearing, Hagel was pressed on whether Obama would come to the aid of groups we were supposedly supporting, if they were attacked by ISIS.

Despite long debate on this question, Obama still had not made up his mind. Apparently Susan Rice's four hour marathon briefings about trivialities did not include any debate on this central question.

Pressed for an answer he actually didn't have, Hagel made one up on the spot. He said sure, we'd come to their defense.

"We had never come down on an answer or a conclusion in the White House," Hagel told FP. "I said what I felt what I had to say. I couldn’t say, 'No.' Christ, every ally would have walked away from us in the Middle East."


[T]he question remained a "glaring" omission in the administration’s policy that he raised in meetings afterward. "Are we going to support our guys or not support our guys?" Hagel told FP. "It's a damn crucial question."

Yesterday, it was revealed that Obama was releasing another huge batch of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, despite the fact that many have returned to the terrorist battlefield and one is now a senior commander in Yemen.

Hagel discusses this -- as Secretary of Defense, it was his duty to certify these released prisoners as supposedly not dangerous.

Obama was always pressing him to rate dangerous persons as not dangerous, so he could release him. When Hagel tried to slow down and actually evaluate the people Obama proposed to release, Obama blasted him.

""It got pretty bad, pretty brutal," Hagel said. "I'd get the hell beat out of me all the time on this at the White House."

Although he had long supported shutting the detention center, Hagel insisted that he would not be rushed into approving transfers. The White House kept pushing, arguing that security concerns had to be weighed against the damage done to America’s image abroad as long as Guantanamo remained open and the ammunition it provided for extremist propaganda.

Obama just repeated that thought at the press conference. Despite the fact the law says that these prisoners can only be transferred if the Secretary of Defense judges them non-dangerous, Obama repeated his insistence that another factor, the supposed harm to the US' standing in the world, be a major factor in these decisions.

That has no f***ing basis in the law. But this is a dictatorship.

There's a lot more in the article, from Hagel bitching about Republicans attacking him during his confirmation hearings to White House hacks bothering serious Pentagon officials with "fifth order" questions about airstrike details (these questions, I'm sure, about collateral damage and political fallout, and not operational effectiveness), but you'l have to go there to read it.

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posted by Ace at 02:55 PM

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