“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for
your country.” – John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address. January,
Whether or not John F. Kennedy was one of our great Presidents is
debatable. He got kicked around something fierce in his first year in
office. The Bay of Pigs invasion was one of the most botched operations
in U.S. history and the botching was largely Kennedy’s. Soviet Premier
Nikita Khrushchev, to bolster his world image, took the opportunity of a
peace conference in Berlin to kick around the young American President
who was naively looking for a restart in Cold War relations. The same
strategy would work for Vladimir Putin five decades later.
Kennedy learned from his mistakes and by the Cuban Missile Crisis in his
second year, he showed a determination that re-inspired a nation. As
the last Democratic president before the meaning of being a Democrat
changed, he cut taxes. He was, in fact, a Tea Party Democrat.
to tell what he would have done with more than a thousand days. Perhaps
his philandering or his chronic back pain might have limited him. But
what is not in dispute is the fact that Kennedy was a war hero. His
actions after the sinking of PT-109 to save the survivors of his crew
are well documented – the subject of books and movies. He was of the
Greatest Generation that fought and won World War II. When he implored
to “ask not what your country can do for you,” people believed he meant
it and they cheered. Leadership, 1961.
Kennedy was succeeded by
Lyndon Johnson, a Senator who immediately set about transforming America
into the “Great Society.” The Senate is where you gain prominence by
securing government handouts for your home constituents. After Johnson,
we had not had a Senator elected to the White House until President
Obama, who, it could be said, is completing the bejesus out of the
Johnson mission of pervasive government dependence.
to this week’s negotiated release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for
five Taliban prisoners held at Gitmo. That Bergdahl was considered a
deserter by his platoon was known. It now is further coming out that
several of his fellow platoon members believe that Bergdahl likely aided
the enemy in planning attacks against them. The White House knew of
Bergdahl’s desertion and possible treason. That isn’t to say he should
be left behind, but this trade cost us much more than five enemy
combatants and is indicative of what we have become – a country that
can’t be trusted.
The Obama administration initially tried to hail
Bergdahl as a hero – a soldier brought home to his family from enemy
captivity after honorably serving his country. Poor Susan Rice – sent
out to lie (again) on the Sunday morning talk shows about the urgency of
completing the deal due to Bergdahl’s health. This was the reason, she
said, why the administration didn’t follow the law and consult Congress
first. Turns out his health was not in danger. One wonders if Rice
shivers when the White House calls to say, “Here are your talking points
Soldiers may or may not have lost their lives
searching for Bergdahl, but some certainly lost their lives in capturing
the five Taliban that were exchanged. How do you explain this to those
soldiers’ families? How do you explain it to our Afghan allies, or any
of our allies, who are now justified in every misgiving they had about
us. The Afghans will now have to deal with these five Taliban in the
inevitable and perpetual civil war that will resume once we leave.
There are columns arguing that the five Taliban would have been
released soon anyway as the war is ending and enemy soldiers are always
released at the end of combat. That’s crazy. We aren’t fighting Germany
or even North Korea where released prisoners go back to serve their
country. We’re releasing Taliban who believe it is their holy mission to
kill everyone who disagrees with them, including their own countrymen.
Those put into the most immediate danger as a result of this exchange
are Afghan women.
From a President whose greatest accomplishment
so far is being quick to announce and take credit for the intelligence
community’s and the Navy Seals’ killing of Osama Bin Laden, this is no
surprise. Heroes are made not in actions, but in announcements. The
release of Bergdahl made for the perfect announcement, with his parents
there as Rose Garden ornaments.
It would be nice to think that the
five Taliban thugs who were just released have some sort of tracking
device imbedded in them and that there will be a glorious series of
drone strikes a few years from now. No one believes that is going to
happen. What is more likely is a series of kidnappings because we now
negotiate with terrorists.
This is what we gave up for Sgt.
Bergdahl, deserter. It is tragically ironic that Bergdahl’s release
comes in the same week as the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion,
where there was a shore full of Americans who died not deserting their
country. Bergdahl is the new American hero – President Obama’s kind of
hero. No sacrifice required. He deserted his post to help people who
would like nothing more than to see America, its people, and its
liberties wiped from the face of the Earth. But it makes a tidier photo
op than dead bloody soldiers on a beach.
We may be only fifty-three years from Kennedy’s inaugural address, but we are light years from being the crowd that cheered it.
(This and other Wolfrum columns can be read at toddwolfrum.com.)