Karmic Justice

President-elect Obama plans to nominate Eric K. Shinseki to head the Department of Veterans Affairs –– aka the four-star general who was pushed out of the Bush administration after he openly disputed the wisdom of the administration’s “on the cheap” strategy for the Iraq war. What’s more Obama named Shinseki on arguably the day that holds more richly symbolic meaning for the armed forces — and for Shinseki as a Japanese-American — than any other day in the year: December 7, Pearl Harbor Day:

Shinseki, a four-star general and 38-year veteran who retired shortly after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, will appear with Obama in Chicago at a news conference today commemorating the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. Obama said Shinseki agreed to join the incoming administration because “both he and I share a reverence for those who serve.”

“When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served — higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance-abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate — it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home,” Obama told NBC News’ Tom Brokaw in a interview taped for broadcast today on “Meet the Press.”

Wingnut reaction is somewhat muted so far, but what’s there is highly entertaining.

Carol Platt Liebau favors the revisionist approach:

Shinseki is, of course, the man who came to glory among the left when he was supposedly “fired” in retaliation for having spoken “truth to power” by arguing for more troops in Iraq than the Bush Administration was at the time willing to consider.  That whole morality tale was, of course, a myth.

And if President-elect Obama is choosing him based on his prescience in realizing that more troops were needed in Iraq than the conventional wisdom at the time admitted, well, someone else in the 2008 presidential race held that same position — but doesn’t seem to have been lavished with praise for it by Obama and the rest of the left.  Funny, that.

In case your mind is drawing a blank at who Liebau could possibly be referring to, it’s John McCain. In other words, she’s stating that John McCain also said, before the war began, that the United States needed to invade with a force of hundreds of thousands, rather than the tens of thousands the Pentagon claimed was all that was needed. And that he was vilified and ostracized for having done so.

Oh, no, wait! That’s not what Liebau is saying! She’s saying that John McCain held the same position in 2008, when he was campaigning for the presidency, as Eric Shinseki did in 2003, in the weeks prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq — which, of course, demolishes those crazy lefties’ argument that Gen. Shinseki was not just enormously prescient about the fundamental error (or one of them) in the administration’s Iraq war planning before the war started, but also had the courage and personal integrity to say so publicly at a time when war fever was at its height, and no one was daring to challenge the Vulcans’ thinking. I mean, it took real guts to tell Americans that the Bush administration’s “on the cheap” war strategy was full of holes during the just-ended presidential campaign, didn’t it?

The very inaptly named “Astute Blogger” passes on claiming that McCain equals Shinseki; he prefers the “Shinseki was flat-out wrong” approach:




If you like the spittle-flecked, screaming with fingers stopping up ears style of argumentation — and at great length, to boot — this fella is for you.

Greyhawk — whose motto is “Violent men stand ready to kill and maim so you can chirp ‘Peace on earth; goodwill toward men’ on Christmas Eve”– opts for the non sequitur tactic:

Why I like this pick: if Shinseki says he needs, say, 650,000 (random number) additional hires in the V.A. he’ll get them. There can be absolutely no argument made against this – in the media, on Capitol Hill, or elsewhere.

Moving on to some reality-based commentary:

Juan Cole likens Shinseki to “the honest car salesman who spoils everything by putting taxes and transportation fees and the cost of extras back into the price estimate on an automobile after the other salesmen have enticed the customer with a stripped down, unrealistic price. …”

This is a rare finger-in-the-eye moment for Obama and for his supporters:

Barack Obama doesn’t have the same vindictive streak [as George W. Bush]. Obama is more inclined to forgive his opponents and offer them an olive branch than he is to deliberately alienate and marginalize them. It can be a bit frustrating for a partisan. We’ve watched Obama reach out to Colin Powell and Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton, when he might have used them as a negative example. But, Obama has finally delivered a finger-in-the-eye moment to the Bush administration.

James Fallows calls it “karmic justice,” and points out that Shinseki showed the same integrity in the way he chose to respond to the shameful public drubbing he received from Bush’s inner circle, as he showed in his choice to tell the truth as he saw it (and as it was) in the first place:

… Despite being unfairly treated, despite being 100% vindicated by subsequent events, Shinseki kept his grievances entirely to himself. Although my book contains accounts of Shinseki’s inside [arguments] with Rumsfeld et al, and his discussions with his own staff, zero of that information came from Shinseki.

I made a complete nuisance of myself requesting an interview, or a phone conversation, or an email exchange, or even some “you’re getting warmer” guidance from him. Nothing doing, in any way. (I did track him down at an ROTC commissioning ceremony where he was speaking; he greeted me politely, but that was it.) I am confident in the accounts I presented, which came from a variety of first-hand participants; but Shinseki, who could have had a lucrative career on the talk show/lecture circuit giving “I told you so” presentations, has not indulged that taste at all.

To echo both Spencer Ackerman and James Joyner: Unquestionably, an inspired choice.

Thanks, Memeorandum.

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