Random thoughts on almost anything and everything, with an emphasis on defense, intelligence, politics and national security matters..providing insight for the non-cleared world since 2005.
Friday, September 30, 2011
The Shopping Trip
But this time, it wasn't a commander-in-chief who looked out of place; it was First Lady Michelle Obama, during Thursday's trip to a Target store in Alexandria, Virginia. After Mrs. Obama was repeatedly criticized for her lavish vacations, designer clothes and general taste for the good life, someone in the White House decided she needed a little image work, making her seem less like Marie Antoinette, and more like the common folk who are trying to stretch a buck.
“One thing she loves to do is shop at Target,” President Barack Obama said of his wife Friday in an interview with Philadelphia radio personality Michael Smerconish. Mr. Obama's comments were eagerly reprinted in the Politico, ready to advance the narrative that the FLOTUS simply needed to get out of the White House "bubble" for a little while.
Give me a break. Does anyone outside the Politico staff (and the rest of the White House press corps) really believe that? As is often the case with this administration, the "official" version of events doesn't quite square with reality.
For starters, there's no such thing as an "impulse" trip by the POTUA or his spouse. Even for a short jaunt to Target, security must be coordinated--in advance--by the various agencies involved, including the Secret Service; the Washington, D.C. police force; the Virginia State Police and the local department in Alexandria.
And of course, the First Lady simply doesn't stroll into a store that hasn't been carefully searched (and re-checked) before she enters. It's a given that Target's corporate headquarters was contacted days in advance and preparations at the store began long before Mrs. Obama showed up. We're also guessing there was a heavy security presence around that store hours before the visit began; after all, it takes time--and effort--to deploy snipers, undercover officers, canine teams and the other precautions that accompany that type of visit.
There's also the little matter of the press coverage generated by the Target run. What a coincidence--an Associated Press photographer just happened to arrive in time to snap pictures of Mrs. Obama in the checkout line. And this wasn't some stringer or general assignment shutter jockey; the AP photog who got the exclusive was Charles Dharapak, who's been assigned to the White House beat for years. Gee...what are the odds that Mr. Dharapak shows up at the same store Michelle Obama is shopping at without a tip from the White House Press Office? Approximately zero.
El Rushbo deserves credit for doing what the MSM wouldn't dare, describing the "event" in more realistic terms: "“What a phony-baloney plastic banana good-time rock-and-roll optic photo-op that was,” he said on his Friday radio show.
Mr. Limbaugh was also one of the few observers who bothered to look in the First Lady's shopping basket, casting further doubts about the motive behind the shopping expedition. Among the items purchased? A bottle of Lysol cleaner. That's a rather odd choice, considering that Mrs. Obama and her family live in a government mansion (with a professional house-keeping staff) that buys cleaning supplies by the truckload through the General Services Administration.
Too bad Mr. Smerconish didn't ask the President what his wife was going to clean with that Lysol. As one wag observed, the last First Lady who actually cleaned the White House was Dolly Madison, after the Brits torched the place during the War of 1812. Since then, all the dusting, scrubbing and other chores have been handled by the White House staff. So, what's the probability that Mrs. Obama will personally use that bottle of Lysol to disinfect the White House living quarters?
You'd think that even the "journos" at Politico would be able to figure that one out.
ADDENDUM: To be fair, all administrations create photo ops on a daily basis. But few have been as transparent or clumsily constructed as the Target visit. Could you imagine the reaction if a Republican First Lady, say, Laura Bush, conducted a similar shopping trip? The same reporters who fret over Michelle Obama's tough life in the bubble would be in high dungeon over an obvious political stunt and efforts at "media manipulation."
We should also note one other curious element to this story--one that even the Politico scribes have picked up on. Since Mrs. Obama's visit on Thursday, the staff at the Alexandria target have been on virtual lock down, with only the manager authorized to speak with the press--and only by telephone.
And just how much did the photo-op cost the taxpayers? A former member of the White House presidential advance team (which performs similar services for the First Lady) put the tab (conservatively) in the "tens of thousands of dollars." The source notes that, along with security, there was also a requirement to establish secure comms at the site (through the White House Communications Agency); determine the location of the nearest medical facilities and coordinate treatment planning, in the event of an emergency. Those tasks--and others--are part and parcel of any trip by the president or the first lady, and they require time, money and personnel to complete.
Put another way, that was a very expensive bottle of Lysol.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
MANPADs for the NYPD?
We were with him, in his hi-tech command truck last Wednesday when he headed to the east side as New York hosted the United Nations General Assembly. He wanted to be there when President Obama arrived. To prepare for those 137 heads of State, Kelly has to understand the threats that all of those foreign leaders have at home so their local troubles don't play out here.
Kelly: We have to look abroad. We do that with the Secret Service, to see what the issues are in another country. Does that raise the threat level here?
The threat level in New York was already high. Intelligence said that there could be a car bomb attack on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and that worry had still not been resolved.
Extra: Kelly on 1993 WTC attack
Vinny Giordano [nat sound]: All our interior and exterior checkpoints are up and running. Bomb squad's completed all its sweeps and their Ops are up.
Kelly had the tower of the U.N. Secretariat building surrounded. Snipers on the roof tops, divers in the river, helicopters above. Mr. Obama slipped into the U.N. with the Secret Service, under the blanket of the NYPD. All of this came just ten days after Kelly's team had secured the most sensitive event in the nation.
It was the 9/11 National Memorial on the tenth anniversary of the attack on America. Osama bin Laden had written about attacking again on this very day. And Kelly had more than 8 million New Yorkers to protect.
As the names of the fallen were being read, Kelly was watching from his brand new Joint Operations Center.
From here he can see everything. All in one cavernous room Kelly has representatives from the military, the FBI, Federal Emergency Management, state and local first responders. The center is a symbol of the 10 years and three billion dollars that he has spent to prepare for every kind of threat.
Pelley: Are you satisfied that you've dealt with threats from aircraft, even light planes, model planes, that kind of thing?
Kelly: Well, it's something that's on our radar screen. I mean in an extreme situation, you would have some means to take down a plane.
Pelley: Do you mean to say that the NYPD has the means to take down an aircraft?
Kelly: Yes, I prefer not to get into the details but obviously this would be in a very extreme situation.
Pelley: You have the equipment and the training.
Kelly: Yes.Obviously, there are only a certain number of ways to bring down an aircraft, namely jet fighters, anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles. Since we haven't seen any F-15s or F-16s with NYPD markings (or AAA guns deployed around New York), it seems rather obvious that the New York police force has been equipped with shoulder-fired SAMs, most likely a Stinger variant.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Not Exactly Shovel Ready
Now, we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America. We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System. (Applause.) We built the Hoover Dam. We built the Grand Central Station. (Applause.)
So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads? And let Europe build the best highways? And have Singapore build a nicer airport? At a time when we've got millions of unemployed construction workers out there just ready to get on the job, ready to do the work to rebuilding America.The Intercontinental Railroad? Is that the one that connects San Francisco and Tokyo, or New York and London. Obviously, they don't exist. We assume President Obama was referring to the transcontinental railroad, completed in 1869. It remains a marvel of engineering and speed, largely because immigrant work crews didn't have an OSHA inspector demanding hearing protection for everyone, or the EPA trying to protect every bug, bird and snake that lived along the railroad's right-of-way.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
An Inauspicious Debut
Today's Reading Assignment
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
How Did Barksdale Pass?
Friday, September 09, 2011
The Al Qaida Jobs Plan?
The Obama administration has decided to drop the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of the year down to 3,000, marking a major downgrade in force strength, multiple sources familiar with the inner workings and decisions on U.S. troop movements in Iraq told Fox News..
Senior commanders are said to be livid at the decision, which has already been signed off by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
There are currently about 45,00 U.S. troops in Iraq. Commanders requested a reduction by year's end, but according to Fox, it wasn't enough for the White House. When they suggested a reduction to 10,000 the administration decided the final number would be just 3,000. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has already signed off on the plan, over the objections of senior military officials, who complain the dramatic cutback will leave them unable to meet mission requirements:
A senior military official said by reducing the number of troops to 3,000, the White House has effectively reduced the mission to training only.
"There is almost no room for security operations in that number; it will be almost purely a training mission," this official said. The official added that a very small number of troops within that 3,000 will be dedicated to counter-terrorism efforts, but that's not nearly what Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, wanted.
[An] aide [to the ROK Parliament Defense Committee] aid the plane suffered disturbance to its GPS system due to jamming signals from the North's southwestern cities of Haeju and Kaesong as it was taking part in the annual US-South Korea drill, Key Resolve.
The incident was disclosed in a report that Seoul's defense ministry submitted to Ahn Kyu-baek of parliament's defense committee, the aide to Ahn said.
Spokesmen for the defense ministry and US Forces Korea declined to comment..
The jamming also reportedly affected South Korean patrol boats in the Yellow Sea and civilian air traffic operating from Kimpo Airport near Seoul.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
Today's Reading Assignment
Above all, the mullahs must prioritize the future of their regime and the Islamist revolution. What will happen to Iran if the rage sweeping the Arab world inspires Iranians to take to the streets again, aiming, together with mounting international pressure, to oust the mullahs? Will they follow in Gaddafi’s footsteps? Will they be better prepared than Assad?
Friday, September 02, 2011
On the Way to Camp David
Carney says they have now arrived safely at Camp David. It remains unexplained why the President would be allowed to board Marine One knowing that the landing site on the mountain was experiencing weather making a landing difficult.