Capitol Hill is Alive with the Sound of Music

Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment and Bob Morrison is Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The American Thinker on December 16, 2014.

In announcing his new nominee for Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, President Obama noted that his choice for Pentagon chief was a great fan of Motown. Especially, Mr. Obama noted, Ash Carter likes the Four Tops.

The president said what tipped the balance in Ash Carter’s favor was the Four Tops hit: “Reach out, I’ll be there.” That musical touch gained Mr. Obama a lot of glowing press. Aging boomers in the White House press corps love the Four Tops. We do, too.

As much as we like the Four Tops, however, we would have recommended a different 60s soul classic: Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Miss Franklin’s great hit should be the watchword for U.S. defense policy. That’s what President Obama most needs -- Respect. It’s what the United States of America cannot do without.

It’s hard to give respect to this White House team, however. President Obama is known not to care very much about defense policy. Bob Gates noted in his memoir that the only time President Obama showed real interest in the military was when he was about the lift the ban on homosexuals serving openly in uniform.

The president is rumored to skip national security briefings. If he is actually being briefed, we see little evidence of it from his public statements. He has never made an effort to build public support for his policy in Afghanistan. (By the way, what is his policy in Afghanistan?)

In June, 2010, Mr. Obama blurted out the number of U.S. nuclear warheads -- 5,113. Why he would ever have done such a thing is a mystery. Generations of U.S. military personnel would rather have been waterboarded than gratuitously divulge such information.

We are sure that Vladimir Putin must have found that number most interesting. He is sitting on all those nuclear weapons a previous Democratic administration arm-twisted the Ukrainians into giving up. It was one of those moves the chess-loving Russians would report with an explanation point and a question mark. Why? (“Pocheemoo!?”)

When he named Chuck Hagel less than two years ago, Mr. Obama stood behind his choice as the hapless former Nebraska senator was forced to do a 180º turn as he was testifyingat the confirmation hearings. Having rambled on about “containing” the threat of Iranian mullahs developing nuclear weapons, Mr. Hagel was elbowed by an Obama aide and told that administration policy is that Iran shall not have a nuclear weapon. In the space of minutes, Hagel was for and against containment.

And still the U.S. Senate -- dominated by Mr. Obama’s partisans -- confirmed him as Secretary of Defense despite his disastrous performance. What followed was nearly two years of stumbling and stammering.

Now, however, the Hill is alive with the sound of music. Help is on the way, as Dick Cheney used to say. It seems that people on both sides of the aisle recognize Ash Carter as a serious defense analyst.

If that is so, then we doubt the harmony on the Hill will last. It will be hard for any serious defense chief to work with the frivolous Obama White House.

The lack of seriousness of that staff was shown when former National Security Council staffer, Tommy Vietor, sought to explain away the Benghazi debacle by saying:

“Dude, that was, like two years ago.”

Yes, for someone who would be carded at a Baskin & Robbins, two years must seem like centuries. Let us stipulate that no one who calls people “dude” will ever be taken seriously on matters of national security.

What does seriousness in defense look like? Here’s an example: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world was on the brink of a nuclear war between the U.S. and the USSR, France’s President De Gaulle admitted the Soviet ambassador to his office in the Elysée Palace, but he pointedly stood and did not offer a chair to the Soviet diplomat.

When the Communist apparatchik threatened to annihilate France for backing the U.S. in that crisis, De Gaulle looked down on him sternly from his 6’5” height and dismissed him, saying: “Very well, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, we shall all die together.” That’s what seriousness looks like.

Of course, we didn’t all die together. John F. Kennedy’s courageous leadership and De Gaulle’s respect for the United States’ commitments and competence assured a peaceful outcome in that most dangerous of moments between the U.S. and the USSR.

We’d recommend only a one-word change to Aretha Franklin’s great hit. Instead of “sock it to me, sock it to me,” we’d like to change the lyric of the Queen of Soul to: “Sock it to them.”