It’s still too early to count her out, but Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is certainly on the fringe of getting cut from the presidential race. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is gaining strength, momentum and support, and is undefeated in the last ten primaries. Of course, the Democrats’ superdelegates have yet to speak, but they can be expected to side with the candidate they think has the greatest chance of beating Sen. John McCain., R-Ariz., and they are likely to decide that it’s not Clinton.
Obama has been successful for many reasons, and one of them is that he’s a good public speaker in ways that Clinton is not. His delivery is interesting and pleasantly cadenced, and his cigarette habit helps keep his vocal register commandingly, almost seductively, low. Although he isn’t exactly an exciting public speaker, he is disarming, friendly and engaging. In contrast, Clinton often sounds forced, disingenuous and harsh.
So far we have suffered only through the primaries and have yet to be subjected to the full force of the general election. In theory, it is the issues, not the rhetoric, that motivate us to exercise our franchise as free people, but the issues themselves will not be addressed until after the parties' conventions. For now, we are supposed to be satisfied only with accusations, counter-claims and dueling personalities.
But last week, during his debate with Clinton, Obama tried speaking about substance when he mentioned the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he displayed an astounding ignorance of the military instrument. He said that an anonymous U.S. Army captain told him that his infantry platoon was split and sent to different areas of operations; that they were lacking vehicles; and that they had insufficient ammunition to fight.
Although problems do occur in combat situations to be sure, none of what Obama related makes any sense and is, according to people with whom I spoke, untrue. Units the size of platoons are not sent to separate theaters, ammunition has been plentiful, and an investigation indicates that the unit in question was missing only one of its Humvees, all to no peril of the unit.
No better than Bush?
Obama used the anecdote to demonstrate that the current president was not supporting the troops and to suggest that he would if elected. Given Obama’s ignorance of how ground combat operations are actually conducted, one expects that he’ll be no better at it than President Bush. Indeed, as bad as Bush’s Iraq strategy was for its first four years, Obama’s plan for rapid withdrawal is equally flawed and perhaps impossible to execute.
Politicians rely heavily, on almost every subject, on advisors to get them educated and keep them current. And nobody really expects Obama or Clinton or even McCain, who was a Navy aviator, to know anything about ground combat. But one does expect the candidate to employ advisors who know what they are talking about and to prevent their candidate from embarrassment.
While Obama has attracted money, notoriety and delegates, he has yet to attract military advisers who know what they are doing. If he doesn’t, and he becomes president, the United States won’t fare any better than it has for the past eight years.
Jack Jacobs is a military analyst and a retired U.S. Army colonel. He earned the Medal of Honor for exceptional heroism on the battlefields of Vietnam and also has three Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars.