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Belmont Club

Within Range

May 19th, 2013 - 12:58 pm

One trivial but often underappreciated fact about the battle of Midway was that for Spruance to hit Nagumo he had to expose his carriers to reciprocal damage. Once you close with an opponent he closes with you. Risk is often symmetric. Nimitz understood this well, and it lies at the heart of his order to the carriers on that occasion. He told Spruance, “you will be governed by the principle of calculated risk, which you shall interpret to mean the avoidance of exposure of your force to attack by superior enemy forces without good prospect of inflicting… greater damage on the enemy.”

The Bob Woodwards of the future will have their hands full examining whether Barack Obama understood this principle as well as Nimitz.  Jean Kaufman at PJMedia has an incisive piece titled “Obama, the Betrayer” which indirectly addresses this very point. She argues the Obama’s past political triumphs were essentially achieved by pre-emptive strikes on his foes, none of whom had the temerity to retaliate effectively. Perhaps for Obama as for Nagumo there developed the conceit of the Gaishu Isshoku — “one touch of the iron gauntlet” — which was all it took to win the day. Kaufman describes the genesis of Obama’s style:

If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s well worth reading to get a key to the very special Obama ruthlessness. The gist of it is that newcomer Obama, after being tapped by established Chicago African-American politician Alice Palmer to be her successor, mounted legal challenges to the petitions of all his Democratic rivals (including, it turns out, Palmer), knocking them off the primary ballot on technicalities and running unopposed, thereby guaranteeing his own victory before the voting ever began.

Obama won his first race for office not because of his intra-party collegiality, but due to his lack of it. Thus, when he got to the Illinois Senate his reputation preceded him and his potential for power was acknowledged. He seems to have adopted the Machiavellian strategy that it is better to be feared than loved.

The efficacy of secrecy, speed, disinformation and ruthlessness — especially ruthlessness —  may have surprised Obama at first. But once proved these methods became part of his political technique. The Daily Beast has a portrait of the kind of man required for this style of operations: Jonathan Malis was an attorney who impressed Eric Holder by being even meaner than  him; and whom he consequently recruited.

One of the lead federal prosecutors behind the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of the Associated Press’s phone records is deputy chief of the criminal division Jonathan Malis—a hard-charging 15-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office who is known among colleagues for a single-minded, even zealous, pursuit of his criminal targets. And there’s perhaps no better illustration of his aggressive style than the fact that he once had a caustic, highly personal exchange with Eric Holder, who at the time was a defense lawyer in private practice but is now the attorney general—that is, Malis’s boss.

Malis was Holder’s kind of guy. Like the Borg, Obama’s team assimilated the most ruthless of the opponents they encountered. But if character is fate, so is bureaucratic repertoire. Agencies develop a set number of scripts they can run;  and limited repertoires were  memorably illustrated in the dialog from the movie “Five Easy Pieces”.

Dupea: I’d like a, uh, plain omelette, uh, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee, and wheat toast.

Waitress: No substitutions.

Dupea: What do you mean? You don’t have any tomatoes?

Waitress: Only what’s on the menu. You can have a number two – a plain omelette. It comes with cottage fries and rolls.

Dupea: Yeah, I know what it comes with, but it’s not what I want.

Waitress: Well, I’ll come back when you make up your mind.

Dupea: Wait a minute. I have made up my mind. I’d like a plain omelette, no potatoes on the plate, a cup of coffee, and a side order of wheat toast.

Waitress: I’m sorry. We don’t have any side orders of toast. I’ll give you an English muffin or a coffee roll.

Dupea: What do you mean you don’t make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don’t you?

If you keep recruiting corsairs then piracy becomes an inevitable part of the way you operate. Once thuggery is on the menu it worms its way into the dishes.  Soon it will come with the sandwiches as standard. As pointed out in a previous post, the most striking thing about the Obama scandals is “the sheer, unbridled malevolence” of them; it seems almost a signature. Maybe it is signature.

To illustrate Forbes describes a suit by a health care provider in California against the IRS for seizing 60 million health care records, including those of all California state judges, without a warrant.

According to a story by, an unnamed healthcare provider in California is suing the IRS and 15 unnamed agents, alleging that they improperly seized some 60 million medical records of 10 million Americans, including medical records of all California state judges on March 11, 2011. …

“These medical records contained intimate and private information of more than 10,000,000 Americans, information that by its nature includes information about treatment for any kind of medical concern, including psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual or drug treatment, and a wide range of medical matters covering the most intimate and private of concerns,” the complaint states.

“Despite knowing that these medical records were not within the scope of the warrant, defendants threatened to ‘rip’ the servers containing the medical data out of the building if IT personnel would not voluntarily hand them over,” the complaint reads.

Comes a point when you just don’t do things any other way. Actions like these were a sign that “calculated risk” had given way to habitual recklessness. And recklessness — as Nagumo discovered — isn’t free. It catches up with you sometime.

It’s interesting to speculate how early in the administration’s history this recklessness became established.  There are signs that suggest it was there as early as Benghazi.  Andy McCarthy at the National Review argues from timing that the infamous video story had its genesis in a 10 pm phone call between Hillary and Obama on the night of the attack.

We do not have a recording of this call, and neither Clinton nor the White House has described it beyond noting that it happened. But we do know that, just a few minutes after Obama called Clinton, the Washington press began reporting that the State Department had issued a statement by Clinton regarding the Benghazi attack. In it, she asserted:

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.

Gee, what do you suppose Obama and Clinton talked about in that 10 p.m. call?

Interestingly, CNS News asked Carney whether, in that 10 p.m. phone call, the president and Secretary Clinton discussed the statement that Clinton was about to issue, and, specifically, whether they discussed “the issue of inflammatory material posted on the Internet.

Carney declined to answer.

They thought they could play fast and loose with reality. Why? They had done it before.  So they would do it again.

What happened next may have surprised Obama.  Unlike the earlier challenges mounted at him the Benghazi scandal did not go away.  Maybe he had made too many any enemies. Perhaps there were too many in the know to shut up entirely. But in the end the conservatives kept coming in their own clunky way, almost like the torpedo squadrons at Midway.  Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the Benghazi hearings is they never gave up, even when none of the hearings or stories in the conservative media seemed to strike a direct hit.  But they held the public’s attention until a seemingly endless serial of scandals materialized out of the sky to fall on Obama’s narrative.

Clarice Feldman has a wonderfully atmospheric piece describing the the process of lawyering up. Attorneys are scavengers of the DC ecosystem. They feast on the fallen.  And what is more the fallen need them. Still, scandals mean legal fees and legal fees mean lawyers. The culture of the District is dog-eat-dog and for the first time in its long career Obama’s sneak attack force is feeling the bite of the dogs.

In a little noticed set of articles both Bobby Jindal and John Boehner now say that ‘firings are not enough’.  ”You cannot take the freedom of law-abiding Americans, whether you disagree with them or not, and keep your own freedom. When you do that, you go to jail.” That shifting in  talking points is interesting. It suggests a decision has been considered,  perhaps only by a faction in the Republican Party, to take the “calculated risk” of closing with the Obama political machine and up the ante.

This creates a dynamic of its own. The way the world works — a fact Nimitz understood — is that any time you get close enough to threaten someone with jail  you take a symmetric risk  yourself.  One of the reasons that political crises spin out of control is that stakes are raised beyond the normal. And all of a sudden the currency stops being access or invitations to cocktail parties.  What starts to matter is survival and staying out of jail.  You stop talking to friends and nothing is the same.

The Washington Examiner is reporting that the lower level IRS employees in Cincinnati are now leaking in self-defense. “Everything comes from the top.” It does? Well what do you know.

An Obama on the defensive may prove less formidable than the same person on the attack. The biggest liability now facing the Obama team is that maybe they’ve forgotten how to act when the enemy can hit back.  Nimitz knew that reality always bites back.  But maybe that’s why history will remember Nimitz as Nimitz whereas Obama has already been compared to Nixon and that may be the best he can hope for.

Things are by no means over. In fact the action has scarcely begun. Yet perhaps for the first time it’s a real fight, whose future will be driven by one thing: the degree of acceptance by Obama’s opponents of political risk. As they say, no guts no glory.

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
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Top Rated Comments   
Politico has a "brace for collision" story ( which basically says that even if Obama can get the press to bury his domestic troubles Syria is soon going to explode, and then mean explode.

"Syria is a different story. The president’s latitude for action without incurring additional risk and uncertainty is limited. And the Republicans and some Democrats hammer him for his risk-aversion. Still the public opinion polls favor the president’s caution.

Obama’s challenge is that nothing he’s done so far has worked. And pressure will build for tougher U.S. action as the crisis worsens. In an effort to avoid that, the president has bought into the reconvening of a conference in Geneva where the U.S. and the Russians will try to work out a diplomatic solution, specifically some kind of transitional regime for Syria that could end the crisis. This effort should buy some time as Obama sorts out his domestic woes."

Actually Syria and his domestic woes are joined and the link binding them is labeled "Benghazi". But Politico is perfectly right. Reality is starting to bite back and Syria won't be the half of it. There's a little detail called Hezbollah and let's not forget Iran. Remember Iran? Remember nuclear weapons?

Then there's al-Qaeda.

The root cause of this firestorm is the incompetence and at times the malevolence of the Obama administration. Many of these disasters were already apparent in the last months of his first term. But a supreme effort of dishonesty, the writers of the narrative suppressed it.

Unfortunately things are getting too hot for that. And now the narrative writers have made themselves accomplices in what happens next. Politico is warning that you ain't seen nothing yet, which ought to bring no one any comfort. There is precious little to celebrate when your prediction that the Titanic can sink proves true -- if you -- as the world has done, has booked passage on it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" “Despite knowing that these medical records were not within the scope of the warrant, defendants threatened to ‘rip’ the servers containing the medical data out of the building if IT personnel would not voluntarily hand them over,” the complaint reads.

Comes a point when you just don’t do things any other way. Actions like these were sign that “calculated risk” had given way to habitual recklessness."

The Law is how disputes are mediated short of deadly force. Right now the Law means nothing in this country. The Executive Branch declared so this morning, to the silence of the body politic. The next step is implied on two levels.

1) "One of the reasons that political crises spin out of control is that stakes are raised beyond the normal. And all of a sudden the currency stops being access or invitations to cocktail parties. What starts to matter is survival and staying out of jail."

Key on the word SURVIVAL. In an authoritarian/totalitarian political system, where the rule of law is the will of those with access to the coercive organs of the State; the "survival" is literal and not metaphorical. Every polity admired by the current regime has at its heart the Black Maria, footsteps in the night, and 'accidents' at the convenience of those in power.

And that is the decision point for those of the political class not in the Inner Party of the regime. Do they oppose by non-extremely prejudicial means, when they know that the next escalation will be the use of extreme prejudice against them? And knowing the nature of those running our government, and the nature of their followers, does anyone here doubt now that they have publicly declared the law to be 'irrelevant' as applied to them that matters have moved to that more serious level?

2) Those who are not in the Political Class have their own definitions of survival; both what hardships they will tolerate from above in their day to day living, and what risk they face from the coercive organs of the State.

When they reach their breaking point on either level, it will not matter what the Political Class does; it will be on. Those outside the regime will have to choose sides right smartly, and woe betide whichever side loses. For there no longer exist the institutions that can effect a reconciliation that will not involve the loss of a goodly portion of the population within our borders. Regardless of who wins, the 'Reconstruction' will either make the de-Nazification of Germany look like Romper Room if the regime fails, or make Pol Pot look like a warm up act if it prevails. And that knowledge will guide the actions of both sides if matters continue to their logical conclusion.

There is no happy ending possible. The only question is where and when the breaking point will be.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (45)
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That's why Nimitz was a greater admiral than Dewey.

Dewey's guns out-ranged the guns of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. He risked little on attack.

Luckily, he had a bigger fleet than the Germans did so could shoe them away and keep the PI for the US and for ultimate independence.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You can't corner a rabid dog, he does not think like you do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Similarly, one does not attempt to reason with, have hearings about, or criminally charge, a rabid dog. An entirely different level of response is necessary.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For a little perspective, the blogger Bookworm has called the IRS scandal the worst in American History:

"Ignore all that. The absolute worst scandal that's emerged lately, and the worst administration scandal in American history is the IRS scandal. Why? Because you, the People, became the targets of a comprehensive federal government effort to stifle dissent, one made using the government's overwhelming and disproportionate policing and taxing powers.
All of the other scandals, going back to Andrew Johnson's post-Civil War scandals, Warren G. Harding's 1920s Teapot Dome scandal, Nixon's Watergate, Reagan's Iran-Contra, and Clinton's Oval Office sexcapades have actually been narrowly focused acts of cronyism, garden-variety political chicanery, or personal failings. It's been insider stuff.

The IRS scandal, by contrast, is a direct attack on the American people."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The iceberg has already ripped the hull of this ship, wrongly believed unsinkable. The worthless captain had the watch photographing his wonderfulness for new portraits to be placed in all the WH bedrooms and bathrooms, instead of spying out floating obstructions in the path.

The G-in-C ("Grifter") seems to have believed acting as the biggest bully in Chicago automatically prepared him and his thugs to scale up their chickenshit outfit to international scale. Unfortunately, the murderers in the city on the shores of Lake Michigan are pretty much schoolyard toughs compared to the real monsters out in the big bad world.

The Chicago crowd maybe execute the occasional hit to maintain control by intimidation. And in a relatively rich and comfortable society where people would like to hold onto a little of their loot, it mostly works.

Governments in the Middle East, Russia, and China have a very long history of murdering, starving, and otherwise liquidating entire regions, to remind entirely other regions just exactly what THEY can expect if THEY don't knuckle under.

Stalin and Mao (and the people around them) observed that they were able to murder many tens of millions of their own subjects and still emerge on TOP at the end of the Second World War.

Maybe our dear leaders are sufficiently vicious, but they are insufficiently endowed with testicles for that sort of contest.

They're great at wresting chocolate bars from 5-year-old kids, but they need a little more bladder control to play with the big kids.

(Hey, I'm sure they could beat ME up...)

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The worthless captain had the watch photographing his wonderfulness for new portraits to be placed in all the WH bedrooms and bathrooms..."

Preferably in the toilets & urinals.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, the Final Word has been delivered on all of this.

White House Senior Advisor Peiffier went on all the Sunday talk shows and stated that the White House was OFFENDED by the way the Republicans are handling these scandals.

I guess that settles that!

What sparkling wit! What a devastating response that undoes the opposition! What impeccable logic!

That oughta do it. Thanks Egon.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It has always confused me how Obama could simultaneously pursue a policy of appeasement of the Muslim Brotherhood and heavily use drone strikes. What is being revealed about Obama's character in these scandals goes a fair way to understanding his foreign policy. But the money quote from Wretchard is: "The biggest liability now facing the Obama team is that maybe they’ve forgotten how to act when the enemy can hit back." Drones appear risk free in one way but as Islamists have shown they can hit back other ways. Ft Hood, Benghazi, Boston. And the advantage of being the first black president which makes any attack potentially racially motivated plus the strong protectiveness of the MSM can lead to a false feeling of invulnerability. The recent revised account of the battle of Midway, Shattered Sword, brings out that Spruance had Nugamo on the defensive all morning not just for an incredibly lucky 15 minutes. So it is with Obama. He may have Teflon skin, but he has has evidently been cheating big time all along. After all the faux Watergate reruns we have seen, this is the first one that seems to me to really resemble what Nixon did with his 'enemies list' and 'dirty tricks.' That is undermine the very basis of legitimate government. I am tired of the politics of personal destruction, but if Obama is guilty of this kind of crime then I hope the Republicans keep sending the torpedo bombers and anything else they can lay their hands on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Except when the Muslim Brotherhood or their like-minded associates 'hit back,' they don't hit back at Obama, they hit back at rank-and-file Americans so Obama DOES NOT CARE ONE BIT. He identifies with Rev. Wright and believes God should damn America. Obama only cares about power and fundamentally changing the US, IOW, the destruction of the US as we know it and replacing it with something much more dictatorial. All of his actions are dictatorial in nature.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Jack Ryan was part of a long line of people who backed off from confronting Obama and decided "Oh heck it's just a low paying job in politics." Ryan and McCain and others of both parties all knew what Obama was like and they all backed away. If they had responded with both barrels, left no ordnance on deck, and charged at the sound of the guns then that act, even at the cost of personal and professional self immolation, would have been among the great acts of patriotism to be remembered. Once Obama's mewlips got Judge Robert Schnider to release the custody battle records Ryan had nothing left to lose. That is when he should have bought every minute of air time and every billboard and full page ads in every paper and torn Barack apart.

I used to post as fast as possible to subscribe to the comments. Now I hardly feel I'm part of a conversation or community.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem with cheating in school is that the student doesn't learn what he is supposed to learn; he merely learns how to cheat. He can cheat over and over, and he can rise in the esteem of his elders. Yet, he has not learned what his fellow classmates have learned; his grades are a sham.

If one wants a competent surgeon, architect, civil engineer, general, or attorney, it is important to avoid people who cheated their way into prominence. When a man gets into the presidency through cheating, all he knows how to do is cheat. The problem with cheating, though, is that there is always someone else more proficient, someone else who is more ruthless, more devious, and more cruel.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In pinball, one can cheat a little bit and get away with it. A little nudge here, a little nudge there, and one can rack up the points. However, one must take care not to go too far, lest one tilts. When one tilts, the pinball machine freezes, the score is erased, and the game is over.

Politics is like that. Cheat a little, and one gets rewarded. Cheat a lot, and the game is over. Obama plays the game as if he can never tilt. It is as if he thinks he has rigged the game so that he can defy the laws of gravity, as if he could levitate the machine so the balls never run down to his flippers.

Impeachment and trial are merely the formal signal of the machine going “tilt”. The “tilt” may show other manifestations, such as a mass exodus of supporters from Obama's cause. By the time any impeachment proceedings commence (if they ever do), they will likely function as an anticlimax to the saga that is unfolding.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That is the perfect metaphor. Nudging the pinball machine still preserves the integrity of the game. But going too far essentially ends it. That's why it is in the self-interest of rational politicians to preserve the rules. The expected value of an perpetually ongoing game is much higher than a jackpot obtained at the cost of ending the game forever

Becoming a dictator sounds like a good deal until you realize that you can only leave office in a hearse. Staying inside the rules means that you can take your turn in office almost without limit. For so long as you are willing to give it up legally your time will come again.

Obama is bad, not just for Republicans, but for Democrats too. The country is split almost 50-50, which means that no Republican or Democrat should ever entertain the idea of "permanent power". The cost of obtaining such power is far higher than any conceivable reward.

The reason the US system works better than a dictatorship is not because it enthrones philosopher-kings but because it formerly celebrated people willing to play by the rules. The current administration has come perilously close to destabilizing the game. It destroying the ability of the system to generate deals and compromises that alone can allow things to lurch along.

Anyone who wants it all, and wants it all now is going to make the pinball machine tilt. As said in the last post, noticing this tendency in the President is the same as catching someone cheating at cards. If you call him out, you have to take what comes, including the possibility the game will tilt.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I Samuel. It very accurately describes what happens when the people want a king, the fool they get and the price that is paid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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