One of my father’s favorite stories concerned his niece, who lived on a farm in Israel. Daddy was visiting there one day when he saw his niece, who was then about 5, playing with a wee little baby goat. At this point in his narrative, Daddy would always stop and explain to the city-bred people around him that there are few things cuter than a frolicking kid. Here, see for yourself:
What Daddy found so amusing was what his niece was saying to the cute as they played: “Oh, little goat, little goat! I love you so much. [Pause for kissing the goat.] We’re going to have you for dinner tonight!”
Our president might have been listening in on that story.
In his State of the Union address, Obama began and ended by billing and cooing about the wonders of a military that perfectly carried out his order to kill Osama bin Laden. His very first words were an encomium to the troops:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought — and several thousand gave their lives.
We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. (Applause.) For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. (Applause.) For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. (Applause.) Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.
These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. (Applause.) Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
By the way, am I the only one who finds that last paragraph a bizarre non-sequitur? How does praise for the troops carrying out their mission transform into our following their example by having lots of (government-funded) education, (presumably green) energy independence, and a big high-tech sector? Mr. President, need I remind you that Rule Number One of timeless oratory is that it should make sense.
Eventually, after almost an hour of standard campaign bloviation, all of which involved the government spending more and more and more taxpayer money on green energy, on Leftist education, on tried-and-failed social welfare initiatives, and on other Big Government boondoggles, Obama got himself back to his beloved troops (emphasis mine):
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. (Applause.)
That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world who are eager to work with us. That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin, from Cape Town to Rio, where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years. Yes, the world is changing. No, we can’t control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs –- and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way. (Applause.)
That’s why, working with our military leaders, I’ve proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I’ve already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber-threats. (Applause.)
Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. (Applause.) As they come home, we must serve them as well as they’ve served us. That includes giving them the care and the benefits they have earned –- which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President. (Applause.) And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.
Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates — a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary — and Hillary Clinton — a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job — the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other — because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.
“Little troops, Little troops, I love you so much. [Pause for kissing up to the troops.]” “I’ve proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget.” “I’m going to have you for dinner tonight.”
Making our troops pay for the Democrats’ frenzied spending binge is a disaster in the making, for them and for us. The troops are the canary in the coal mine. If Obama uses his budgetary powers to eat them all up, they are sitting ducks on the battle field and we, suddenly, are sitting ducks at home. Obama’s great love for his troops is meaningless if he fails to provide them with the financial support they need to have the best weapons and the best training in the world. I’m all for trimming fat, reducing redundancies, killing bureaucracy, and generally increasing efficiency. Bankrupting the military, however, will not achieve those goals.
I started this post with a true story, and I’ll end it with an old, rather bad joke:
A famously miserly farmer informed his neighbors that his donkey was costing him too much, and that he was going to train the animal to do without food. His neighbors were skeptical. When they next saw him, they asked how the experiment went.
“It went very well,” he said. “The first week, I cut the oats out of his diet. That donkey kept going just fine and I saved me a bunch of money. The second week, I cut the grain out of his diet, and he was still doing his job, and I was saving even more money. It was only in the third week that I had some problems, but I think I can fix them. I cut the last thing — the straw — out of his diet, and the damn thing up and died.”