Archive for April 27th, 2011

Petraeus-Panetta Pavane Pensees

My first reaction is that this is good for Obama, politically, bad for Afghanistan, as good for defense as can be expected, and bad for Petraeus.  (The CIA being impervious to reform, hardly rates a good-bad mention.)

Bad for Petraeus: He probably was exhausted after close to 10 years in the field, but he should have been JCS Chief.  True, working in counter-insurgency requires a lot of facility with operational intelligence, so it’s not completely a fish out of water.  But the CIA does much more well-hedged intelligence “analysis,” most of it bad, than it does actual intelligence-gathering and use.  Petraeus has directed the war in two theaters, and deserves a chance to apply what he’s learned to the military as a whole.  It’s hard to escape the thought that Obama is sidelining someone he’s afraid of politically, even though Petraeus has repeatedly disavowed political ambition.  That’s why it’s

Good for Obama Politically: He can put a purported rival in a position to fail (who was the last actually successful DCI?), keep him from speaking with authority as he spends energy navigating a bureaucratic and political jungle.  Panetta will probably be at home (enough) in Defense, and will be on the President’s side there.

Good for Defense: At least in terms of not having an empty suit or someone likely to wreck the place or take on unnecessary fights.  Panetta’s not a fool, but he was in over his head at CIA.  His job will be to manage the Carter-like hollowing-out of DoD, which Obama’s successor will have to fix.  But he’s unlikely to roll over completely, and will at least bring an outsider’s eye to the job.

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Let The Narrative Define The Candidate

Very quickly, the flagship Ricochet podcast has joined my favorite weekly listening.  A couple of weeks ago, Pat Caddell was the guest, and as usual, the pragmatic, tell-it-like-he-sees it Democrat pollster was a font of helpful advice for Republicans, all of which is worth listening to.  This particular bit stuck out: he suggested that the Republicans need to settle on a narrative first, and then the proper candidate will rise to the narrative.  It’s an interesting thought, and one worth considering.

His strategic advice is predicated on the notion – facts, really – that time is shorter than we think, and that the narrative for the election will be set this year, not next.  I think he’s probably right on this.  People’s opinions on Obama – and presidential re-elections are always first about the incumbent – are already being cemented, and the cement is starting to cure.  You see it in the “who do you trust more on X issue?” polling, on the right-track/wrong-track question, on a general atmosphere of incompetence and disconnect.

The Dems and the MSM (but I repeat myself) will try their hardest to shape the narrative this year to their advantage.  You see this in the stepped-up union activity, the attempt to frame the budget fight.  How both Wisconsin and the debt ceiling/budget fight play out, along with the continuing court battles over Obamacare (are you listening, Rep Stephens?) will be major factors in how these impressions solidify.  The specific issues, and the framing of those issues as “budget-cutting” vs. “growth-enhancing,” as an example, will also make a huge difference.  And even if we don’t know what particular economic or foreign policy details will be on people’s minds in 2012, the right narrative can absorb a wide variety of specifics and surprises.

By deciding on the narrative first, we determine the basis on which we’ll fight the election, we set out priorities and a vision of what’s right and wrong for the country, and where we want to lead it and see it led.

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