Second-Rate Appointments From A Third-Rate President

So, former VP Dick Cheney says "The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal... Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people."

Well, to be charitable to Barack's second-raters, at least our third-rate president has learned one leadership axiom -- surround yourself with people smarter and more capable than you are. Yet what a tragedy to waste even second-raters on a national security policy that is but a portfolio of indifference and cynicism.

"What Difference Does It Make?" Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton's now infamous nihilistic retort to pesky questioning from Wisconsin's senator Ron Johnson capped nearly a century of profoundly second-rate performances from Democrats. It started with William Jennings Bryan succumbing to a severe case of mal-de-mer as Woodrow Wilson's top diplomat following President Wilson's stern rebuke to Germany for having torpedoed the Luistania in 1915.

Of course Bryan and Mrs. Clinton arrived at the State Department with identical motivations. Neither was the slightest bit qualified -- Bryan the Great Plains populist and perennial presidential aspirant, finally exhausted, pledging his support for Wilson in 1912; Hillary, the undistinguished convenient U.S. senator, merely stoic collateral from her husband's serial philandering, losing to Obama via suspect primary vote tallies. Both appointed as neat political tucks conveniently designed to marginalize one-time rivals.

What a contrast to George C. Marshall and Dean Acheson, considered among the top ten secretaries of state since Thomas Jefferson held the job under President Washington, the only modern-era Democrat secretaries of state to be considered "first-rate". Marshall and Acheson, appointed by a first-rate president, actually brought legitimate credentials to the job. In fact, since Marshall, the Democrats haven't proffered a single distinguished secretary of state. So why start now?

Perhaps Democrats still suffering from their epic mismanagement of Vietnam are pathologically incapable of asserting anything but a "turn turtle" national defense and foreign policy. The emasculation of foreign policy by Democrats is hardly new or shocking:

George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess is a fitting allegory for the Democrats' approach to domestic policy -- permissive sex, drugs, gambling, sleaze and co-dependency -- all on somebody's else's tab. Less obvious, Porgy's refrain from Act II, 'I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' and Nuttin's Plenty fo' me...' has also been the Democrats' contribution to national security for nearly 60 years.

How fitting for John Kerry, speciously decorated brown-water U.S. Navy officer in Vietnam, disgracing his service and his uniform with dubious testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971, now the champion for the Afghan quagmire, and third in succession to the White House. Meanwhile Kerry's top treaty-making priority is defeating global warming. Such gallantry, deserving of another medal someday.

And Chuck Hagel, bringing assiduous mediocrity to the task as secretary of defense. He even struggles to make mediocrity respectable. The good people of Nebraska may be forgiven for pedestrian patronage in sending Hagel to the U.S. Senate. Yet why should cornhuskers' humble approbation be leveraged by confirming "Everyman" Chuck as secretary of defense? Because he served honorably as a combat grunt in Vietnam? Why not choose from among the 2.5 million other honorable vets who served in-country? Or better, pick from those 100,000 or so along with Chuck who actually endured day-to-day front line combat but unlike Chuck still have the capacity to think clearly and come prepared?

On the other hand, maybe Chuck Hagel -- Chance the Gardener -- is the most attractive antidote to those athletic know-it-all defense secretaries best represented by Robert McNamara , "the best and the brightest". What a relief to know "I won't be in a policymaking position", as Chuck pleaded with the Senate Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hagel might as well join the rest of Obama's cabinet-level appointees in national defense or foreign policy, none of whom make policy either. Which fits the low-info know-nothings who voted in Obama for a second term.

Principled knight-errants in the mold of Robert Gates, secretary of defense under both Democrats and Republicans, akin to Henry Stimson, secretary of war for FDR and Truman and secretary of state under Herbert Hoover, were Republicans of the first order. Ah, but that was when a first-rate nation deserved a first-rate national defense and first-rate civilian leadership.

Instead, Barack Obama, the third-rate poseur, believes foreign policy and national defense consists of basking in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden while abandoning the U.S. Navy Seal Team who did the dirty work on his behalf, and popping an Ambien and shutting off the lights while his embassy is being firebombed. A nation that elected Barack Obama will get neither a first-rate national defense nor a first-rate foreign policy. So, "what difference does it make" if he can't or won't find a first-rate national security team to run it?