Friday, February 22, 2008

The Democratic Debate

Well I bowed to a masochistic urged last night and watched the Democratic debate. I didn't live blog because... well frankly because I'm not quick enough on my feet to pick up all the nuances and type at the same time.

Anyway so I am watching and the first thing I am struck by is that the stories in Obama's opening statement have changed:

This week, I met a couple in San Antonio, who -- as a consequence of entering into a predatory loan -- are on the brink of foreclosure and are actually seeing them having to cut back on their medical expenses, because their mortgage doubled in two weeks.

I'm pretty sure that after the Wisconsin primary that was a single mother whose loan doubled over night.

OK my memory was a little faulty it was a mother with blind 2 year old twins:

We're here because of the mother in San Antonio that I met just today, just this afternoon. She's got 2-year-old twins who are legally blind. She somehow entered into a predatory loan and saw her mortgage payments double in two weeks and has paid thousands in fees to try to stave off foreclosure.

She told me she was on the verge of packing and didn't know where her family would go next. She needed us to crack down on predatory lenders and give relief to struggling homeowners who were tricked out of their dream. She needs change today.

No one called him on it.

It's possible that the stories relate to two different families in San Antonio who are facing foreclosure, but honestly isn't the single mother with blind twins more sympathetic? So why would he change his spiel, unless he just makes it up as he goes along?

What I think is probably another example of this is his story about the Army Captain:

Now, that has consequences -- that has significant consequences, because it has diverted attention from Afghanistan where al Qaeda, that killed 3,000 Americans, are stronger now than at any time since 2001.

You know, I've heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon -- supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq.

OBAMA: And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition, they didn't have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

This just doesn't pass the smell test. First off, the constraining issue on any logistics chain is the budget, Obama voted against the last budget supplemental, which by the way contained money for Afghanistan.

But that's kind of beside the point.

His story may be partially true in each of it's individual elements:

  • He may have met an Army Captain who at one time commanded a rifle platoon in Afghanistan.
  • His platoon may have only had 24 men in it, but it is almost certain that it was because of normal rotational policies and not because 1.25 squads were split off and sent to Iraq.
  • There may have been shortages of one type or another. There almost always are. Platoons operate at the tail end of large complex supply chains. When I was running the Preventive Medicine Department at Naval Hospital Philadelphia I had to cease performing inspections because we couldn't get thermometers. This was during peace time in the states. There were times when we had to turn our cars over to other departments because they no longer had a budget for gas. In Korea it was worse. I can only imagine that in Afghanistan the problems get worse still.
  • His men may have been using AK-47s but if they were it was most probably personal choice. I doubt it was an ammo shortage, unless it was a one time thing in the middle of a firefight.

Assume all of that is true. It's life in the military. But string it together like Obama did and it makes it look like a highly dysfunctional system on the very edge of breaking. Which is the impression he wanted to leave. It is also, being generous here, a big fat lie.

Again no one called him on it.

Obama also did a tap dance number on whether or not he would meet with the leaders of Iran, Cuba etc. He threw in some pre-conditions that hadn't existed before. At least Hillary called him on that one.

The entire debate was like that. Obama is slick and he won it because of presentation, but as much as I hate Hillary she won on substance. (Even though I disagree with her on everything at least her positions actually have some depth)

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