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The Obama Campaign: Consent of, or Contempt for, the People

The Obama Campaign: Consent of, or Contempt for, the People
Expert guest post by Joseph C. Wilson
originally published on Huffington Post

Senator Obama’s ill-conceived
likening small town Americans to embittered guns-and-God bigots
have triggered a justifiable furor. Not only are the remarks insulting, but
also factually incorrect.

As it happens, at the same event in San Francisco, Senator Obama made other
remarks, equally startling, insulting our Foreign Service, Intelligence Officers,
members of Congress who provide oversight, and friendly governments. Like his
comments about small town Americans, Obama demonstrated a cavalier disregard
for Americans who every day get up determined to make this a better country,
whether running the general store in a small town, or representing our national
security interests in a foreign country.

This is what
Obama said

Experience in Washington in not knowledge of the world. This I know. When
Senator Clinton brags, ‘I’ve met leaders from 80 countries,’ I know what those
trips are like. I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy.
There’s a group of children who do a native dance. You meet with the C.I.A.
station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a
tour of a plant that with the assistance of USAID has started something. And
then you go.

Obama’s arrogance and contempt for career professionals in the national security
community is palpable. His contempt reminds me of something Bill Kristol, the
editor of the right wing war mongering Weekly Standard, said in a debate with
me shortly after the launching of the Iraq War in 2003. We were in Midland,
Texas, Laura Bush’s home town, and Kristol was asked if he had ever spent time
in the Middle East region, to which he responded “I’ve always believed
on the ground experience is highly overrated.” That callous disregard for
professional expertise and experience is, of course, one of the reasons we so
badly miscalculated the consequences of our actions in Iraq. That arrogance
is no less offensive coming from Senator Obama. And it is no less wrongheaded.

Foreign Service Officers, Intelligence operatives, and USAID development experts
carry out the mandate of our government to represent the interests of the United
States, to understand the dynamics in a foreign society so as to better advise
our own government on policies to be pursued, and work to improve relations
between the United States and the country in question. The world is a dangerous
and precarious place, and there are serious issues that constantly need to be
engaged with foreign governments. It requires hard work and diligence. We ignore
or denigrate that work at our peril.

Senator Obama should know better. After all, in his professional capacity as
Chairman of the Senate subcommittee responsible for Europe and NATO, he was
in charge of ensuring Congressional oversight of the administration’s efforts
to generate greater NATO support for operations in Afghanistan. The fact that,
by his own admission, he was too busy running for president to convene a single
meeting of that subcommittee, should not absolve him of responsibility for acquiring
at least some understanding of and respect for the work of career professionals
who dedicate their lives to the service of their country.

I was one of those public servants for twenty-three years. My colleagues and
I, whether in the Foreign Service, the Military or the Central Intelligence
Agency, were and are motivated by a commitment to serve the values that have
made this country free and secure, values that are enshrined in our founding
documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of
Rights. In exercising our responsibilities, we were careful to ensure that members
of Congress were kept abreast and made partners in our efforts to keep America
safe. When they visited our posts, we went out of our way to provide substantive
briefings, meetings with senior host government officials, trips to USAID projects
so elected representatives could see for themselves what the United States was
doing to assist citizens of the recipient country improve their lot in life.
And yes, there were cultural events, to broaden the perspectives of the visitors
and to show respect for the indigenous culture they were being introduced to.
Our goal in this was to ensure that those who represent the American people
in Congress better understood what we were doing because more knowledge leads
to better decisions. Judgment is not intuitive, as Senator Obama asserts; from
my hard-won experience as a Foreign Service Officer, that judgment is learned.

Obama has made plain that he is not bothered in the slightest about belittling
the work of Foreign Service and CIA Officers serving overseas, often in dangerous
circumstances, any more than he is about denigrating Americans from small towns
or blaming democrats in Congress, and especially Hillary Clinton, for George
W. Bush’s war in Iraq. It was not ironic that he made both comments at the same
fundraiser in San Francisco. The contempt is consistent.

Trashing Congress, small town Americans, and career national security professionals,
while befriending Jeremiah Wright and Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers
may be a winning electoral strategy. Who knows? Time will tell. But I suspect
that many small town Americans are as offended as my professional colleagues
and I by this display of contempt from one who seeks our consent to govern.

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