Franklin Roosevelt was famous for being able to give people on all sides of a policy dispute the impression that he supported each person's position. Such artfulness helped him manage domestic politics for 12 years in the presidency. Similarly, President Obama wrote in his book "The Audacity of Hope" that "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them."
All politicians -- indeed all people -- permit such ambiguous perceptions of themselves from time to time. But for presidents, it is vital that such ambiguities support, not undermine, their policy objectives. And, as important articles in the Washington Post and the U.K. Guardian last weekend disclose, there is major confusion at the highest levels over what the president's policy is in Afghanistan.
The confusions as to intentions, strategies and exit timing started immediately after the president's Dec. 1 speech, and have gotten dangerously worse in the ensuing month. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chairman of Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullins and the top generals all said we were there to win and the July 2011 exit date was conditional on whether enough had been accomplished by then. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, adviser David Axelrod, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Vice President Joe Biden and the president all indicated July 2011 was real, and senior White House sources said "winning" was not an objective.
In an extraordinary example of expository journalism on the front page of last Saturday's Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran laid bare the shockingly different understandings of the Afghan mission held by the White House and the Pentagon (see "Civilian, military planners have different views on new approach to Afghanistan," The Post, Dec. 26).
There are three broad areas of "misunderstanding." First, Gen. Stanley McChrystal believes he is allowed to build up Afghan troop levels to 400,000. The president's objective is 230,000. With 400,000, we would be at about the minimal total troop level that the Army and Marine manual says is required to win a counterinsurgency war.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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