Hagel caught in Obama spin machine

Austin Bay:
President Barack Obama has fired Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The Beltway clerks and pundits tell us Hagel is a political scapegoat, a sacrifice to Obama's electoral drubbing.

This explanation may be accurate, at least in part. Removing a senior cabinet member is an inherently dramatic gesture. It can signal the president's intent to rectify a problem or to promote new thinking.

Rectifying and promoting, however, require follow-through, deeds to achieve results. Without follow-through, the gesture is little more than media theatrics.

After six years, the public is painfully aware that made-for-media drama, especially personalizing drama, is the sine qua non of Obama administration political operations.

Mentioning the Benghazi consular attack of Sept. 11, 2012, incites argument. However, the Obama administration's immediate political operational response to Benghazi provides an instructive example of "personalizing drama" and blame as an operational scheme.

Everyone now concedes that a terrorist militia planned to attack the U.S. consulate. Ansar al-Sharia conducted a planned act of war. However, in the wake of Benghazi, the Obama administration introduced a scapegoat: Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Nakoula was a crank from California who had directed an anti-Muslim Internet video. For weeks the Obama administration focused blame on Nakoula. There was no security breakdown in Benghazi. There wasn't a planned terrorist attack. Nakoula's video had insulted Islam and inflamed passions. A riot ensued. It was our fault ... somehow.

Drama with a personal face submerged relevant national discussion over the threat posed to U.S. interests by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias in Libya — and that was the Obama administration's goal. This and other administration-flogged blame tales obscured media discussion of the radical Islamist revival occurring in Eastern Syria. Until the 2012 presidential election was over, the attention of the American public had to be emotionally displaced from difficult international security issues that require hard decisions and follow-through implementation.
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Hagel was not as bright as Gates and Panetta in the job, but he eventual seem to get it and that is what got him in trouble because he was contradicting Obama.  However, changing the Secretary of Defense will not change the reality on the ground or the need for a more comprehensive strategy in the Middle East.

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