How amazing is it that on today, the 47th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Barack Obama announced that he will appoint General Eric Shinseki, a Japanese-American veteran from Hawaii, as the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs?
Like so many of Obama’s moves, this is a master stroke that shows his trademark combination of competence, elevation, and cold-blooded ruthlessness.
Shinseki is a heavily decorated veteran who rose to become both the first Asian-American 4-star general, as well as the first Asian-American chief of the Army. He is well respected within the military and by veterans
This appointment appeals to our better angels on so many levels. Shinseki lost part of his leg in the Vietnam war, appealing to our admiration of personal sacrifice. And on a symbolic level, appointing a Japanese-American on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor speaks volumes about the very American values of forgiveness, redemption, and the ability to break with the past. It’s hard to imagine this happening in any other country.
What better way to stick it to the Bush Administration and the neo-conservatives than by appointing one of the martyrs of the run-up to the Iraq war? Shinseki was brutally attacked then fired for arguing before the war that we needed a lot more soldiers on the ground to effectively deal with the aftermath of a military victory. Events have proven him incredibly prescient.
Whether or not you support Obama, he is clearly at the top of his political game.
(Thanks to James Fallows for his excellent post on the Shinseki appointment)
4 thoughts on “Obama, Master of Symbolism”
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“Like so many of Obama’s moves, this is a master stroke that shows his trademark combination of competence, elevation, and cold-blooded ruthlessness.”
Brilliant! This is the most reassuring thing I’ve read about Obama so far.
Those are all good qualities for a world leader, even the ruthlessness, and after the last presidency it’s good to feel we are in competent hands rather than the hands of a very nice chap (yes I thought Bush was a nice chap) who seems a bit slow/ out of touch. But there’s something extremely calming about competence, isn’t there.
“Shinseki was brutally attacked then fired for arguing before the war that we needed a lot more soldiers on the ground to effectively deal with the aftermath of a military victory.” – this simply isn’t true! Not in the least. I sent you the links in a previous comment 😉 he wasn’t ‘brutally attacked’ and he served his whole time – in fact, he had actually retired before his testimony and was allowed to serve out the rest of his term… although he wanted to be, he was NOT appointed to another post after retirement which is not at all being fired – it’s called being retired.
Shinseki *was* put to pasture (regardless whether he was already headed into retirement)… and for simply stating an honest opinion. that btw, turned out to be pretty accurate.
and also i agree: masterful stroke to appoint a Japanese-American to the post on pearl harbor anniversary.
don’t know if they were sticking it to Bush admin or not, but nice to see Shinseki vindicated.