On the road again-had a challenging journey yesterday to the other side of the Atlantic. To start with my ICE train to the Frankfurt Airport was going to be delayed by 90 minutes. That was a non starter as it was going to make me late for check in-and my requisite need to "pre-charge" in the lounge. ( The new Lufthansa lounges in the Z terminal of FRA are pretty sweet). Went to the Deutsche Bahn office and got re-routed to an IC train which was taking me to the Frankfurt Main station.
I made it in a ok amount of time-but then using LH's check in kiosks caused a bit of problem when it refused to read my passport. The newest EU immigrant manning the kiosk line-seemed not to grasp the fact that I need to go to a counter where a human could check my passport. Finally got that worked out-and by the grace of God the security line was very short. Landed safely in the lounge.
Then after boarding the plane-saw the change to get an open aisle seat with out someone next to me. Snagged it and figured things were looking up! But I spoke too soon.
The plane required maintenance that delayed us by almost an hour. Now this was a problem because I was hoping to make it time to get in a combat nap at the hotel prior to Super Bowl kickoff. Now I would be lucky to make the kickoff-much less the first quarter.
It turned out ok-made it to my room just as national anthem was being sung. Turns out, of course, I need not have bothered-the game was a Seahawk blowout. They slaughtered the Bronco's, who appeared to have left any offense they had back in Denver.
On a serious note, James Fallows has been running an excellent series of articles about the use of Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg. "About the service and sacrifice of this brave man and other men and women like him, we cannot say enough." But as Fallows points out-ALL of us should be outraged that he had to make TEN deployments to the various hellholes America has chosen to fight its war without end in. Furhtermore, there is a dichotomy of purpose when you have the architects of a failed policy somehow applauding him-while failing to do the things that might have prevented his suffering in the first place.
The vast majority of us play no part whatsoever in these prolonged overseas campaigns; people like Sgt. Remsburg go out on 10 deployments; we rousingly cheer their courage and will; and then we move on. Last month I mentioned that the most memorable book I read in 2013 was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain. It's about a group of U.S. soldiers who barely survive a terrible encounter in Iraq, and then are paraded around in a halftime tribute at a big Dallas Cowboys game. The crowd at Cowboys Stadium cheers in very much the way the Capitol audience did last night—then they get back to watching the game.
Later Fallows examines the implications in clearer detail.
There was another moment in the speech that I think will look worse in the long view. It was the emotionally charged ending, the tribute to the obviously courageous and grievously wounded Sergeant Cory Remsburg.
The moment was powerful human and political drama; it reflected deserved credit and gratitude on Remsburg and his family; and as I wrote earlier today, I think it was entirely sincere on the president's part, as a similar tribute would have been from his predecessor George W. Bush. With the significant difference that Bush initiated the wars these men and women have fought in, and Obama has been winding them down. And so the most favorable reading of the moment, as John Cassidy has argued, is that the president was trying to dramatize to the rest of the government the human cost of the open-ended wars many of them have egged on.
But I don't think that's how it came across to most of the Congress, or was processed by the commentariat. This was not presented as a "never again" moment; it was a "this is America's finest!" moment—which Cory Remsburg himself, and with his family, certainly is. (Also see Peter Beinart on this point.) For America as a whole, the episode did not show us at our finest. In the earlier item, I tried to explain why these few minutes will reflect badly on us and our times when our children's children view them years from now. Since the explanation was buried at the end of a long post, I repeat it at the end of this one.
A Congress that by default is pressuring the country toward war, most recently with Iran, and that would not dream of enacting either a special tax or any kind of enforced or shared service to sustain these wars, gives a prolonged, deserved ovation for a person who has dedicated his all to the country. Tears well up in many eyes; the cheering persists; the admiration for this young man is profound. Then everyone moves right on.
Years from now, people can play this clip and see something about the culture of our times. It's a moment of which only the Remsburg family will be proud.
His long exploration of the historical allusions is also worth a read.
Lunch is over-gotta get back to work. Hope it does not snow tonight.