Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reagan National Defense Forum Day 2

Forgive me if this reads rushed, as I am trying to get it down before the battery expires, having forgotten to bring its charger, the mouse and the mouse pad in my haste two mornings ago

A full day yesterday at the Reagan Library began early with a quick 15 minute drive from my hotel.  First though, I had to caffeinate, which meant a little trip around Westlake looking for the coffee shop indicated on Yelp.  This place (Westlake) is designed much like Reston, for those familiar with that place in Northern Virginia.  Lots of hills and embankments, behind which hide the nasty, dirty, places of commerce which in other places, sit proudly streetside.  So ferreting out the shop was no easy task, but success was earned and a four shot latte was the prize.

After a quick drive to the Library, I parked and hopped into line with the well-heeled Republican-looking bunch also obsessed with arriving places early.  I nosed around the open space of the Library for a bit, reacquainting myself with the memories I made a year earlier, and then proceeded down to the first floor for the breakfast session.  I sat at a table near the stairs down from the main entrance, a propitious decision as I was able to greet friends and colleagues as they descended.  Many of the folks I worked with on the Romney Campaign were here, and a good number of other folks I work with in the DC Vast Right Wing Conspiracy also attended.  I sat with a good friend who does many of the same things I do for a living, and consumed a Nerf Football sized breakfast burrito that was brought to me.  As I ate, a kindly woman sat down next to me and said, "good morning, I'm Kay Granger."  Representative Granger was a delight to talk with, and we covered a number of subjects including her recent re-election, her work as Vice Chair of the Defense Appropriations Committee, and her obvious joy at the success of the Republican Party ten days ago.

For the rest of the day, I attended the sessions that were in the agenda I posted yesterday.  Two really stood out--the first was a panel of Wall Street types--bankers, investors, and private equity men--who gave their views of the defense space.  I find Wall Street fascinating, and I have always been a little envious of those who have positioned themselves to make money based on their knowledge and experience.  The second panel to recount was the penultimate of the day, and it was powerful.  Bush II National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Leon Panetta, Bob Gates, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Senator John McCain, with a moderator for NBS News.  A couple of take aways.

Panetta and Gates pull no punches in their disappointment in Barack Obama (obviously, something this crowd was all too happy to hear), which is something one would expect to hear from McCain (and we did), but is still somewhat jarring when it comes from two men who served as Obama's Defense Secretary.  Both Gates and Panetta have written books, and both have received criticism for their criticism of the President--primarily from those who would have them wait until the President's term is over before opening fire.  Secretary Jeh Johnson was somewhat of a tethered goat in the affair, as a serving cabinet officer in the Obama Administration and having been both men's top lawyer at Defense during their terms.  I had thought the comments would have made the news today, but my brief scan finds no mention.

The second thing I found interesting was Stephen Hadley's descriptions of his interaction with George W. Bush.  You know I have great esteem for GWB, but it was only increased by Hadley's views.  There was great wisdom and conscience at work in that man, and I continue to believe historians will treat his Presidency with more respect than the press has.

The final speaker of the day was Secretary of Defense Hagel who continues to underwhelm, and who gave a speech that appeared to have been alien to him before he stood up to read it.  Many times during delivery, it sounded as if he reached the end of a line, or a page, and paused oddly mid-sentence.

After the day ended, I joined some friends at a local watering hole for a bit and then headed back to the hotel to watch back episodes of Once Upon a Time.  Because that's how I roll.  I need to leave for the airport in just over an hour, which is just over an hour away.  I have a couple of books with me including GWB's new book on his father.

All in all, a great trip.  Next year's version of this affair will be dominated by election issues, and I look forward with great anticipation to it.


"The Hammer" said...

What happened to Panetta? A Nixon Republican turned into a Democrat power-whore. The man obviously has talent and ability with a healthy dose of common sense. Just a shame.

"The Hammer" said...

Hey, Gates was on Chris Wallace.

JB said...

Bob Gates recalled in his book that BOTH Hillary Clinton & Obama said (right in front of Gates) that they opposed the surge for purely political reasons. In my mind, that single admission, in and of itself, should eliminate BOTH from any credible consideration as Commander-in-Chief.

JB said...

I share CW's view that history will be much more kind to GWB than today's press . . . of course, the bar isn't exactly set at stratospheric height to be able to treat him more kindly than today's extremely biased press.

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