Reason 18 – Obama: A Rank Amateur

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Reason #18

Obama: A Rank Amateur

In her book, The Obama’s, author Jodi Kantor states that “…when it was time to order a swing set for the Obama girls, Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon, the chief usher, traveled to the factory in South Dakota where it was being made to inspect it.”[i]

According to media coverage at the time, the Obama’s paid for the swing set.  But, there is more than one kind of extravagance – and this is a particularly ugly and unnecessary one.  A Rear Admiral in the field would likely be in command of thousands of service members.  There are two levels of Rear Admirals, both of which are Flag Officers – a rank level attained by less than 1% of career military officers.[ii]

Sending a Rear Admiral across the country to inspect a child’s swing set – particularly, given current Defense cuts – is an insult and an embarrassment.  If the military was to have any role in this transaction, there are numerous enlisted skilled technicians in all branches who could have done a credible job.  Most probably, there was an Army base far closer to the South Dakota operation than Washington, DC.

How and why did this happen?  Who knows?  What we do know, is that President Obama seems more comfortable with high ranking titles.  The BP “Spill Commission” noted, for example that:

“During the Deepwater Horizon response…inter-agency groups [NRT and RRT] were activated but later marginalized when issues were taken out of their hands and decided by agency heads rather than through the established decision-making structure.  When the first National Response Team conference call was held, instead of the designated team members, the principals of the agencies were on the line and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano chaired the call.” [iii]

In fact, on day two of the BP spill crisis, the Deputy Secretary of Interior was dispatched to the Gulf, in order – not to guide our response, but to provide Washington officials hourly updates on our disaster response.[iv]  Does this sound like a job for the Deputy Interior Secretary?

Are these lessons in applied Elitism?  Or, are they merely the actions of a rank amateur?

[i] Jodi Kantor, The Obama’s, (New York, 2012, Little Brown and Company), Kindle Version, p48

[ii] Pamela Barnett, US Military web-site, Navy Rear Admiral, retrieved February 24, 2012 from

[iii] Staff, (October 5, 2010*), National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, Staff Working Paper No. 2, Decision-Making Within the Unified Command, p7 – Available at

[iv] Posted by Heidi Avery, (May 5, 2010), White House Blog, The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill, Retrieved September 23, 2010 from


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