How about that zero? THAT was something, huh?

I have two things to say about this brouhaha over Charles Bolden saying he was told to help Muslims feel good about their culture’s historic contributions to science, and the White House denial of such a brief.

First, the silly thing: I have trouble picturing the no-nonsense Marine on a self-esteem-building mission. When I try, my imagination comes up with something really goofy, like:

Hey, guys and how about the concept of zero? That’s a biggie! I don’t know what we’d do without it! Why, back in the Middle Ages, sports fans all over poor, benighted Europe didn’t know how to keep up with what was happening on the field when their team hadn’t scored (which is a big disadvantage when you’re soccer-crazy — you could spend the whole game in the dark!). They had to make up lame alternative words, like “zip” and “nil.” The guys who kept the medieval scoreboards would just be standing up there scratching their heads wondering what to put up until somebody finally scored… Boy, I’m glad I wasn’t trying to follow sports back then

And that just doesn’t sound like Gen. Bolden.

Now, to my serious point: If Charles Bolden says that the White House told him it wanted him to make the Muslim world feel warm and fuzzy about itself, that’s what happened.

Charles Bolden is one heckuvan impressive guy, and a squared-away Marine. If he says those are his orders, those are his orders, and don’t get between him and his mission.

Anyone at the White House who says otherwise either isn’t in the loop, or is lying.

And that’s the name of that tune.

19 thoughts on “How about that zero? THAT was something, huh?

  1. bud

    Here’s where Brad’s prejudice favoring all things military stands in stark contrast to the real world. OF COURSE Marines can lie, cheat, steal, murder or commit other kinds of atrocities. Just like anyone else. To give someone a pass just because he wears a nice looking uniform and can yell semper fi loudly is simply preposterous. Until we know all the facts let’s just keep an open mind. If Bolden is, in fact, completely honest and upfront about this issue I’ll be the first to stand up for him. But until the facts are out let’s not believe him simply because he’s a Marine.

  2. Brad

    My God…

    Bud, are you paying attention at all? Have you ever met Charles Bolden? I have. He’s one of the most impressive South Carolinians I’ve ever met, and one thing that strikes you about him right quick: This is a man of integrity.

    I know that you HATE all things military, which blinds you to this fact, but yeah, even if I had never met Bolden, if a United States Marine said one thing, and the political flunkies who work at the White House — any White House, under Obama or Bush or FDR George Washington — and I don’t have any other information to go on than that, yeah, I’m going to believe the Marine. And you don’t have to have a “prejudice favoring all things military” to say that. You just have to be an open-minded observer of real life who has been exposed to Marines on one side, and political flunkies on the other. Lots and lots of them.

  3. bud

    I’m not suggesting General Bolten is anything but an honorable man. But the fact that he’s a Marine adds nothing at all to the discussion. Being a Marine is, in and of itself, no indicator of one’s character. It’s about like suggesting he’s honorable because he’s an accountant or UPS truck driver or a taxidermist.

  4. Brad

    Yep, and so was Charles Whitman, the Texas tower sniper. The Corps teaches boots how to handle a rifle (as the instructor gruesomely boasts in “Full Metal Jacket,” proudly citing both Whitman and Oswald). Tragically, that seems to be all those two guys got out of the experience.

    But while I do indeed believe a Marine is in general more likely to tell the unvarnished truth than a political lackey, you missed the fact that I didn’t just say Bolden was a Marine. I said he was a squared-away Marine, the kind of guy who stands as a standard for others to aspire to. Far from being a fu… I mean, FOUL-up like Oswald and Chapman in the Corps, Bolden was a Marine aviator who rose to the top of a highly demanding profession, becoming an astronaut and a general. And as impressive as all those achievements are, when I first met him I was unprepared to be as impressed as I was.

    In other words, I was very specifically saying that CHARLES BOLDEN is a man whose word I trust implicitly. I suppose for you, Bud, it would be good to think of him as a man of integrity, and just ignore the uniform. For me, he stands as an example of the best qualities the Corps looks to encourage. In other words, not just a Marine, but all that a Marine should be.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    The Great Santini?

    Oh yeah, he was fictional, but that doesn’t make much difference to the Jack Aubrey crowd…

  6. Brad

    Absolutely not. Army all the way. Which is not to cast aspersions on the Army, but not only was he not a Marine, it’s hard to conceive of him being a Marine…

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    Hey, my cousin David is a pretty cool guy–Marine turned cancer researcher, but that doesn’t say anything about who might have miscommunicated in the Bolden/Obama dust-up–I know several U of C lawyers, and they’re the most honorable people imaginable…

    and John Glenn got kind of weird later on, no?

  8. Brad

    You’re kidding, right? I mean, aside from the porn star thing, you’re kidding about not having heard of probably the most famous Marine in history, right?

    John Paul Jones — you hear of him? How about Douglas MacArthur?

  9. bud

    I’ve never heard of Chesty either.

    Folks from all walks of life can be honorable, distinguished people. The Marines have nothing special to offer in that regard. Their reason for existence is to train young men to kill other people. It’s a necessary function in our world that sometimes demands that type of skill. But I’m not buying this flap-trap that a Marine is a superior human being to a hippie war protester. To me the draft evaders were the ones who had it right in the 60s, not the Marines.

    Are the Marines necessary? Yes, but in fewer numbers than they are today. Are they superior to folks from other walks of life by virtue of their uniform? Absolutely, 100% not.

  10. Phillip

    Rather than debate whether your average Marine is more trustworthy than your average White House flunky, let’s look at Bolden’s own speech at American University in Cairo just recently:

    Reading his speech, the extent and nature of cooperation with Muslim countries becomes clear. The way Bolden phrased it on Al-Jazeera was perhaps too simplistic and thus left it open for caricature and ridicule by jingoists like Krauthammer and Fox News. But read this for example from the speech: “…NASA already has 39 active agreements in 30 dominantly Muslim countries. Many of those agreements are for participation in an outstanding program known as GLOBE, or Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, an internet-based global community of students, teachers, and scientists. Students actively take measurements that are then shared with others around the world, using the Internet to record the data. Importantly, these high-quality, student-made measurements are being used by professional scientists and researchers around the world to help validate satellite data and to improve weather and climate forecasts.” And he gives other examples…in other words, Obama (through Bolden) views NASA as an opportunity to showcase–and share–the best of America in communities around the world that need to see other sides of the US than just what they might be hearing from anti-American propagandists among Islamic extremists, or even what their own experience of America is, which too often tends to be the ways in which we are making our military presence felt. Cultural initiatives, scientific initiatives, diplomatic initiatives…these sound like creative approaches to engaging with Muslim-majority nations on a positive basis. These initiatives undermine the rhetoric of those in these societies who seek to portray America only as the Great Satan.

  11. Burl Burlingame

    Chesty Puller was even in “The Pacific.”

    Not heard of Chesty Puller? That’s like not knowing who Curtis LeMay was. Or Omar Bradley. Or “Black Jack” Pershing.

    You kids today!

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    I guess I’ll have to Google Chesty Puller….Is Curtis LeMay a baseball player?

    I’m not a student of military history. So shoot me–kidding!


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