Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blunt Talk with a Point

Writing for The Blotter, Luis Martinez described Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard, as "always blunt-talking." This is a fair description, but it also provides the oxymoronic reminder that blunt speech is often the best way to make a point. For example, this is the way in which Blum reminded the Senate Appropriations Committee that providing resources is always a matter of setting priorities:

It bothers me that the Army, Marines are sending forces to fight, and at home the nation is watching "American Idol."

I have to appreciate this: Getting the attention of Congress is rather like getting the attention of that proverbial mule by whacking him on the head with a two-by-four. However much I may intellectualize about the dangers of a world without reflection, Blum knows how to cut to the chase in terms of immediate consequences. Facing an appropriations committee is always a matter of holding out your hat; but Martinez provided a simple summary of what needs to go into that hat:

Lt. Gen. Blum, the head of the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau, said 88 percent of the Army National Guard in the United States is not ready due to lack of equipment and training, and that $40 billion was urgently needed to provide guard troops at home with "meat and potatoes stuff," such as radios, trucks, humvees, night vision gears and medical supplies.

Unfortunately, he has had to testify at a time when the country may still be under the influence of all that rhetoric about a leaner, meaner military organization. One assumes that there will be plenty of members of congress (in both houses, no doubt) who will enjoin their aides to seek out every opportunity to trim that $40 billion estimate. The good news is that Blum has already summoned some of his rhetoric towards a preemptive strike against such behavior:

You can't show up to put out a fire with only half the equipment because the house will burn down.

This metaphor (which actually has an interesting parallel in Talmud) provides yet another example of how being blunt may be the best way to make the point.

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