Lonsberry on Batiste

Bob Lonsberry has been attacking Massa's Batiste ad on air and in print.  Between the overblown rhetoric (he calls Batiste a "foot soldier for the Nancy Pelosi army"), Lonsberry makes some points that are worth considering.   Is Batiste, as Lonsberry claims, a "Democrat shill"?  And is his appearance in a Massa ad "baseless mudslinging"?

Lonsberry's whole argument starts with the assumption that Batiste "made" the ad.  That's not true. The Massa campaign clearly states that the ad was taken from a radio interview given by Batiste.  Batiste hasn't endorsed Massa, and he's not serving as a spokesman for the Massa campaign.  Massa is using Batiste's words in his ads because he criticized Massa's opponent.

Whether or not Batiste officially endorses a Democrat, much of what Batiste says is consistent with the Democratic critique of the war in Iraq. Batiste certainly agrees with Democrats when he criticizes the conduct of the war.  He thinks that Rumsfeld's war plan allowed the insurgency to grow, and that Rumsfeld should be fired.  However, the positive part of his agenda is quite different from Nancy Pelosi's (or Eric Massa's).

First, he's on the record [pdf] on the dire consequences of pulling out of Iraq:

Should we pull out of Iraq on some timeline in the future, whatever that turns out to be, without finishing the work that we started, I think the result will be a civil war of some magnitude, which will turn into a regional mess.

Second, he's not shy about asking for a long-term, big commitment in Iraq:

Do we need to revisit a draft or some type of national service?

I think we need to seriously mobilize this country for war. That may include rationing systems to help pay for the war. It may include some kind of national service.

This is going to go on for a long time: 10 years, maybe longer. I don't know. But everything is being treated as if it is business as usual, yet we're spending $1.5 billion a week. We're funding the Army with budget supplements. That means there are no offsets. In reality, we're mortgaging our future.

Neither of these positions are Massa's or Pelosi's.  If Batiste is supposed to be a shill, he needs to go back to PR school.

Let's turn to the "baseless mudslinging" charge.  Here's how Lonsberry phrases it:

Kuhl's offense is that he went to Iraq and said he was proud of our troops. He went to Iraq and came back and said the GIs said they were completing their missions. For this the John Batiste mud-throwing ad has called him a liar.

Sounds pretty bad, if that's indeed what Kuhl said.  It isn't.  Kuhl's widely-quoted words were about the overall situation in Iraq, not just the performance of the troops.  For example, he said, "I think we'll start to see significant numbers of U.S. troops coming home by the end of this year" and "it really isn't that bad".  He no longer repeats those lines, but he still referred to his discussion with General Casey in Iraq during every debate I witnessed.

Lonsberry also says that freshman Congressmen like Kuhl have little influence over the war. That's right, but it's Kuhl himself who tried to create the opposite impression by characterizing his trip as a "fact finding" mission.  Why would Kuhl have to gather facts if he's not in a position to act on those facts?

The truth is that Kuhl's went Iraq go gather anecdotes, not find facts.  Batiste called him out immediately after the trip because his posturing was so transparent, and so transparently wrong.  He did so without any prodding from the Massa campaign.  To my knowledge, Batiste has not uttered the word "Massa" in any of his interviews or writings to date.

Lonsberry raises some other important questions in his article, such as what we're to think of generals who quit and then criticize the country's leadership during time of war.  He refers to Batiste as "Little Mac", a comparison to George McClellan, the ineffective Civil War general who ran for president. 

The McClellan comparison is clever but wrong. McClellan was relieved of command.  Batiste would have been promoted if he hadn't retired.  After being relieved of command, McClellan remained in the Army and wrote a self-justifying report lauding his actions and criticizing the Lincoln administration.  Batiste's words and actions before his retirement were scrupulously loyal -- he held his tongue until he retired.  McClellan ran for President in 1864 while still a General, resigning his commission on election day.  Batiste isn't running for office, doesn't endorse candidates, and works full-time at Klein Steel.

Batiste was in a position with no good choices.  To remain in the Army and criticize the war from the inside would be disloyal and disruptive.  Quitting and criticizing the war leaves him open to charges of disloyalty and questions about why he didn't change things from the inside.  He chose the latter course, and Lonsberry gives him harsh treatment for doing so.

While I agree with Lonsberry that merely having held a high rank doesn't give Batiste special privileges in a political debate, I don't think that Lonsberry has made the case that Batiste is a political shill.  Batiste's words might have political consequences, but there's no evidence that his motivations are partisan.


Thank you for bringing excellent analysis to this race. I remember when Randy came back from his visit to Iraq. His picture was on the front page of the local paper. He was standing next to some local soldiers who were serving over there. In the background was an American flag. Now maybe that was standard protocol but when I saw it, it looked like it was done for purely political reasons. Up until that time the congressman had been relatively quiet on the war. My own take on all of this is that Batiste has alot more credibility when it comes to critiquing the war than Mr. Kuhl or some Rush Limbaugh wannebe.

I like how Lonsberry can criticize someone for mud-slinging considering all the mud-slinging he has done himself. How he can take on General Batiste is beyond me. I remember congressmen like Kuhl showing up in Vietnam and how they saw nothing and accomplished a lot of messing things up. Later in West Berlin I had the opportunity of briefing congressmen and being asked dumb questions about nothing to do with the briefings or mission. All that was accomplished was babysitting them. That was exactly what General Batiste was talking about. And I think he said it very well. When congressmen were around, nothing got done. Now if Mr Lonsberry wants to mud-sling, that is what he should be mud-slinging about. I am sure General Batiste, as the past commander of both the 82 Airborne and the Big Red One, knows exactly what he was talking about when he criticized Randy Kuhl. And I believe Eric Massa is right in letting the voters in the 29th district know what General Batiste thinks of our current congressman. Mr. Lonsberry's time would be better spent asking why Kuhl has such a lousy record when it comes to supporting servicemen and veterans!

General Batiste has earned the right to call a spade a spade. He has paid his dues.

Countryboy - I don't think there's any doubt that Kuhl's visit was one of a number of PR trips taken to Iraq in June and July. The hypocrisy of pretending otherwise is what bothers me.

LV - Lonsberry does sling a lot of mud in that piece, calling Batiste a "ring knocker" and questioning his honor. Bob likes to portray his history in the Army as that of a "poor grunt", so I wonder why he doesn't get it that those congressional trips are a waste of everyone's time.

Lonsberry worships corrupt power. So, he dishes General John Batiste, who has questioned the moronic neocons in the Bush(jr) Administration. It figures CBS would dismiss General John as a consultant, given that CBS covered up for Bush ducking out of his full AF National Guard duty, after the U. S taxpayers had to fork out about a million bucks for junior to learn to fly military jets.
Junior then stood down(from flight duty) and would not take a flight checkup physical, and that is no misprints with bad fonts. Lonsberry is one of those Lemmings, and a shrill for Cheney-Bush, and he seems to hate free expressions of most. But he sure gets more than his full of 1st Amendment rights via his PROPAGANDA Promoters.