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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

5 Easy Questions for the Pres

President Obama, I know you've given lots of speeches, briefings, and statements. And you've schooled us well on subjects ranging from how to create or save jobs to how to change climate and achieve world peace. But there are just a few things I'm still fuzzy on, and no one else seems to be asking you about them.

So if you please, could you answer just a few simple and straightforward questions? I promise that there are no tricks. Here are five questions, four short-answer and one essay.

What is the mission of our military in Afghanistan?

When you entered office a year ago, there were about 37,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. By December, there were about 68,000, when you said you would send yet another 30,000. So you have increased U.S. troop presence there by over 160%. And 2009 was the deadliest year ever for U.S. troops there. But what exactly are those troops supposed to be doing?

Last June, the mission statement for the military in Afghanistan was "Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population." By October, your Secretary of Defense reportedly thought that "Defeat" was "an open-ended, forever commitment," and perhaps "degrade" might be a better choice of wording.

According to the Washington Post, you are reported to have said at a meeting on the matter,
              To be fair, this is what we told the commander to do. Now, the question is, have we directed
              him to do more than what is realistic? Should there be a sharpening...a refinement?

Well, what did you decide? What does the commander of troops in Afghanistan think his mission is? How does that compare with what you think it is? What is his mission statement? Defeat the Taliban? Degrade the Taliban? Deflate them? Debauch them? How did you finally calibrate the wording of that six-word mission statement?

To be clear, I'm not asking for an essay here. The old mission statement was six words on a PowerPoint slide. What is on the newest version of that slide?

What do your staff members get paid, and how do their salaries compare to that of their predecessors?

This would not seem all that important, but one of the first things you did as president, on your very first day in office, was issue a Presidential Memorandum "to freeze the salaries of senior members of the White House staff, to the extent permitted by law." So you seemed to think it was important then. We did hear that Rahm Emanuel gave you an oral report on that thirty days later, as you ordered, but we never heard the results.

So are the salaries of the senior members of your staff frozen? If so, at what levels? And how do those levels compare to their predecessors' levels?

Again, this is not an essay question. Salaries are numbers. What, for example, is Rahm Emanuel's annual salary?

What exactly did you, or will you, do with the $1.4 million from your Nobel Peace Prize?

According to news reports, your Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on October 9, 2009 that you would give your Nobel Prize money to charity. When asked more recently, on January 19, 2010, "Any update on where the President is going to donate his Nobel Prize money?" Mr. Gibbs answered,

             I know they continue to talk about it. I think he has not received any money yet.
            But as soon as they -- as he makes those donations, we will let you guys know."

It was later reported that you and Michelle contributed $15,000 to the Haiti earthquake victims via the Clinton-Bush Fund. So just what is the status of that $1.4 million, and who got it, or is going to get it? Any reason the Haitian victims didn't get all of it, instead of 1% of it?

Again, no essay needed. Just list the names of the recipients and the amounts to each.

What were your SAT and LSAT scores and your GPA at graduation from Columbia?

You are one of the youngest presidents ever, with one of the leanest track records in elected or executive office. Virtually all your predecessors served in the U.S. Congress for many years, or served as vice president, or in a cabinet, or a high military command position, or as governor of a state, prior to being president. (See Appendix.)

Yet you served in the U.S. Senate for only one year before starting your run for president, had never held any other national office, had never been a governor of any state, had never held any executive position, and had not even been in the military. We really know very little about you. We have not even seen your real birth certificate, meaning the official "long form" version.  (CONTINUES HERE)

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