DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
28 July 98

BAD LEADERS EQUAL BAD UNITS

Hooray and hallelujah. Daryl Jones, Bill Clinton's nominee for Secretary of the Air Force, got shot down in flames by a brave Senate committee last week.

John Warner (R.-Va) spearheaded this maneuver, ably backed up by Charles Robb (D.-Va) and Robert Byrd (D.-W.Va). They and other panel members put America ahead of partisan politics and stopped Jones from further zapping an Air Force already under siege.

Senate panel members -- where a majority put conscience over cronyism -- will catch a lot of flack from politically correct hand-wringers who think affirmative action and quotas are more important than putting the right person in the right job when it comes to defending America.

Jones' nomination was by far the worst of a long string of bad Clinton Pentagon appointments: Les Aspin, William Cohen, John Dalton, Sheila Widnall and Togo West -- none of whom could lead a frog to a puddle on a hot day.

Jones would have clobbered an Air Force already on the mat because of bad senior leadership, an Air Force trying to do too much with too little and weakened by an exodus of good people walking out the front gate.

Jones' former commander, Col. Thomas A. Dyches, told the panel, "I believe there are serious questions about Daryl Jones' personal integrity." Trust is something Jones doesn't exactly inspire. People who have served with him openly call him a liar.

To pump fresh air into a deeply troubled Air Force it needs a strong leader who can take charge, kick butt and clean house. The extraordinary fine young folks who serve in our Air Force deserve no less. Warner says Jones was unable to even "inspire those who serve under him."

My computer almost burned up with Jones' horror stories:

* An Air Force Colonel: "We're in a steep decline both in operational capability and morale. Putting that self-serving nitwit in charge would have put us into the proverbial 'smoking hole.'"

* An Air Force Major: "How did he draw four years flight pay when he wasn't on flight status? If a grunt tried this stunt he'd be making license plates at Leavenworth prison."

* A senior Air Force sergeant: "The USAF is in far worst shape then even you write about. Jones would've made it worse. I served with him. His judgment stinks. He'd probably put Amway products in the BX (Base Exchange) and march us there to buy them."

It's pathetic that a person with so flawed a character could even be considered for such an important national security assignment. But then, as one colonel said, "Look who nominated him?"

And this is the nub of the problem. How could Clinton pick someone so manifestly unqualified for the job? Either Clinton's judgment is fried or he's flat doing his best to set up our military for failure!

On the surface Clinton seems always to defer to our military. He visits the troops often, wears military gear and talks a caring game. But when it comes to appointing true-grit leadership that could pull the services out of a six-year nose dive, he constantly comes up with fumblers and losers.

Equally troubling, Clinton remained silent over CNN's false nerve gas charges which dishonored every serving American soldier, past and present. Loyalty to pals Jane and Ted Turner and CNN president Richard Kaplan won out over loyalty to the troops.

I suspect Clinton, who wrote he "loathed" our military in 1969, wants it to fail, whether consciously or unconsciously. And that he's managed to accomplish! When he took over as commander in chief in 1992 our forces were Desert Storm strong. Now they're a thin shell of that once mighty war machine, sputtering and barely fit to fight.

Strong secretaries would never have allowed this to happen. Can you imagine the two-fisted former Secretary of the Navy James Webb, who resigned in protest because Ronald Reagan cut his fleet, saying this about Jones: "He is a man of proven ability who understands the challenges of public service.''

But weak Clinton clones never groan. And Republican Secretary of Defense Cohen said just that! Clinton and Cohen are the two guys ultimately responsible for the security of America.

Sadly, never have our defenses been so badly undercut from within.

End it