American Elephants

Saving a Historic Tree at the White House. by The Elephant's Child

The headline in Newsweek magazine read “Melania Trump orders removal of the near-200-year old tree from the White House.” Misleading headline ripe for seeming to be an attack on the First Lady.

The huge Jackson Magnolia, reportedly planted by President Andrew Jackson from a sprout at his Tennessee home two hundred years ago, has become badly damaged and the steel cables that hold it up are failing. Like other living things, trees get old and die.

Experts at the National Arboretum said the tree needs to be radically trimmed. Melania Trump reviewed the findings and agreed to the cutback. She noted that visitors and journalists often stand under the tree during White House events, especially during the liftoff of Marine One.  The wood from the tree will be preserved, and the White House groundskeepers have been growing offshoots of the tree that are now somewhere around eight to ten feet tall. One of those seedlings will eventually be planted in place of the historic tree.

There’s a lesson here about headlines, and some credit due to Melania Trump who ordered the right thing in response to expert opinion. Here’s the tree in 1918.



Sometimes a Picture IS Worth a Thousand Words. by The Elephant's Child



Obama is “Outraged,” but the Scandal is Outrageous.. by The Elephant's Child

Security leaks and the moles who made them, burrowed deep in our most secret departments, are the stuff of thrillers. How to discover the mole and prove his responsibility and to whom he gave our secrets —more than one novel has been based on just such a plot.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seeking asylum in Ecuador trying to avoid trial and prison.  He thought that publishing government secrets would — what? Make him rich? Reform Governments? Some think that governments should not have secrets, that public exposure would make governments more honest.

This is nonsense. The world is a dangerous place and governments are charged with protecting their people. The imperfections and failings of the human race are readily found in the daily news. Of course governments must have secrets. and those who reveal secrets  face harsh punishment.

Imagine an organization that has serially leaked the nation’s most carefully protected secrets — exposing intelligence sources, methods, and sharing classified information with the press that puts real lives at risk. Victor Davis Hanson details the scandal:

What I call “Securitygate” — the release of the most intricate details about the cyber war against Iran, the revelations about a Yemeni double-agent, disclosures about covert operations in and against Pakistan, intimate details about the Osama bin Laden raid and the trove of information taken from his compound, and the Predator drone assassination list and the president’s methodology in selecting targets — is far more serious than either prior scandal. David Sanger and others claim that all this was sort of in the public domain anyway; well, “sort of” covers a lot of ground. We sort of knew about the cyber war against Iran, but not to the detail that Sanger provides and not through the direct agency of the Obama administration itself.

Here is the crux of the scandal: Obama is formulating a new policy of avoiding overt unpopular engagements, while waging an unprecedented covert war across the world. He’s afraid that the American people do not fully appreciate these once-secret efforts and might in 2012 look only at his mishaps in Afghanistan or his public confusion over Islamic terror. Ergo, feed information to a Sanger or Ignatius so that they can skillfully inform us, albeit with a bit of dramatic “shock” and “surprise,” just how tough, brutal, and deadly Barack Obama really is.

Yet these disclosures will endanger our national security, especially in the case of a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. They will probably get people killed or tortured, and they will weaken America’s ability for years to work covertly with allies. Our state-to-state relations will be altered, and perhaps even the techniques and technology of our cyber and special operations wars dispersed into the wrong hands.

The whole world now knows about U.S. covert actions against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The cyber-attacks could be called an act of war. The revelations about the nature of the cyber-attack on Iran was so detailed and technique so explicit that Iran will know better how to defend itself, and how to use the information to encourage more terror against the United States. The doctor who helped to locate bin Laden has been sentenced to 33 years in Pakistani prison. A Saudi double agent who helped us in Yemen has been outed.  Why would our allies trust us with any information? Why would small nations dare to help us if we cannot keep secrets?

These weren’t quite “leaks,” but rather information freely given to the press to make Obama look stronger and more decisive in his foreign policy. It is completely clear that these “leaks” originated in the White House. The story in the New York Times cites members of the national security team who were in the Situation Room and quote the president. The White House is accused of leaking classified information to make the president look good in an election year.

Eric Holder, Attorney General has appointed a U.S attorney, Ronald Machen, who gave thousands of dollars to Obama’s first senate race and his presidential campaign, helped vet candidates for the vice presidential nomination and in a profile in the Washington Post, called Obama a “legend.”

Not the way to inspire confidence in an investigation.


Cool Site of the Day by American Elephant
June 13, 2008, 6:13 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy, History, Politics | Tags: ,

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, Red Room, The White House, 1983

The official White House Museum website. Fascinating stuff for history buffs! History and pictures, paintings and illustrations of every room in the house, from the official residence to the private residence and both the East and West Wings — all as they were during different presidencies. Information about different visitors, foreign dignitaries and heads of state.

Lots of fun facts too. For instance, I knew the Bushes changed the carpet in the oval office when they moved in, but I laughed out loud when I learned that they put in new wood floors as well. From bowling alleys to bunkers, construction to conflagration. I knew there had been dramatic changes in the past, but there have been dramatic changes recently too. Lots of conclusions you can make about different presidents and first ladies based on what they did with, and to, and in, the White House, but I’ll let you draw those for yourselves.

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