Lloyd Austin And The Friday News Dump Two Days Later

January 7, 2024

Clear and cold this early-evening Sunday here in California’s Central Valley — big winter weather punching most of the country right now and maybe into next week. Snow and freezing temps as the season blows across the US. Here in the valley, outside this afternoon cold-ass wind off a way-cold front from the Gulf of Alaska driving into the foothills and the Sierra Nevada Mountains just to the east of where I’m sitting right now at my laptop, all warm and cozy.

Meanwhile, far to the east in DC: In our current time of weird-ass shit being normal, there’s always an oddball-turd story that’s crazy on its face — such is Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s seemingly extended hospital stay off “complications following a recent elective medical procedure” — and for some reason kept secret for five days. The Pentagon dropped Austin’s medical shit into last Friday’s news dump to lower public attention. Dumb maybe more than odd, but it’s caused a stink.

Austin, from a statement yesterday: ‘“I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better. But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”

Even through today, however, the Defense Department still hasn’t released details:

Tom Nichols, academic specialist on international affairs, and retired professor at the U.S. Naval War College, took a look at the situation via The Atlantic last night — some snips:

Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following complications from an “elective procedure” on New Year’s Day, according to a statement from the Pentagon. Elective could mean almost anything that is not serious or urgent, but something went wrong, and Austin ended up in the intensive-care unit for four days, NBC News reported. In itself, the secretary’s incapacity is not a crisis; the Pentagon’s chain of command has multiple people who can take over for him. And there might be good reasons to keep such news, at least temporarily, away from the public (and America’s enemies).


The most benign explanation (based on what little we know so far) would be that Austin’s health issues developed so rapidly that his subordinates assumed he’d be released, when in fact he was being held over repeatedly in hour-by-hour medical decisions for more treatment. Meanwhile, a competent and efficient Pentagon staff might have extended its acting duties beyond the one day initially expected while everyone involved mistakenly thought someone else was keeping the White House in the loop.

The more worrisome possibility is that Austin and his staff did not want to release the news that Austin was incapacitated to anyone—including the president and his staff. If Austin’s illness was kept under wraps by his aides to shield him from criticism or scrutiny, that’s evidence of a dysfunctional staff environment, in which actions to protect the boss’s equities overtake both necessary procedures and plain good sense. The fact that Austin’s hospitalization, according to Politico, was “a closely guarded secret, kept from even senior Pentagon officials and congressional leaders,” suggests that this strange episode was the result of more than just an oversight.


Who, for example, was in charge and able to execute the secretary’s duties during his illness—including taking Austin’s place in the nuclear chain of command? When the president orders the use of nuclear weapons, the secretary of defense confirms those orders to the U.S. Strategic Command. (The secretary has no veto, but he or she must verify that the orders are authentic and came from the president.) In theory, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks would take Austin’s place as the acting secretary, but the Pentagon, according to The Washington Post, has been “ambiguous about what happened in this case,” saying only that Hicks “‘was prepared to act for and exercise the powers’ of the defense secretary, if required.”

“If required”? The Pentagon was already having a busy week: While Austin was in the hospital, the United States launched an airstrike in Iraq, killing one of the leaders of an Iranian-backed militia. Austin apparently signed off on the strike before his hospitalization, but what if something had gone wrong and a crisis erupted? What if the White House couldn’t find its own secretary of defense quickly in a deteriorating military situation?

Or, in an even more hair-raising possibility, what if something else had gone wrong—something far more catastrophic?

Therein lies the rub.

Reportedly, President Biden still trusts and relies on Austin — further from The Washington Post this evening:

A senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation, noted what he described as “an exceptionally close relationship” between Austin and Biden, whose son Beau served as military lawyer under Austin when he was a top commander in Iraq.

“There’s a lot of trust there on both sides, and this episode has not diminished that trust one bit,” this person said. “The president is looking forward to the secretary’s continued service.”

A White House official said Biden had “full confidence” in Austin and was looking forward to him being back at the Pentagon.

But numerous questions remained about the incident a week into Austin’s hospitalization. White House officials declined to say what Biden or his top aides, even now, knew about Austin’s current condition or the reason he was hospitalized.

The incident raised troubling questions about management of weighty military decisions at a moment when the United States is grappling with heightened tensions with Iranian-backed proxies in the Middle East. On Jan. 4, with Austin in the hospital, the U.S. military conducted a strike on a militant target in Baghdad. U.S. forces have also tangled in recent days with Houthi militants in the Red Sea.


While multiple officials expressed frustration that Austin had not been more forthcoming about his absence — one said the handling of the incident showed “unbelievably bad judgment” on Austin’s part — they attributed it chiefly to Austin’s intensely private nature and perhaps a misunderstanding of the need for disclosure his position demands.

“You want a defense chief who’s discreet, who’s not going to jam the president,” another senior official said. “But in rare cases like this one, where more transparency was warranted, it served him poorly.

Just should have followed requirements — per the Guardian this morning:

Retired Lt Gen Mark Hertling, who previously served as the US army’s commanding officer in Europe, told CNN that Austin “should … have notified the [national security council] or the White House”.

“You always notify your boss if you’re hospitalized for something, and we don’t know what occurred that didn’t allow that to happen,” Hertling said.

But Hertling downplayed the idea that the US may have been vulnerable with Austin hospitalized.

“He has multiple deputies he trusts to continue the actions of the department while he’s away,” Hertling said to CNN.

Other military officials saw matters more harshly than Hertling. A Politico report from Sunday quoted an unnamed defense department official who believed Austin’s undisclosed hospitalization could cost a senior Pentagon aide’s job, despite Austin’s taking responsibility.

“Someone’s head has to roll,” the official said, according to Politico.

Military Reporters and Editors (MRE), a non-profit organisation for journalists covering the US military, said the decision to only release the information on a Friday evening, when online readership is typically lower, “is keeping in the worst traditions of obfuscation and opacity.”

And, of course, it opens the yap-holes of Republicans, who in reality don’t really understand.
We’ll wait and see. I’m not going to give them space to shit out words and phrases to soak up the piss sputtering from the Right Flank on a continuous flow — there’ll be time enough.

Now back to the rest of the weekend’s anti-democracy shits of ordinary, gut-clutching, way-dangerous, and completely insane babble, and another weird-ass story being normal:

Either way, such an enormous armchair horror of un-mitigated, nightmare scenarios.

And no regrets:

Despite the medical bullshit, or not, yet here we are once again…

(Image out front: ‘Art Critic’ by Norman Rockwell, found here.)

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