Wednesday, May 4, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            “[President] Bush, who cast the fight against bin Laden in millennial terms of good and evil, never got his man. Obama, mocked by conservatives for his commitment to soft power and rolling back Bush-era interrogation practices, green-lighted a risky mission that resulted in the elimination of the man who was responsible for the murders of more than 3,000 [people].”
                                                     Josh Gerstein and Glenn Thrush

            All across the world, and certainly here in North Carolina, the praise for America’s military and its Commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, in the aftermath of the capture and assassination of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, has been virtually unanimous.
            Per press accounts, it was Obama’s intense attention to mission detail, trust in the training and capabilities of the US military, and willingness to put his presidency on the line if the bin Laden mission failed, that most observers credit with the historic victory over terrorism.
            “[President Obama] obviously did the right thing,” NC Congressman Brad Miller, Democrat from the 13th District, told The Carolinian Tuesday. “The same was true [in April 2009] with the Somali pirates [when Obama ordered US Navy SEAL snipers to kill the Somali kidnappers].”
            “He gave the order that any American president would have given.”
Even some conservatives and Republicans, like NC Tea Party Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers [R-2-NC], no fan of Pres. Obama for sure, begrudgingly expressed brief praise for his efforts.
             “I commend President Obama for bringing Bin Laden to justice…,” Ellmers said in a statement, before, like most conservatives, also thanking former Pres. George W. Bush, a fellow Republican, for his “long standing commitment and resolve.”

            But there’s one well-known conservative Tea Party follower and longtime staunch critic of President Obama in North Carolina who, interestingly, has not been heard from yet this week.
            Former US Army Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata, better known as Wake Schools Supt. Tony Tata.
            Before the 28-year US Army veteran took over the reins of the nation’s eighteenth largest public school system last January, retired Gen. Tata served 19 months as the chief operating officer of the Washington, D.C. public school district. However during that time, Tata, who also wrote war novels, was also in hot demand as a conservative blogger for Andrew Breitbart - the man who falsely accused Shirley Sherrod of racism - and as a television military analyst, primarily on the conservative Fox News Channel.
            In both arenas, Tata’s intense distain for President Obama, was palpable. In many of his early blogs, Tata blasted Obama for not immediately adhering to the recommendation of then-Gen. Stanley McChrystal to deploy considerably more troops to Afghanistan, where McChrystal was in command.
            Later, after McChrystal was removed by the president after a damning  Rolling Stones article, Tata, who had retired in March 2009, went on Fox News openly criticizing Obama for firing his friend.
            A few months earlier in December 2009, Tata blogged his admiration for Tea Party favorite, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, writing that she was “ready to lead” the nation as president.

            “…[T]his woman is far more qualified to be president of the United States than the current occupant of the White House,” Tata wrote then, after reading Palin’s first book, “Going Rogue.”
            On Sept. 1, 2010, the day after Pres. Obama formally announced the pullout of US military forces out of Iraq, Tata appeared on Fox News Channel. While most of the nation welcomed the president’s announcement with open arms, Gen. Tata was not so generous.
            In fact, he got personal.
            “I give the president a B on content and a C on delivery,” Tata said, accusing Obama of doing so ,”…with this dispassion as if he was reading Ben Stein teaching Ferris Bueller economics. It was almost as if he was reading it, and truly didn’t believe it.”
            Later during that appearance, Tata accused Obama of not being as excited about the troop pullout as he was about being elected; of being “palpably uncomfortable” around military personnel “who have done your bidding for you”; of blaming the “bad economy on supporting the troops”; and using the Iraq troop pullout “as a political event, which, as a former soldier, I take a little bit of offense to.”
            But those criticisms from Tata were only the opening pitch for his most devastating barrage against his former Commander-in-chief.
            “I really don’t think he’s vested in this thing. [Obama’s] vested in being president. He’s vested in all of the perks and luxuriating in the perks of his office. But to really get down and to understand what being Commander-in-chief is, I don’t think he’s fully vested in that.”
             Tata continued, “He’s sort of disinterested, in my opinion, in that he’s got these two wars that he was handed, that he has to manage, but comments such as [Obama’s Iraq troop pullout speech]  really kind of unhinge in my mind, his passion, which I don’t believe is there, from the reality that I just don’t think he’s fully vested in the military, and fully vested in the security of this nation.”
            Unknown to Gen. Tata in September 2010 when he made those remarks, just a few weeks earlier in August, the president he just accused of not being, “…fully vested in the military, and not being fully vested in the security of this nation,” had been informed by his national security team that a strong lead to Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts in Pakistan had been determined.
            Obama ordered that US intelligence services continue to followup, and the wheels began to turn in earnest to finally get the terrorist that Tata, himself, would have loved to have had a crack at during his time in Afghanistan, where many believed bin Laden could be.
            From that point on, the president was deeply immersed in all aspects of strategic and military planning to get bin Laden.
            The rest is history.
           When Tata was introduced to the Raleigh media in January of this year, he defended his criticisms of the president by saying he was standing up for the people in uniform if he felt they weren’t being respected. He also accused the media for trying to deny him his freedom of speech in questioning whether he would also be giving political commentary during his tenor as Wake superintendent, as he did while working for DC public schools.
            Tata, though his contract with Wake Public Schools allows him to engage in outside activities on his own time, would only say that he will work hard "24/7" at making the school system the best.
            Thus far, three months into his short tenure, there is no indication that Supt. Tata has gone back on that promise. Indeed, by all accounts, he has been singular in purpose in leading Wake Public Schools, thus far.
On Wednesday morning, The Carolinian sent a request for comment to Mike Evans, Wake Schools Communications Director, asking for a statement from Supt. Tata regarding his reaction to the bin Laden mission as a retired US Army officer, and whether he had now changed his negative thoughts about President Obama, his leadership, and his relationship with the military.
         There was no comment from either by press time.
         UPDATE - Apparently Supt. Tata decided to speak to other news outlets regarding the bin Laden capture and killing.
         Tata interviewed with WTVD -11 and, not surprisingly, praised the US military's performance, but really said next to nothing about President Obama except that he could confirm bin Laden's death. So as far as I'm concerned, he's still not said anything lauding the president's leadership at all.
            SECOND UPDATE - N&O Education reporter T. Keung Hui had me "complaining" that Tata hadn't "praised" Obama
            For the record, I wasn't complaining about anything. I reported, verbatim, some of Tata's most outlandish past criticisms and personal attacks on the president regarding Obama's relationship with, and abounding respect for the US military, and his deep concerns about national security (Tony may want to check with Defense Secretary Gates and Gen. Petraeus on those points since he has such a hard time believing either to be true).
              I then afforded an opportunity for Tata to speak on the record about this. I would have printed every word. I would have even, if he didn't want to speak to me, invite him to write an op-ed for my paper so that folks could read his remarks without qualification.
             Neither Tata nor his office displayed the common courtesy to respond even with a "no comment." He could take a 10-minute break from work and speak to me on phone, since his contract says he can do what he wants on his time.
              We can even have lunch.
              Apparently I'm not worth speaking to, which means the readers of The Carolinian, many of whom have school children in Supt. Tata's school system, are not worth speaking to when tough questions about character and leadership on our school board come up.
             Funny, Chairman Margiotta and funnyman John Tedesco have chickened out in the past too. What a coincidence!
             But if Supt. Tata thinks for one minute that he can waltz into the African-American community with his "I'm all for diversity, I just can't do much about it" act, knowing that we know how much he hates our president, and expecting us to ignore it, I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way.
             Mind you, Tony Tata has a right to his own opinion. But we have a right to fully understand exactly who, and what is plotting the course for our children's education, especially when we're going to get more high poverty schools shoved down our throats!
               Has Supt. Tata done good work in the three months that he's been on board? So far, so good, given that he really hasn't done anything until his student assignment plan is adopted, budget absolutely finalized once we know how much money the school system will actually have, and we see what kind of plans Tata has to deal with our high poverty schools like Walnut Creek Elementary.
                Yes, we support Supt. Tata's good efforts to improve education in Wake County, but we also will NEVER forget who the real Tony Tata is - a Tea Party-lovin' arch-conservative who doesn't have the decency to admit that he was wrong about the true character, devotion and commitment to securing this nation from all harm, of the president of the United States!
              I'll repeat here what I say in my "Cash in the Apple" column this Thursday - if Gen. Tata has any REAL honor, as a man, he'll admit that he was wrong about President Obama!


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