Posted on February 11th, 2013 at 7:51 pm by :(
This weekend, the coward Dick Cheney assembled the Wyoming Republican Party and complained about Obama’s national security picks — namely the newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, and the as-yet-unconfirmed nominees, John Brennan and Chuck Hagel.
“Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people,” Cheney croaked.
Nothing surprising about his criticism, but let’s unpack Ol’ Blood Eye’s comment, specifically this term “second-rate” he uses to describe Obama’s national security team. The term originated from the six-tier rating system in use by the Royal Navy in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to describe classifications of battle ships.
In this parlance, a second rate is a huge ship of war, displacing around 2000 tons, home to more than 700 men, and carrying more cannon than some nation’s entire armies. Cheney was of course, using the term in its modern sense (lesser quality, inferior), but since Dick raised the issue, another classification comes to mind:
A fifth rate load of bilgewater, who begged for five draft deferments during the 60′s and 70′s and then complains about other public servant’s credentials. While Hagel and Kerry were actually seeing action in service of the country, building a resume to be leaders of national security, Cheney was… what was he doing? Oh yes, shitting himself at Yale as a fifth rate student.
Meanwhile Cheney’s stellar team included wildly discredited, Late Night fodder, like Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and the infamous Scooter Libby who fell on his sword for his boss — remember when Libby committed the treasonous act of outing CIA agent Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband’s adherence to the truth about Nigerian yellow cakes, he was acting as Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States — which sadly, was Dick Cheney.
But back to the ships, because the British really knew how to classify anything with a sail. Broadly speaking, there were six “rates,” the first four of which described the huge and powerful ships of the line — so called because they were drawn up bow to stern, in set piece battles and sailed against the enemy to deliver enormous broadsides from their cannon bristling from multiple towering decks. First rates, the heaviest and most costly, were largely just floating caches of prestige. They were not risked far from home in foreign waters during the glory days of colonization, but remained in home waters and were only used in huge, rare set piece battles.
Fifth and Sixth Rates were not ships of the line, but the smaller, more agile frigates (the kind of ship “Lucky” Jack Aubrey commands in the surprisingly excellent, if poorly titled, nautical adventure, “Master and Commander.”)
A typical second rate mounted about 90 guns on three decks, and was many classifications higher than the aforementioned Lucky Jack’s frigate — which would have blown completely out of the water had it faced one. It was potentially powerful, but clumsy, lumbering, and characterized throughout the years by poor handling.
In 2013, Cheney is simply wrong when he describes Obama’s picks as second rate, they are certainly first rate — though we have to ignore Hagel’s poor hearing performance and simply look at his credentials. Curiously, it is actually Cheney’s national security team that was second rate, in both the modern and wig-frilly nautical sense of the term. Not only were they a bunch of neo-clowns, but the policies they pursued and the wars they initiated were clumsy and very, very, poorly handled.
One more note on ships. A third rate was and often still is, referred to as the jolly best build overall. It combined some of the handling and speed of the frigates classed below it, with the size and most of the firepower of the largest ships of the line.
Incidentally, we don’t know what Obama’s national security team will be like quite yet, but the team for the first four years has been decidedly third rate — that is to say, a wise use of firepower and fine combination of speed and handling.