Michael Weinstein and his associates in his self-founded “charity” have a history of being unable to defend an argument by relying on simple truth. Instead, their accusations have to be dramatized with hyperbolic language or, in some cases, the facts simply need to be misrepresented.
And Chris Rodda, Weinstein’s researcher, has done it again. And again, apparently.
Weinstein and Rodda have recently been trying to make hay out of General Norton Schwartz’s recent memorandum on “religious neutrality.” Naturally, they imply it was their eloquent arguments (and senior-leader influence) that convinced General Schwartz to issue the memo. That’s not enough glory, however.
The accusation that US Air Force Academy Superintendent LtGen Michael Gould hasn’t forwarded the Chief’s memo to all USAFA personnel is, in the words of Michael Weinstein,
an incredible embarrassment. It’s clear the academy doesn’t like the message.
For her part, Rodda claimed the USAFA staff was “withholding” the memorandum, and that USAFA alone — in the entire Air Force — was making an effort to douse the Chief of Staff’s “watershed” memo on religious freedom. (That the memo was largely a repeat of prior policies seems to escape her.)
This memorandum properly made its way down the chains of command at Air Force Bases [sic] everywhere, with one notable exception — the Air Force Academy, where the top leadership have apparently decided to keep it to themselves.
Now, how is it that Rodda knows the memo went out “everywhere” with only “one notable exception?” Frankly, she doesn’t, and there’s no way she could. Apparently the truth just isn’t dramatic and shocking enough to make the case on its own, so it needs a little embellishment.
The truth, of course, is that the memo may or may not have been forwarded by commanders as they saw fit. Which specific commanders have or have not done so is not public knowledge, and despite claiming 25,000 vaguely defined “clients” in Weinstein’s Military “Religious Freedom” Foundation, it is unlikely they were able to confirm delivery to “Bases everywhere.”
More interesting, however, is how Rodda hangs her criticism of USAFA on a cadet, rather than taking ownership of it herself. After opening with the declaration that the memo was issued “to the whole Air Force,” Rodda said:
Even a cadet, who knew what the big “ALMAJCOM-FOA-DRU/CC” at the top of the memorandum meant — that all Major Commands and the commanders of every Field Operating Agency and Direct Reporting Unit should have gotten this thing — wrote to MRFF…
The memo from the Air Force Chief of Staff was not, as Rodda claimed, issued “to the whole Air Force” or addressed to “all Major Commands and the commanders of every [FOA and DRU].”
The truth is the Chief’s memo was “issued” and addressed only to commanders of MAJCOMs, FOAs, and DRUs. For the record, those commanders number about 50 officers total, give or take.
Rodda then quotes a cadet wondering why every commander didn’t get it. Part of the cadet’s missive:
“Wasn’t the letter supposed to be distributed to anyone in the Air Force with commander in their job title? Which Air Officer in COMMANDING or Squadron COMMANDER, even the Flight COMMANDERS have seen this? Pretty sure that would be none of them…such a sad problem here.”
Does this really need to be explained? Fine. The answer to the cadet’s first question is “No.” “ALMAJCOM-FOA-DRU/CC” means the memorandum was specifically addressed (only) to all MAJCOM/CCs, FOA/CCs, and DRU/CCs, where “CC” means “commander.” The rest of the cadet’s message is moot.
This would have been the perfect time for the MRFF to explain to the young cadet what “ALMAJCOM-FOA-DRU/CC” actually meant, because the cadet is obviously mistaken. Instead, Rodda presents the quote as proof — of what, who knows? The fact a cadet doesn’t understand a memorandum from a four-star general? That’s understandable, in some regard. After all, cadets are in training to become officers while they’re at USAFA. They’ll obviously make errors or be ignorant of some facts as they learn and develop into Air Force leaders.
Unfortunately, Rodda’s use of the quote seems to show little more than the MRFF’s efforts to use unwitting cadets to promote their agenda — even if it undermines the officership education at USAFA by seemingly encouraging error and insubordination.
Weinstein, at least, made a somewhat more defensible accusation:
“The only place MRFF has had any complaints of [military members] not seeing this is the academy,” says MRFF founder and academy grad Mikey Weinstein.
Ah, so lack of complaints is Weinstein’s basis. You know, someone recently said the plural of anecdote is not data. Apparently, the absence of anecdote is enough for Weinstein.
With that said, why does Rodda inaccurately imply LtGen Gould was obligated to forward the memo, and why does she assert, without any basis in fact, that USAFA is the only place the memo hasn’t been distributed?
There are at least two possibilities. First, Rodda and Weinstein (a former Air Force JAG) may be so grossly incompetent they honestly don’t understand how Air Force chains of command and distribution work. Alternatively, they may be actively misrepresenting the actions of LtGen Gould to denigrate him and further their own cause.
Remember, Weinstein wants General Gould fired.
Contrary to the painstakingly-manufactured controversy generated by Weinstein and his ill-informed assistant, LtGen Gould is free to distribute the message (or not) by any means he desires. For those who still can’t figure this out, General Gould explicitly and accurately explained it:
Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould…said the memo was issued as guidance to commanders, and was not intended to be briefed through the chain. He did meet with other leaders and supervisors on it, he said, and believes the chief’s memo is exactly the school’s view on the issue.
(Of course, should the memo now go out, Weinstein will claim a “victory” for coercing General Gould into the outcome.)
For his part, General Schwartz actually took some of the wind from Weinstein’s victory-dance sails:
Schwartz…seemed to reject the idea that commanders or others were deliberately and knowingly attempting to recruit for their own religion, saying any preference or bias shown toward any one religion was the result of “well-meaning officers and senior non-commissioned officers.”
The MRFF’s Rick Baker would be quick to point out that such “well-meaning” military members are either intentionally or tacitly supporting the effort by Christians to take over the world. It appears the Chief of Staff, who was directly asked if his Jewish faith plays a part in his decisions on this topic, disagrees.
Ultimately, this has nothing to do with religious freedom. Weinstein is simply clawing for publicity and another means through which he can attack General Gould (payback, apparently), using “religious freedom” as a prop, and apparently even USAFA cadets as pawns. The Chief’s memo was simply an opportunity — even if he and Rodda had to play a little loose with the facts to create the opportunity.