Friday, October 30, 2009
This is what a president does.US President Barack Obama has paid his respects to 18 Americans killed in Afghanistan, the first time he has honoured the fallen in this way.
NPR notes that,The dramatic image of a president on the tarmac was a portrait not witnessed in years.
Why?His predecessor, George W Bush, visited the families of dead troops but never received the bodies at the base, in Dover, Delaware.
When 17 of the 18 families decline the honor of having the return of their loved one turned into an apologia for Obama's dithering over Afghanistan, that speaks volumes:
A small contingent of reporters and photographers accompanied Mr. Obama to Dover, where he arrived at 12:34 a.m. aboard Marine One. He returned to the South Lawn of the White House at 4:45 a.m.
The images and the sentiment of the president's five-hour trip to Delaware were intended by the White House to convey to the nation that Mr. Obama was not making his Afghanistan decision lightly or in haste.
That thought has, perhaps, belatedly occurred to the NY Times. For some reason they felt it necessary to edit out much of their original article on the President's visit to Dover.
Planes arrive every day carrying fallen warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Dover ban was lifted 8 months ago. I could say I think it's odd that the President suddenly felt the urge to do what he could have done at any time during the last 9 months. He didn't, after all, need to allow the press to photograph his visit. He could have visited Dover even before the media ban was lifted.
But I won't go there. Instead I'll just say, "It's about time." and "Thank you, Mr. President, for doing the right thing."
Jimbo says it best:
The deaths of brave Americans are not fodder for politics. I don't believe that is what President Obama intended, but if so he could have foregone the photo op. Sometimes you have to stop listening to your handlers and do something just because it's the right thing.
Update: This is what a President does:
The charge that President Bush didn’t care about fallen troops, just because he didn’t have himself photographed during the deeply private and solemn moments with their families is disgusting and obscene.
Last December, after the completion of Bush’s two terms, The Washington Times finally published an exclusive story about the former President’s dedication to the troops, something he never felt the need to publicize:
For much of the past seven years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have waged a clandestine operation inside the White House. It has involved thousands of military personnel, private presidential letters and meetings that were kept off their public calendars or sometimes left the news media in the dark.
Their mission: to comfort the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to lift the spirits of those wounded in the service of their country.
Speaks volumes, doesn't it? And today his refusal to use the families of the fallen as political props is cited as evidence that he was indifferent to our grief.
Nice post, Cass. The disconnect between the left -- which wants the president to grieve in front of cameras -- and the right, which prefers that the president pay his respects in the quiet and private comfort of a gathered family, is arresting. One cannot help but wonder whether it is not an extension of the broader politics of our "therapy" culture. It certainly seems as though the idea that stoicism is a virtue increasingly confined to the right.
If I am not mistaken, Mr. Bush saw every family that cared to see him, whether it was in Dover or at the White House. In his years as President, he met with thousands of family members - quietly, without the press and in a manner that was deserving of the ultimate sacrifice given.
I believe Bush did receive families at Dover on several occasions. In the hanger, without press or photographers. But it's hard to find a link because he didn't take the press.
That wouldn't surprise me. The press are so desperate to portray Obama in the best light possible that they regularly rewrite history.
Somewhere in my archives is a post I did about bipartisan outreach. The media had just churned out a bunch of articles about how Obama's so-called outreach to the Rethugs was "unprecedented".
I dug up an article from 2000 that covered Bush's historic visit to the Democratic conference in Williamsburg. Notably, it contained quotes from prominent Democrat lawmakers talking about their utter amazement at Bush's willingness to attend their conference - an event that had never occurred before in our history.
Of course this went right down the memory hole when the press covered Obama's first 60 days in office. Didn't fit the narrative, you see.
I believe Bush did receive families at Dover on several occasions. In the hanger, without press or photographers. But it's hard to find a link because he didn't take the press
Um... maybe because the Press was banned from covering transfers at Dover for the past 18 years?
Now that the ban has been lifted, I can only imagine the headlines if Obama had forbade the press to travel with him to Dover: "Obama REFUSES to let press travel with him! Steals pencils and stomps on cameras. Mandates media blackout despite Pentagon ruling."
For those who might care about details, it's policy (agreed to years before Obama was elected) that the press pool travels with the POTUS wherever he/she goes.
Even Bush had to hew to that policy. How else do you explain so much footage of him clearing brush in Crawford?
Seeing the photo of the President erect and in a perfect salute made me feel soiled. It was tasteless and contrived political theater. Given his past behavior, like putting the Olympics above meeting with the general chosen to fight a war, this just is not enough to sell me and I resent the idea that one photo is all it takes to show his appreciation of the sacrifice our men and women in uniform are making.
Pure baloney. This is all about setting the stage for a policy change. My guess is one that will leave the troops demoralized and this is all about giving him cover on the home front. The sincerity is such an amateur production. He must think people who value the work our troops have done in Iraq and Iran are big schmucks.
When I contrast the efforts of Bush and Obama in these matters I see the contrast between class and the appearance of class.
Mr. Ed, who had the class, certainly not Bush, or Obama for that matter. Bush used the Iraq war and his "mission accomplished" bull to further his (and the devil Cheney's) political agendas. Forgetting about Afghanistan for them was a plus. Now we are going to have to dig our way out of a conflict that could have ended years ago had we not taken our eye off the ball. I said this 6 years ago when we were attempting to go in to Iraq and was met by the "you're unpatriotic" from the righties. Well, Bush has no class, Cheney downright evil and Obama clueless. Get out, now!!!
It's tough, isn't it, Vicki, defending a man who campaigned on the promise to "fully resource" the Afghan war, who told us just a few months ago that this was "a war of necessity"?
It's tough to defend a man who criticized George Bush for "failing to sell the war to the American people" and then went on to do far less to sell the war than the man he criticized.
The war was nothing more than a campaign tool for Obama and now all the chickens he set loose during the campaign have come home to roost.
No one is the armed forces is sure just how this "war of necessity" so quickly became a "war of choice". But the men and women in harm's way deserve better from their Commander in Chief.
The politicization of such an event is what one comes to expect from an entire party wherein you can witness a memorial turn into a political ralley.
Whether the O intended this to be a photo op or not, that is what it has become. And it is crass and tasteless.
Beyond the ridiculous comparison of which President cares more or how often either showed up at Dover to view caskets of our dead military, the real elephant in the (Cassandra's) room is how many of her "real" life friends and neighbors (excluding career military) are willing to send their sons and daughters to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for [fill in the blank].
How many of the folks here who cheer the "Obama is dithering" posts are happy to "dither" when it comes to their own children's service while Cassandra's family doesn't?
Let's throw it out to the readers:
* How many of you have children who are serving?
* How many of you are encouraged when you read about a parent's son or daughter who has enlisted?
* How many of you would encourage your son or daughter to enlist today?
* If you prefer not to encourage your son and daughter to enlist, who should be responsible for fighting the wars that the US is waging currently?
the real elephant in the (Cassandra's) room is how many of her "real" life friends and neighbors (excluding career military) are willing to send their sons and daughters to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for [fill in the blank].
You really are clueless.
My husband is in Afghanistan now. My best friend's son is headed over there at this moment. And I have many friends currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
"...how many of her "real" life friends and neighbors (excluding career military) are willing to send their sons and daughters..."
That's a great new argument. I propose we call it the "chickenhawk" argument.
I'll bet it could really catch on - and everyone who doesn't have a sufficient number of neighbors with children in the war will be forced to STFU.
A few points:
1. Yes, it is stupid to argue over which President truly honors the troops. So you must be pretty unhappy with Blue Texan since that was the entire point of his, "This is what a President does" post :p
The posts I've seen responding to him have not, as he did, tried to say that Bush honored the troops *more*, but that Blue Texan is outright lying when he says Bush avoided the consequences of war due to cowardice or indifference.
If you choose to read into that that Bush did a better job of supporting the troops, that's your interpretation.
2. The chickenhawk argument is the first refuge of someone who can't justify his position without attacking his opponent.
Military status (or willingness to enlist) is irrelevant. There are far too many folks on both sides of this debate who haven't served.
The point here is not to attack Obama for visiting Dover. If I'd wanted to do that, I would have done it when the story first came out. Many conservative bloggers (including the very ones Blue Texan linked) either praised Obama or said nothing.
The point was to refute the dishonest claim that Bush refused to confront the consequences of going to war. It will never be as hard to stand next to a silent coffin as it is to meet with the grieving family of a dead soldier or Marine.
And visits don't mean much to a dead person.
It is the living who require consolation and support.
It's been said that the truest test of ones character isn't what one does in front of an audience, in public, but, what one does and how one chooses when no one is there to see but oneself. I think that there is more than a little truth to that.
In response to Tress:
We are not a military family. Yet early in 2005, as media condemnation of the war in Iraq began to skyrocket, our son, then a prep high school senior, declined our offer to pay for his undergraduate education and chose instead (four days after his 18th birthday) to join the Marine Corps. He also declined the recruiter’s various “career training” MOS offers and instead requested - and received - assignment to the infantry.
During his four years of active duty, including two Iraq al Anbar deployments, he met a number of young enlisted Marines with similar backgrounds.
I am both proud and happy that he served. Today he is a broad-shouldered, self-confident young man who barely resembles the boy who enlisted four years earlier. Many young men from similar backgrounds would benefit immensely from such an experience. It is their loss, and that of their country, that too few do so.
All that said, I was relieved when he declined a lucrative re-enlistment bonus and returned to civilian life. Otherwise he would today be fighting in Afghanistan under a commander in chief who is unworthy of his services.
I have read compelling arguments both for and against (Andrew C. McCarthy, for example) General McChrystal’s strategy. But the president who hand-picked his general should either support him or replace him. Instead, he poses – and dithers – while our servicemen die. The man needs to show some courage. I fear he has none.
Cassandra said it best, I think, when she noted, “What takes more courage? To stand on a deserted tarmac in the dead of night and salute for the cameras? Or to meet (privately) with the families of the fallen - even those who don’t support the war?”
Just dithering, here, Tress, since you asked.
I served in the first Gulf war. My son has done three tours in Iraq and is likely heading to Afghanistan once Obama gets off the dime. Three of my nephews have gone to Iraq. One didn't come home. My son and each of his cousins aren't things that anyone could "send". They are brave young men, doing a difficult job that they chose to do. As a society, they are our sword and our shield, and after reading drivel like yours day after day, I'm not sure we deserve them as a society.
I'm generally happy to debate any aspect of the war, but the chickenhawk argument is morally repugnant and intellectually bankrupt. Who are you that you get to ask these questions? What are your qualifications?
In short, figure out how to effectively argue your case without assuming moral superiority.
My son and each of his cousins aren't things that anyone could "send". They are brave young men, doing a difficult job that they chose to do. As a society, they are our sword and our shield, and after reading drivel like yours day after day, I'm not sure we deserve them as a society.
Thank you for that. It's a point that is all too seldom made.
I'm sorry for your loss. I still remember the day the war hit home for me. It's not as though I didn't care before, but when someone you know dies it changes the way you view everything.
And nothing is ever the same. I hope you will not object if I say a prayer in memory of your nephew. Even if you don't believe, it can't hurt.
* How many of you have children who are serving? ME
* How many of you are encouraged when you read about a parent's son or daughter who has enlisted? ME
* How many of you would encourage your son or daughter to enlist today? ME
* If you prefer not to encourage your son and daughter to enlist, who should be responsible for fighting the wars that the US is waging currently? N/A
Dither off, Tress.
One more time for the Pasadena Babe.
Re: That old saw that the libs are trying, with Leninist persistence (that a lie told often enough becomes the truth),to keep alive: that Bush proclaimed "Mission accomplished" on an aircraft carrier before Iraq was secure.
Bush appeared on the carrier to congratulate the crew on their accomplished mission of providing air support for the initial push into Iraq. It was the crew's well-deserved pride in their own accomplishments carried out with the typical military professionalism that we expect of our volunteer military and that most of us are grateful for. It was not a pronouncement from Bush. He was simply, as all equally professional commanders do, there to affirm their pride in a job well done.
I've always felt that what really gravelled the libs about this is that Bush looked as if he belonged there and the most often viewed picture of John Kerry at the time was of him in an oompa loompa suit.
"Bush appeared on the carrier to congratulate the crew on their accomplished mission of providing air support for the initial push into Iraq."
I believe the Mission Accomplished banner also had something to do with the carrier being at sea for a record length of time.
I never served, but my dad and both his brothers served in WW2. Dad was drafted but my uncles volunteered dad being the oldest and stayed back to run the farm. In end my grandmother saw all 3 of her sons go to war a true Blue Star Mother. By God's grace they all came home . . . and that war became the most significant memory for all even though it involved only 2 to 4 years out of 80. All this to say that I have the greatest of respect for the men and women who serve and are willing to die, yes die to preserve our liberty.
To politicize the return of the bodies of the dead was crass and tasteless. I saw the Obama stunt and was sickened. The private no publicity method used by Bush brought him no publicity, but showed a degree of class the liberals can only dream of. And I don't like President Bush's politics. I do admire his class.