Thursday, August 11, 2011

You all stay classy, now

President Obama flew down to Dover Air Force Base on Tuesday to observe the bodies of our fallen troops from Afghanistan.  Due to the wishes of the families, the Pentagon told the press, as well as photographers from the Pentagon, to stay away.  Even when asked if pictures that did not include caskets could be fallen, the Pentagon asked them to not attend.

Imagine their surprise when the White House released a picture of President Obama at the ceremony.  Now in his defense, the remains of our troops aren't in the picture.  What you see is the president and other people standing in the shadows at the doorway of what I assume is a hangar.  The president is attempting to give a hand salute, presumably in honor of the dead.

Now, I'm not criticizing the President for going to Dover.  He's the Commander in Chief of our armed forces, and if he felt it was right and fitting that he personally observe the return of these remains and pay respect to them, good for him.  I'll even give him a pass on his salute.  He's never been to basic training, boot camp, or an ROTC class, so unless he's smart and asks the Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the White House detail to teach him, he's figuring it out on his own.  If he's trying to show respect in a way that fits with the object of that respect, good for him.*

My problems start with the existence of the photo in question.  I personally don't have a problem with the press taking tasteful pictures of coffins with flags draped over them as long as the family of the servicemember approves.  A war without reminders of the cost quickly becomes nothing more than something mentioned between the sports and weather on the evening news.

But in this case, the families said no.  The Pentagon tried very hard to comply with those wishes.  They even banished their own photographers from what is a historic event.  But apparently the White House either didn't get the memo or didn't think that the restrictions for the press and Pentagon applied to their photographer.  This either shows a disconnect between our military and our civilian leadership when it comes to this almost holy duty we owe to the fallen, or it shows that the White House feels its needs and wants are above what others feel is right.  You make the call.

My next problem is the release of the photo.  If the White House decided to override the Pentagon and have a photographer there to record the ceremony for history, then an argument can be made that the photograph itself is OK.  But to release the photograph on the White House website and distribute it to the press is beyond the pale for me. There is only one excuse for doing this, and that's to promote the President.  He needs to show he's the Commander in Chief to convince pro-defense Democrats he's worth going to the polls, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

A statement from the Press Secretary saying that the President travelled to Dover to observe the ceremony would have been enough, but the White House released a picture that should never have been taken.  This was a brazen political move, and the President should be ashamed.  If he knew about it, he needs to come out and admit how thoughtless he was.  If he didn't know, he needs to publically fire the twit behind it.  If the press and Pentagon weren't welcome to take and release pictures, then the White House shouldn't have been able to do so.

The families of these brave servicemembers are grieving the loss of their child, their husband, their father, their brother.  They asked that pictures not be taken, and the government is obligated by its own policy and by simple decency to comply.  Breaking faith with these families for a calculated political purpose is despicable.

*Personally, my teeth itch a bit when I see someone who's never served trying to mimic a hand salute.  Usually they don't know how to do it properly and they don't understand the meaning of what they're doing.  I've seen presidents who preferred to just put their hands over their hearts to return a salute or to pay respect, and I think that looks and feels better.  Just my opinion.


Josh K. said...

I've lost all respect for him as a human-being.


DaddyBear said...

Be honest Josh. There wasn't a lot there to begin with.

Old NFO said...

This is simply beyond the pale... You handled it here much better than I did.

DaddyBear said...

I liked your response too. Obama messed up on this one, and he needs to be called on it.

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