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October 29, 2009
The Audacity of Image: Obama at Dover
Some journalists, most notably Ben Feller of the Associated Press, are fawning over President Obama’s pre-dawn photo op at Dover Air Force Base earlier today. Feller should be ashamed of himself by insinuating that, though former President George W. Bush spent volumes of time with grieving family members, Obama really cares. Mr. Obama, unlike Bush, actually greeted the flag covered corpses of servicemen returning from Afghanistan. This was the one time when Bush should have been left out of the story.
Back to the fawning: Wow. What a president. When most people were sleeping Obama was up braving the darkness in Marine One. Arriving before the dawn, Mr. Obama stood erect brandishing a military salute in honor of the 18 servicemen killed this week in Afghanistan. The bodies were taken from the cargo plane and carried past the solemn president. Incidentally, if Obama came to privately honor the dead before the break of day why were cameras necessary?
He came. He saw. He honored. And he pulled off yet another publicity stunt to hide the fact that the dead were possibly the proximate cause of Obama’s dithering.
Let’s recap. Back in March Obama unveiled his Afghanistan plan:
“If the Afghanistan government falls to the Taliban or allows al-Qaida to go unchallenged,” Obama said, “that country will again be a base for terrorists.” Therefore, Obama’s “clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida . . . .”
But then it came to light at the end of September that the President had only met with the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, one time.
That led to McChrystal’s summons to Air Force One in Copenhagen. McChrystal happened to be near by. Good thing Obama was out campaigning for the Chicago Olympics. At least something positive came out of the Copenhagen mission.
Mr. Obama got McChrsystal’s report in back in August and yet called no meeting with the general. After the awkward Air Force One meeting, Obama still dithered.
Obama wanted to get the runoff election results before sending more troops. Some have suggested he actually was waiting for the election results in Virginia and New Jersey. Now, Obama says he needs another study on Afghanistan before sending more troops.
Meanwhile troops are dying in Afghanistan. In October, American troop deaths reached an all time high at 55.
But not to worry; Obama’s arrival at Dover makes everything right.
So long as Obama has a willing press, image will continue to trump reality.
Update: Lance Fairchok writes
As a military veteran I read with skepticism that President Obama had gone to Dover Air Force Base to witness the transfer of the remains of military personnel that had been killed in Afghanistan. The ABC headline said; President Obama Pays Respects to Fallen Troops at Dover Air Force Base. Having watched the tactics his administration has used to manipulate and deceive the public since he has been in office has only sharpened my instinctive American suspicion of politicians.
Mr. Obama has never served the nation, nor did his Attorney General Eric Holder, who accompanied him. He has never risked life and limb for something bigger than himself, nor has he ever gone in harms way, except perhaps having mistakenly wandered into a particularly crime ridden neighborhood in Chicago while looking for a Latte.
Honoring the fallen is his sacred duty as Commander in Chief, a job for which Obama is so monumentally unqualified it pains me to write it. On this issue however I was tempted to give him some credit, but then I realized while looking at a picture of him saluting a passing casket, there were for the first time in my memory, cameras at that solemn transfer. The Obama administration has reversed the 18-year ban on media coverage of the return of fallen soldiers to Dover. The ban always frustrated the left as it kept the powerful images of flag draped coffins out of their propaganda. For me the cameras make all the difference when assessing his sincerity.
If the President had visited quietly and respectfully, away from the media I could appreciate and respect his gesture. His predecessor was careful to keep the notoriety of the president from reducing the dignity of our sacred fallen as they return to US soil, opting instead for the intimate and emotional meeting with the family of the deceased. No cameras, no media, no fanfare and no politics.
With Obama I anticipate the Dover visit figuring heavily into any forthcoming speech on Afghanistan and in his comments on the "new" Afghan policy that is being constructed through excruciating deliberation and a glacial consultation with "experts." He may even have been moved by the experience. I hope he was, but it won't make a difference.
The leftist political mob that surrounds Obama is expert in manipulating images and developing media messages. Power is their holy grail, above nation, above constitution, above the law and above common decency. Everything is politicized, from swine flu to sports to the food we eat, why would our fallen heroes be any different?
The limits the left sets on itself are those that prevent negative publicity from undermining their message, a purely political calculation, not a matter of ethics. It is a question about what they can get away with. That exploitive images of solemn military ceremonies used for political purposes would dishonor the dead would never occur to them. The word "honor "is not in their lexicon.
Whether it is a political surrogate, a fawning celebrity or a press ally that is the conduit for the Dover message depends on the direction the political wind is blowing at the time. Sooner or later the image of Obama saluting a flag draped casket will appear, at a time when it can do him the most political advantage, that is a given. Watch for it, it will come. The only question is when?