ABC Bashes Bush on Memorial Day

The ABC News report on the rainout of President Obama's planned Memorial Day speech in Illinois noted that Obama had been criticized for not staying in Washington to go to Arlington National Cemetery. But ABC provided a ready excuse, subtitling its report "Obama Not First to Skip Arlington on Memorial Day" and asserting that George W. Bush "did not attend in 2001 or 2002."

ABC was flat-out wrong about 2001, and highly misleading about 2002.

Memorial Day 2001. On May 28, 2001, George W. Bush not only went to Arlington National Cemetery and gave a remarkably eloquent speech after laying a wreath there; he had multiple Memorial Day events before and after.

He began the day at a White House Memorial Day Breakfast, where he spoke in the East Room to a group that included Senators, Members of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, and a group of veterans and ex-pows.

Then he went to the Oval Office for a bill-signing ceremony on a bill to expedite construction of the World War II memorial, remarking that it was "indeed fitting that this measure becomes law on Memorial Day."

Then he signed an Executive Order to establish a presidential "Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation's Veterans."

After that, he went to Arlington.

After his speech and wreath-laying at Arlington, Bush flew across the country and spoke at a Memorial Day Commemoration at the Champlin Fighter Aircraft Museum in Mesa Arizona, where he offered these words:

The heroes we remember never really set out to be heroes. Each loved his life as much as we love ours. Each had a place in the world, a family waiting and friends to see again. They thought of the future just as we do, with plans and hopes for a long life. But they left it all behind when they went to war, and parted with it forever when they died. Every Memorial Day we gather at places like this to grasp the extent of their loss and the meaning of the sacrifice. It always seems more than words can cover. In the end, all we can do is be thankful; all we can do is remember, and always appreciate the price that was paid for our own lives and our own freedom.

. . . And we can never measure the value of what was gained in their sacrifice. We live it every day in the comforts of peace and the gifts of freedom. These have all been purchased for us, and we're grateful for the sacrifice.

Memorial Day 2002. On May 27, 2002, Bush did not go to Arlington National Cemetery because he was in Europe, attending week-long meetings with foreign leaders.

On that Memorial Day, he attended a Memorial Day Service at a church in Sainte Mere-Eglise, France, where he offered some remarks. Then he commemorated Memorial Day at the Normandy American Cemetery, where 9,000 Americans are buried, and spoke eloquently again:

We have gathered on this quiet corner of France as the sun rises on Memorial Day in the United States of America. This is a day our country has set apart to remember what was gained in our wars, and all that was lost.

Our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. Our wars have taken from us the men and women we honor today, and every hour of the lifetimes they had hoped to live.

This day of remembrance was first observed to recall the terrible casualties of the war Americans fought against each other. In the nearly 14 decades since, our nation's battles have all been far from home. Here on the continent of Europe were some of the fiercest of those battles, the heaviest losses, and the greatest victories.

And in all those victories American soldiers came to liberate, not to conquer. The only land we claim as our own are the resting places of our men and women. . . .

The grave markers here all face west, across an ageless and indifferent ocean to the country these men and women served and loved. The thoughts of America on this Memorial Day turn to them and to all their fallen comrades in arms. We think of them with lasting gratitude; we miss them with lasting love; and we pray for them. And we trust in the words of the Almighty God, which are inscribed in the chapel nearby: "I give unto them eternal life, that they shall never perish."

In neither year was Bush on vacation for Memorial Day. And it is nice that we are able to recall Bush's eloquence, given the unfortunate circumstances that prevented us from hearing from President Obama this year.

Cartoon by Erin Bonsteel