The Biden administration gets off on the wrong foot, starting with the National Guard
If an individual or an organization wants to maintain its credibility, it must not lie. If, because of circumstances, one must lie, the lie must be at least credible. Telling an implausible lie not only destroys credibility, but opens the subject to ridicule.
Over 25,000 members of the National Guard were dispatched to Washington, D.C. to provide security for the Biden inauguration. They were the subject of two incidents, causing damage the Biden administration's credibility and opening it up to ridicule.
The treatment of the National Guard brings to mind Rudyard Kipling's poem Tommy, which begins like this:
I WENT into a public 'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, " We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, go away " ;
But it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play.
The first incident involves the large number of National Guardsmen turning their backs on the president's inaugural motorcade. This is based on a videotape taken from a vehicle in the motorcade.
Reuters did a "fact check" of the video and determined that the National Guard did not turn their back on the president. Reuters claimed, "Social media users have been sharing a video shot from a vehicle that shows some National Guard soldiers facing away from the road as Biden's motorcade drives past them. The users claim that the National Guard has 'turned their backs' on Biden, suggesting that this action is a display to show their rejection of the president. Their positioning, however, is standard protocol for this sort of duty."
This "fact check" could have worked a few decades ago. In the internet age, it fails completely. People have access to the video and can judge for themselves. Whom will they believe: their own lying eyes, or the experts at the Reuters fact-checking department? The behavior of the National Guard was somewhat disappointing. Someone must have been in charge of the overall operation. An average NCO could have done a better job of organizing their appearance. This is partially excusable because of the understandably low morale induced by this situation. The Guard should have been in formation and standing smartly at attention when the motorcade passed. Perhaps every tenth man would have his back turned, scanning the area for possible danger. An officer at the front of the formation should be saluting as the motorcade passed by.
Instead, more than "some" of the Guardsmen had their backs turned. It was a significant number and possibly a majority. They were not in formation, and some groups looked as though they were just milling about. Not one individual saluted. In support of their "fact check," Reuters quotes Nahaku McFadden, media operations chief for the National Guard Bureau of Public Affairs. McFadden claimed, "These National Guardsmen were on duty with a mission to protect the president against potential threats. Some are facing out to ensure the safety of all."
Again, the video is available.
The second incident involves the billeting of Guardsmen in a parking garage.
The Capitol Police told the N.Y. Times, "As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area outside of the Capitol." Senator Tammy Duckworth tweeted that she was informed that the "Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen (Guardsmen?) and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight." This suggests that the decision to move the National Guard was made by the Capitol Police. However, Senator Chris Murphy claimed, "I just got off the phone with the acting Capitol Police Chief who insists there was no general request for the Guard to vacate the building." One commentator tweeted, "For the last week my battalion has been sleeping on the floor in the Senate cafeteria. Today the Senate kicked us out & moved us to a cold parking garage."
Sen. Mike Lee acknowledged that the Capitol Police were in charge but wondered if they made the decision on their own. The public relations impact of this decision should have been obvious. It certainly should have been decided on a much higher level. Apparently one unit for 5,000 Guardsmen contained just one electrical outlet and one bathroom. The National Guard is a military organization whose members are prepared to lose their lives if necessary. They are certainly tough enough to sleep on concrete when it's necessary, but was this necessary? From San Francisco to New York, mayors are finding space to put homeless people in luxury hotels.
The treatment of the National Guard reveals several problems with the current administration. Many people in this administration hold the military in utter contempt. It also reveals a lack of foresight that will be repeatedly displayed resulting in embarrassment downplayed by the press. It further diminishes the credibility of the press and their "fact checking."
John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (Algora Publishing). He has a Master of Arts degree in international relations from St. Mary's University. He is retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. He is featured on the BBC's program "Things We Forgot to Remember:" Morgenthau Plan and Post-War Germany.