To those worried about President Obama using military regalia tonight to enhance his military/macho image when addressing the nation on Afghanistan from West Point: Relax.
The Washington Post, has some good news for you:
President Obama will not be wearing a flight suit when he addresses the cadets at West Point on Tuesday night. Nor will he wear a bomber jacket with the presidential seal on the chest, nor even, the White House promises, a windbreaker with the word ARMY in big letters.
Neither will he be claiming “Mission Accomplished.”
For those complaining about the president selecting West Point for his address to the nation, Dana Milbank has this reminder:
One of the common complaints of George W. Bush’s presidency was his tendency to politicize the military and turn troops into props. The man seemed to make more appearances before military audiences than Bob Hope did. But now Obama is antagonizing many in his party with an expected announcement that he is sending more troops to Afghanistan, and, to rub it in, he’s making the announcement at one of Bush’s favorite military locations: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — the very birthplace, seven years ago, of the Bush Doctrine.
To those worried about president Obama using West Point and the cadets for a photo-op, the Post points out:
Obama’s fondness for audiences in uniform is not yet in the same category as his predecessor’s. Beyond the infamous “Top Gun” landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, and the Thanksgiving turkey he served to troops in Iraq, Bush routinely used military-themed backdrops for his speeches: fighter jets, camouflage nets, American flags, military bands and, best of all, thousands of troops applauding or shouting “Hoo-ah” at the right moments.
However, Obama has also “flirted” with “military imagery”:
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has addressed the troops at Osan air base in South Korea, Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. (For different purposes, he also spoke at the memorial for shooting victims at Fort Hood and welcomed home the remains of troops at Dover Air Base.) The vice president and the first lady, in turn, have made the rounds at half a dozen other facilities.
If you think that most presidents have “used” the military for their important addresses, you could be wrong. Again, the Post:
Presidential addresses to the uniformed military were relatively rare before Bush. A tally by George Mason University found that in past years, presidents sometimes spoke to military groups only once (Bill Clinton in 1993, Richard Nixon in 1969), twice (Gerald Ford in 1974) or not at all (Ronald Reagan in 1985). But Bush gave “far more” such speeches, including 13 in 2005 alone.
The Post continues to illustrate that the “proliferation” actually began in 2002, “when Bush went to West Point for a June 1 speech to the cadets detailing the doctrine of preemptive war.” By the time Bush returned to West Point for another speech during the last days of his presidency, “he had delivered dozens of speeches before crowds of soldiers and sailors under his command. At Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, he wore a bomber jacket and used Air Force One as his backdrop. At MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, he appeared in a hangar with fighter jets, flags, military banners and troops. Then, of course, came the aircraft carrier landing on an S-3B Viking, for which Bush trained in the White House swimming pool, and the premature ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.”
With the words, “On and on went the speeches to the troops…” the Post catalogues the occasions when Bush surrounded himself “with all things military.”
Nevertheless, when Obama continued the practice of speaking to the troops, the right protested, including two weeks ago, Fox News’s Glenn Beck playing an image of Obama speaking in front of uniformed soldiers and complaining: “I’m sick of it, especially when it comes to the soldiers. They are not props.”
No doubt, Liberals will be highly critical of the President tonight, and not only for appearing before a military crowd.
The Post suggests:
The bomber jacket is definitely out for Tuesday night’s speech. But with this kind of hostility from Obama’s own supporters, maybe the White House should consider dressing him in camouflage?
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.