I use the words, “stands witness,” because they have a very singular significance. George W. Bush did meet privately with selected families of fallen Americans, but he did not put himself there on the tarmac in the dead of night to witness, directly and in person, the graphic human consequences of his war policies. Whether the war in Afghanistan, or any war, is justified and necessary, or not, to receive the bodies as they are transferred from the plane that brought them to Dover to the vehicle that will take them to the mortuary, is to take personal responsibility for those policies, and for the decisions the president — then Bush, now Obama — makes that will so profoundly affect their lives and fortunes. It takes a certain amount of moral courage to be there at such a moment. It’s painful. It makes you feel bad. Perhaps stirs feelings of guilt or responsibility. It’s a raw, vulnerable, emotionally naked position in which to be.
Apparently, Pres. Obama has that moral courage. His predecessor did not.
Milbloggers are furious at Blue Texan for the pointed way he contrasted Obama’s actions with those of former Pres. Bush:
I never cease to be amazed by the sorry haters on the left and their inability to understand the military, respect, dignity and the difference between a gesture and a heartfelt gesture. They are busy hating on George W because he failed to go to Dover and get photo-opped like our current Commander in Chief. Now first of all I will give Obama credit for gong to Dover, but as soon as it became a photo op it was cheapened as Matt noted. Anyone smell the stench of Axelrod and Emanuel? Well the brain-addled, land apes at FireDogLake are calling out the former CinC for not being so blatant. Admire their bile.
Turning a solemn occasion into a photo op that becomes about you is not respectful, it is sorry. President Bush knew that and chose to show his respect in private to the people who really matter, the Gold Star families.
Perhaps. I’m not going to say that Bush intended any disrespect by making the choice to visit dead soldiers’ grieving families, and to pass on being present for the return of the soldiers’ bodies from Afghanistan or Iraq. But it was the easier choice. And, although Jimbo does not mention it, Obama’s trip to Dover was in addition to, not in place of, meeting privately with the fallen soldiers’ families
Also, it’s unfair, not to mention dishonest, to characterize Pres. Obama’s presence at Dover as a “photo op.” The news media that were at Dover were there with the express permission of the families involved. As Uncle Jimbo well knows, the Bush administration’s policy of banning the press from photographing and/or reporting the arrival of the flag-draped coffins — without regard to what the family wanted — was rather controversial — suggesting as it did that the White House preferred to avoid reminding Americans of the actual physical cost of Bush’s wars. When Obama became president, a decision was made to allow the families to make that call, which is how it should be.
The BBC video, I think, speaks more powerfully than words.