November 15, 2003

Damned if you do, and damned if you don't ...

From a good post by Cori Dauber:

....But these arguments are getting sillier and sillier. Here the President is criticized for not meeting with the families of the fallen "at least when there might be a camera around." Talk about not being able to win. His decision to meet with these families whenever he is at a military base privately so that he cannot be accused of doing so for political gain has now been turned against him: it is a way of "hiding" the costs of war. But if he met with these families publicly, then he would be accused of being compassionate only for the cameras, of capitalizing on the situation, of politicizing grief...

I was very unhappy (which is why I'm boring you with the subject again) when the accusation surfaced that President Bush was not attending soldier's funerals from a cynical desire to downplay war losses. I've been following Bush with deep attention, reading especially any accounts by people who actually know him. And I would have sworn that Bush would not act in any dishonorable way concerning our war dead. Was I going to have to revise all my opinions?

So I was very pleased when I was able to post this, back on Nov 2, quoting Cori Dauber utterly demolishing the criticism. Cori told me in an e-mail that she teaches "...the role of rhetoric, ritual, and the presidency." So she knows what she's talking about! She notes also that what the critics are really asking is that the President and the Administration symbolically apologize for the war. That would be a terrible mistake, and is exactly why Presidents never go to soldier's funerals. (And reminds me why conservatives are skeptical when theorist-types want to blithely toss out old customs.)

Cori has just posted here some confirming history. There have been very few exceptions, usually in cases where the President knew the person who was killed.

....All other exceptions fit in the category I keep mentioning where there are large losses taken in a single event, where the President symbolically stands in for the American people and becomes our representative to a moment of collective loss as, for example, he did at the memorial for the Shuttle astronauts or President Clinton did, as mentioned here, for the Memorial after Oklahoma City. He is then, not representing himself as Commander in Chief but becomes, literally, Mourner in Chief, not what the critics are asking of this President right now.

But I have a feeling this is not going to slow the criticism down any.

It won't slow the criticism down, because it is dishonest criticism. It is designed to undercut the President for partisan advantage, even to the point of damaging our war effort. If a Democrat were in the White House we wouldn't hear any of this.

And i've been glad to hear that the President has been meeting privately with families of the fallen. He isn't ducking the pain of the war, nor using it to gain popularity points. Exactly what I would have expected from him.

Posted by John Weidner at November 15, 2003 9:36 AM
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