December 4, 2003

"He that shall live this day, and see old age..."

The petty spiteful carping about the President's visit to Iraq has hit a new low. The publisher of Harper's dismisses the trip as merely an election ploy, says that reporters ought to have tried to break the secrecy of the trip, should not be serving as a "press agency for the President," (bet he never said that when Democrats were in the White House) and lots more whines of noisy desperation. But this is what really got to me:

....They're used as a photo op, as an advertising platform, as they may get killed in next day, the next three weeks, the next six months, and at this point, what good is George Bush's Thanksgiving visit for them? I don't see what material -- what material advantage there is to having the president come and have his picture taken with them. It's kind of cruel in a way...
OK, so what the @#%&* "material advantage" is there from Hillary visiting the troops? Hmm? What a phony. If President Clinton paid a Thanksgiving visit to soldiers overseas, you can bet this guy would be telling us how heartwarming it was...

And who in the world has suggested the President's visit was supposed to convey some "material advantage?" What nonsense. The results hoped-for are spiritual and psychological...an intangible known as "morale." That's can of worms that this guy isn't about to open up´┐Żbecause those two hours probably "paid off" bigger than any other presidential two hours you can name. Here's the reaction of someone who's opinion is much more applicable than those of a lefty journalist:

...Soldiers were hollering, cheering, and a lot of them were crying. There was not a dry eye at my table. When he stepped up to the cheering, I could clearly see tears running down his cheeks. It was the most surreal moment I've had in years. Not since my wedding and Aaron being born. Here was this man, our President, came all the way around the world, spending 17 hours on an airplane and landing in the most dangerous airport in the world, where a plane was shot out of the sky not six days before.

Just to spend two hours with his troops. Only to get on a plane and spend another 17 hours flying back. It was a great moment, and I will never forget it...

Let me make a prediction. Wait 50 years, then locate someone who was in (or supported) the US military in 2003. Ask them if they remember the President's Thanksgiving trip. I predict that 99% of them will have warm and vivid memories of it. "Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember....Then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words,.... Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd..."

Why? Partly because that trip said, in a simple object-lesson kind of way, that the sacrifices of our soldiers are valued, and not overlooked.

But there's another thing. What our people are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is not just a mucky job, not just sacrifices. It's also an adventure. A crazy risky idealistic youthful adventure. America sat on its hands for decades and said "don't bother to try to do big things, because that would be naive and hopeless and old-fashioned and probably just make things worse." And most of us just accepted that our leaders and the experts knew what was best, and that the time of great deeds was far in the past.

And now here comes this guy Bush, saying "Yeah, it's crazy, it's risky, it will be horribly difficult and expensive, but hey, let's just try it anyway! We're Americans! The difficult we do right away (as the cliché goes), the impossible may take 'till 2007." Just thinking about George W Bush makes me feel like Theoden being roused from a long stupor of pessimism. What a great time this is to be alive! (Of course it would be even better to be 20, and not have to settle for just being a spectator.)

And this seemingly minor trip of the President's is resonating with people because it shared the flavor of the adventure. It was light-hearted and light on its feet, the theme was serving and giving, and, perhaps best of all, it royally pissed-off all the stuffed-shirts and sourpusses.

(Both links thanks to Betsy Newmark)

Posted by John Weidner at December 4, 2003 8:29 PM
Weblog by John Weidner