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The Right Wing's Memorial Day Attack on Obama

5 years ago
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There's a hole in the bottom of the ocean. Unemployment is still near 10 percent. There are two wars underway. And what are conservative pundits fretting about? That this year President Obama won't be laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

The liberal watchdog outfit, Media Matters, has been keeping track of this latest right-wing meme:
- Glenn Beck says, "Obama is skipping out on a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery because he'll be in Chicago on vacation. I'm sorry, I don't ever, ever question the president's vacation. I didn't under Bush, I didn't under Clinton, I don't under Obama. . . . I have no problem with the man taking a vacation. But I am sick and tired -- sick and tired -- of people believing the lie that this administration has respect for the police or has respect for the soldiers of our country. I'm tired of it."

- Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger and CNN contributor, tweeted, "Obama skipping the Tomb of the Unknowns this weekend for Chicago is offensive. Chicago can wait. The Commander-in-Chief has a job to do."

- Noting that Vice President Joe Biden will assume the wreath-laying duties this year, Doug Powers, a guest blogger for conservative Michelle Malkin, grouses, "President Obama went to Arlington Cemetery to lay the wreath last year, but this year Obama's handing the wreath to [Biden] and heading off to the more welcoming political climes of Chicago. . . . Obama will however make it back to Washington in time to honor Paul McCartney next week. Boy, I'm starting to think that West Point speech [Obama gave this past weekend] wasn't from the heart."
You'd think these folks would have better things to gripe about. And Obama is not retreating on Memorial Day. (What president would?) Instead of visiting Arlington cemetery, Obama and the first lady will participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Ill., about 50 miles south of Chicago. Moreover, not every president has spent Memorial Day at Arlington. In 1983, President Reagan was at a summit meeting, and the deputy secretary of defense -- not even the veep! -- placed the wreath. Nine years later, President George H.W. Bush passed off the wreath to Vice President Dan Quayle (who had used family connections to get a slot in the National Guard during the days of the Vietnam War draft). And in 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney took on the wreath mission, while President George W. Bush was in Texas, perhaps clearing brush.

This wreath scuffle is yet another silly episode in the right's never-ending campaign to persuade Americans that Obama doesn't care about U.S. troops and is weak on national security. It shows how unserious these bloviators can be. Obama is in the middle of sending an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan and has boosted the number of drone attacks aimed at al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Still, conservative wingnuts insist on questioning his commitment to the defense of this nation. (I'm skeptical of the Afghanistan surge, but it certainly is a commitment to the war -- for at least the time being.)

Obama appears to approach his commander-in-chief responsibilities in an appropriately profound manner. Last fall, he made a midnight visit to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to witness the return of dead GIs -- which his predecessor never did. Two weeks later, he was in Arlington cemetery on Veterans Day, placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and greeting mourners who had come to this garden of stones and death on that cold and wet day. One of those was James Gordon Meek, a reporter for The New York Daily News, who happened to be at the cemetery visiting friends and relatives buried there. Afterward, Meek wrote a wonderfully poignant column:
What I got was an unexpected look into the eyes of a man who intertwined his roles as commander in chief and consoler in chief on a solemn day filled with remembrance and respect for sacrifices made -- and sacrifices yet to be made.

I'm sure the cynics will assume this was just another Obama photo op.

If they'd been standing in my boots looking him in the eye, they would have surely choked on their bile.

His presence in Section 60 convinced me that he now carries the heavy burden of command.
So what the hell do these conservatives want out of Obama? And does it matter if Obama throws some leaves on a tomb?

The president is now prosecuting two wars, both of which are insufficiently covered in the media -- which includes conservative talk radio and blogs. The war in Afghanistan hit the artificial milestone of 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers last week, and it is costing taxpayers around $100 billion a year (which could finance, say, up to 2 million teaching jobs annually). Yet the war is hardly debated on Capitol Hill. It registers barely a blip in the cable news world. I don't see right-wing agitators paying much more attention to this endeavor than anyone else. As Memorial Day approaches, it is a perfect time to reflect on this ongoing war -- whether it is worth the cost in lives and treasure, whether it is being waged in an effective manner, whether it is truly making us safer. Instead, conservative pundits absurdly turn Memorial Day into political ammo to further their vicious crusade against the president. That dishonors those who rendered the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

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You mean to say we are still fighting in Afghanistan? Wasn't that war won in 2002 and all the U.S. had to do was not give it back? How odd what could have happened? Did someone take their eye off the ball and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Could this be the longest war in American history? Say it isn't so... Nothing like paying for ground on the installment plan. Oddly no one is complaining about this..

June 01 2010 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder what any man can do, as president, while assaulted by those who choose to be far left or right? Its the deeds that one does, not the rhetoric, that judge a man, but is it possible to understand how human we all are? America, its not the president who is our enemy, who threatens our cherished dreams, ripping the fabric of our society apart. As Pogo said, in a comic strip so long ago, "We have found the enemy, and he is us!"

June 01 2010 at 6:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i believe that the "right wing" do complain about other more important items-the choice of complaining about this topic for me is that it happens to be memorial day, and the presidents 2nd vacation since the oil spill-so it just happens to be the right timing and appropriate-i for one will resume complaining about other items, such as the oil spill that is completely ruining an entire eco system after memorial day. critics blamed bush for katrina-at least a city can be rebuilt-it will take hundreds if not thousands of years to repair the damage to the eco system

May 31 2010 at 10:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

"So what the hell do these conservatives want out of Obama? And does it matter if Obama throws some leaves on a tomb?"

Wow. That was just completely unnecessary.

May 31 2010 at 2:56 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

yet he had the time to play two rounds of golf and fly to not one but two fund raisers for Babs Boxer in Cali?

May 31 2010 at 8:37 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

What happened to the "pray for our presidents" How many of the critics would actually step up to the plate to deal with what he has to deal with? Mcain and Palin lost the election. What is all of this going around still campaining and critizing the man who walked into a mess and is dealing with the world as the world is Today and not 50 years ago. He promised change and change takes time. There is much politics and corruption in our goverment that needs to be changed we all know it. He must be doing something right. If he was a yes man he would not be getting all the negatives. Enjoy your vaction Mr. President.

May 31 2010 at 12:45 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

You know, I think people are criticizing this president because he seems as if he is more interested in cow towing to other countries and their presidents ie Calderon than helping the people who elected him. I think he stinks and thankfully, did not help elect him. I do, however, have to live with the mess that he is making.

May 30 2010 at 9:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It doesn't matter which side your on, your always going to criticize the other side. The different political parties always find ways to pick on each other.

May 30 2010 at 2:45 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

My personal opinion is that VP Biden is a better choice to do the honors at Arlington Cemetery this year. No doubt in my mind that he feels more sincerely connected to our soldiers of the past and present. He will do a fine job; we do not need Obama there for this day, a very special day to me and many other patriotic Americans.

May 30 2010 at 10:52 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

When Obama is not appologizing for America, disrespecting our Flag, ordering his lawyers to protect his sordid past by sealing his records from the American public, blaming anything and everything on the prior administration, verbally attacking anyone who disagree's with him, campaigning for his party while he should be working, and trying to force us to leaglize those who broke the law by entering the United States ILLEGALLY... the list goes on.... With the blatant disrespect he has shown to America, it probably would have been wise for him to attend the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier...

May 30 2010 at 3:16 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

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