FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Bush, Cheney, and their clandestine operation involving the U.S. military inside the homeland
The Washington Times has the exclusive scoop:
For much of the past seven years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have waged a clandestine operation inside the White House. It has involved thousands of military personnel, private presidential letters and meetings that were kept off their public calendars or sometimes left the news media in the dark.
Their mission: to comfort the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to lift the spirits of those wounded in the service of their country.
[T]he size and scope of Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Cheney’s private endeavors to meet with wounded soliders and families of the fallen far exceed anything that has been witnessed publicly, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials familiar with the effort.
“People say, ‘Why would you do that?’” the president said in an Oval Office interview with The Washington Times on Friday. “And the answer is: This is my duty. The president is commander in chief, but the president is often comforter in chief, as well. It is my duty to be – to try to comfort as best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish.”
Mr. Bush, for instance, has sent personal letters to the families of every one of the more than 4,000 troops who have died in the two wars, an enormous personal effort that consumed hours of his time and escaped public notice. The task, along with meeting family members of troops killed in action, has been so wrenching – balancing the anger, grief and pride of families coping with the loss symbolized by a flag-draped coffin – that the president often leaned on his wife, Laura, for emotional support.
“I lean on the Almighty and Laura,” Mr. Bush said in the interview. “She has been very reassuring, very calming.”
Mr. Bush also has met privately with more than 500 families of troops killed in action and with more than 950 wounded veterans, according to White House spokesman Carlton Carroll. Many of those meetings were outside the presence of the news media at the White House or at private sessions during official travel stops, officials said.
The first lady said those private visits, many of which she also attended, took a heavy emotional toll, not just on the president, but on her as well.
Sadly, this had to appear in TWT rather than the NYT, WaPo, etc. because it just doesn’t fit with the conventional wisdom that President Bush and his sidekick and puppet master, the Dark Lord Cheney, are uncaring, unfeeling, reckless leaders who view the military as a faceless group of pawns who serve (and die) at their whim-driven pleasure.
Further, the idea that a person would act in such a generous and caring fashion away from the cameras and PR spotlights simply doesn’t register to folks any more, I think.
At a time when cameras are rolling everywhere, and folks like the late Paul Newman are slapping a declaration of just how much money they’ve given to charities on the front of the products they’re selling, the idea that a person would go to any length to keep his or her charitable activities under wraps is counterintuitive to all our obsessive, paparazzi-esque mainstream media believes and stands for.
The difference in their treatment of subjects based on party affiliation is, of course, very real. Where Caroline Kennedy is somehow worthy of the U.S. Senate because she has raised money for various charities (and made sure that the newspapers and paparazzi know about it), had President Bush broadcast to the media his efforts to console the parents of wounded and killed troops, he would have been ridiculed as a publicity hound who was just putting on an act for the cameras. After all, Cindy Sheehan said President Bush wouldn’t meet with her to discuss her son Casey, KIA in Iraq (after, of course, he did meet with her, and she said the meeting went well, then changed her mind); therefore, the conventional wisdom that Bush is a hardhearted troop-hating megalomaniac must be true, as far as the media are concerned.
In reality, though, Bush has gone about his duty as Commander (and “Comforter”) in Chief with a quiet dignity, refusing to let media and cameras in to chronicle and publicize his efforts. Contrast this with incoming President Barack Obama, who refused to visit troops at Landstuhl, Germany when he was informed by the DOD that he couldn’t bring cameras, reporters, and campaign staff along with him to chronicle the visit for the public’s consumption.
Whatever problems and disagreements we all may have with President Bush (and I have more than my share, starting with ’04-’06 Iraq, ’07 Israel, ’07-’08 North Korea and Iran, TARP, immigration, NCLB, the Auto Bailout, and many, many more), there’s one fact which all who are not blinded by the most irrational form of Bush Derangement Syndrome can agree on: a very good man is leaving the White House in just under a month.
Whatever his media-driven successes as an orator and executive may be, Obama has a very high bar indeed to strive for in terms of simply being as good and caring a human being as the man he is replacing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We must all hope — even if we have grave doubts, as I do — that he is even remotely close to being up to that challenge.