Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Saturday, November 12, 2005
 
On Giving Partisan Presidential Speeches to Troops in Formation

JD Henderson over at Intel-Dump shredded the President's Veteran's Day speech:

"Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and mislead the American people about why we went to war," Bush said.
Notice how he puts "democrats" in front of "anti-war critics." Masterful. First, not all democrats are against the war. There are also republicans who are NOT against the war who are concerned about the administration's alleged manipulation of intelligence. Phrased like this, however, and any criticism of the president over manipulation of intelligence or misleading the American people becomes "partisan."

Then there is the term "anti-war critics." He links it to "democrats" as if to suggest democrats are "anti-war" instead of "anti- invasion of Iraq" (or more correctly, split on the issue). He assumes, rightly, that most people won't notice the lack of criticism over the invasion of Afghanistan - if his critics were merely "anti-war" why do they question only one of the wars we are in right now? Any person who criticizes the invasion of Iraq or the manipulation of intelligence is thus subtly portrayed as a pacifist hippie - an "anti-war critic." Instead of discussing whether the invasion was a good idea or a bad idea, the entire issue becomes one of dope-smoking, flag-buring, no-good pacifist hippies versus good 'ole Americans. That is BS. Lots of people, including many decorated military officers who have served this nation under fire, thought (and think) that invading Iraq was stupid. But suddenly they are "anti-war" instead of "anti-stupidity." And notice how, incredibly, the question of "why did we go to war" is no longer even up for discussion. The president is NOT stupid like some critics think, and this one paragraph by him shows why. Brilliant. Anyone asking him "why did we go to war then?" is automatically a "democrat and anti-war critic" at best, at worst a traitor to America - all without the question being answered. After all, who are we as citizens to dare question the president about why he sent our sons and daughters into harms' way? (Emphases mine.)
Henderson goes on to excoriate the President for the context of his speech:
However, this speech was a partisan political attack on political opponents, not a speech intended to build support for victory. It was intended to build support for the Republican party, not for victory in Iraq. What is particulary shameful about such a speech, on Veterans Day (a day for all Americans, not just those who agree with Bush), is that he gave it on a military post. While most people miss the significance of this, it used to be unusual for a partisan speech to be given to troops in formation. The troops were always supposed to be apolitical, and not get caught up in partisan politics. Respect fro the troops dictated that they be kept out of political rallies, that candidates avoid placing them in a situation where the troops seem to be expressing support for one candidate or party over another. Troops are not supposed to express their political opinions when in uniform - it is even against the law for troops to wear their uniforms to political rallies. This president ignores this. He is the only one among all of our commanders-in-chief who has given, repeatedly given, partisan political speeches, even attack speeches, to troops in formation, on a military post, who may very well oppose him privately and vote for his political opponents. Then the troops are expected to cheer him. They do - not because of what he says, but because he is the president. I saw troops cheer Clinton too - but he never gave a partisan speech to troops in uniform. Neither did Reagan. Reagan addressed national security issues, but he didn't badmouth democrats or opposing candidates when addressing the troops. Bush does. Shame on him for this - regardless of whether you agree politically with him or not, this is shameful and unacceptable behavior. And, need I say it, dangerous. (Emphases mine)
Brilliant. Read the rest of it.

Henderson doesn't dwell on one aspect which I would like to remind people of: the notion that the legislative branch had all the same intelligence as the executive branch is absurd, prima facie, because of course there aren't even a remotely comparable number of people (and staff) with the classified status to read the relevant intelligence in The House and the Senate.

While I am still disappointed in those Legislators who gave this president such an open-ended authorization for war, it still seems that it was a much more reasonable vote in the Fallof 2002 given what the White House was telling the public and Congress--even those members of congress who were able to read classified intelligence not available to to the public. Moreover, it seems increasingly clear that the White House knew that this was the case, and deliberately withheld evidence and analysis from Congress that might have changed certain members' minds. And on top of that, there is the fact that a lot of things changed between the Fall of 2002 and March of 2003, all pointing away from the need for an invasion. So the vast majority of the blame for the war still lies squarely on the Executive branch and those members of the Legislative branch who would have voted with the Executive branch regardless of the evidence.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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