Today President Obama is scheduled to announce sending more troops to Afghanistan. I have withheld criticism of this until I hear what the plan is, exactly. But I have misgivings, to say the least, and I’m sure many of you do also.
So what does Dana Milbank focus on in his column today? He thinks we lefties are supposed to be upset because the speech will be delivered at West Point.
Wow, that’s so like … not an issue.
One of the common complaints of George W. Bush’s presidency was his tendency to politicize the military and turn troops into props. The man seemed to make more appearances before military audiences than Bob Hope did. But now Obama is antagonizing many in his party with an expected announcement that he is sending more troops to Afghanistan, and, to rub it in, he’s making the announcement at one of Bush’s favorite military locations: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point — the very birthplace, seven years ago, of the Bush Doctrine.
I had massive issues with the Bush Doctrine. The fact that it was announced at West Point was not one of those issues. It seems appropriate to announce a military action at a military venue. If the policy involves troops, let troops be present at the unveiling.
What I hope President Obama will never do is dress himself in some kind of quasi-military uniform, whether a flight suit, a bomber jacket or an army windbreaker, as Bush did. That was utterly inappropriate. The two presidents who really were West Point graduates never wore anything military as President. The President is a civilian, and he represents civilian authority.
But the President also is Commander in Chief, and it is appropriate for him to visit military bases and address troops. If he never did that, it would be an issue, especially at a time when troops are in combat.
Milbank writes, “Obama’s flirtation with military imagery should be of concern to his allies on the left, who are already unhappy with the hawkish direction his Afghanistan policy has taken.” Addressing troops is not necessarily “use of military imagery.” It can be, under some circumstances (See: Bush in flight suit, U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, “Mission Accomplished”). But the mere fact of addressing troops is not “use of military imagery.”
Interestingly, the only person Milbank actually quotes as objecting to Obama’s speaking to troops is … Glenn Beck.
Two weeks ago, Fox News’s Glenn Beck played an image of Obama speaking in front of uniformed troops and complained: “I’m sick of it, especially when it comes to the soldiers. They are not props.”
No, but they are citizens, aren’t they? And Milbank, please stop assuming what we lefties “should” be concerned about.