Tommy in Service – Conclusion

(Wherein I meditate upon the relationship between military members and veterans, and the commander-in-chief – present and most recent last.)
I was not a voter especially enamored of establishing a ruling class, so I was not all that enthused about Bush 2. In the 2000 elections I was considerably annoyed that it was an unedifying choice between the scions of two long-established political families. I thought it was not a good omen, redolent of hereditary politics and an established aristocracy – and that there was not that much to choose between them. At this point Al Gore had not displayed anything of his hypocritical and self-serving fixation on so-called ‘global warming’ – and I basically flipped a coin. But as it turned out, post 9-11, my daughter’s commander in chief was Bush 2, and as it also turned out, his respect and consideration for the troops in wartime was a rock of constancy. To quote the line from the TV series Sharpe’s Rifles, “There are two kinds of officers, sir: killin’ officers and murderin’ officers. Killin’ officers are poor old buggers that get you killed by mistake. Murderin’ officers are mad, bad, old buggers that get you killed on purpose – for a country, for a religion, maybe even for a flag.” Bush-2 was the second sort – he might get you killed, but it would have been for a serious purpose. (Since this is a discussion of how our presidents appear to, or appeared in the past to relate to successive commanders-in-chief, I will not be drawn into a sidebar discussion regarding the wisdom of making war in Iraq or Afghanistan in 2002.)

My daughter and I both had the same opinion of Bush 2 with regard to the military; one of affectionate and mutual respect, which he has carried on in his private life. I suppose one of the best examples of that was on the occasion of his surprise visit to Baghdad in 2003 – when he appeared, the roar of applause and cheers was unforced and spontaneous. (No, it was not a plastic turkey.) One still reads now and again of Bush 2 and Laura B. still quietly coming to meet returning troops at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, or hosting disabled soldiers at private events and marathon mountain bike rides at the ranch, and mention is made now and again of their quiet and relatively unpublicized visit to Fort Hood after the Hassan shooting spree.

Which brings us to the present commander in chief, a man who has perfected the fine art of returning a military salute with a Styrofoam coffee cup in his saluting hand. I’d join in the outrage over this, but really – the man is only behaving in the manner that we have come to expect from him in regards to the military. He appears to like the perks, the toys such as drones and Air Force 1, the deference and being able to whistle up a uniformed rent-a-crowd at any moment, but he doesn’t possess the least particle of understanding of or respect for military tradition. One gets a sense that it’s a perfunctory effort – and that military people really aren’t quite real to them; just automatons, all dressed alike, to be dispatched to Africa because of an Ebola epidemic, to Benghazi to not defend the consulate, or to hold an umbrella … whatever. While he has bestowed honors for valor on individuals at White House ceremonies, and Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden have now and again made a stab at a show of support and concern for dependent family members, the sense is inescapable that the Obama administration is just going through the minimum motions required for a favorable photo op.

Although Obama has made a superficial good showing with military-oriented events, they seem to be scheduled less and less often. I suppose it is a bit of a thrill for the junior troops come through a base and have a meet’n’greet with him. As indifferent as I was to Jimmy Carter way back then, I would have appreciated a visit from the commander in chief – I might even have been rather thrilled to do an interview for FEN, if it had been allowed. More telling, I think is the reception that Obama got, at a speech last month before attendees at the American Legion convention. That was an audience of veterans of all vintages – and the largest portion of them all but sat on their hands and listened with stone-faced courtesy. One might almost feel sorry for a speaker whose presentation meets with such a cold reception, but … well, his is the administration whose Department of Homeland Security head had to walk back from a report which painted disgruntled veterans as likely recruits for terrorist organizations, and was reported to have briefly considered John Kerry, of Winter Soldier anti-Vietnam war protest fame as Secretary of Defense. That such a nomination was even considered sufficiently enough to make it into the Washington paper of record should be proof enough of the veiled contempt in which this commander in chief holds for the larger part of those citizen-defenders who make up the US military.

7 thoughts on “Tommy in Service – Conclusion”

  1. This is not just Obama. Democrats are anti-military since Vietnam where they got hundreds of thousands killed. Part of the problem was Johnson’s refusal to call up reserves for political reasons. If you read Dereliction of Duty you will see that ALL of Johnson’s decisions in Vietnam were about political tactics.

    Another good example is the statement by Madeline “half bright” that “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” No concept of strategy or purpose. That was an era when Foreign Affairs, which I used to read regularly, had a cover story “Foreign Policy as Social Work.”

    Obama’s base, which is all he has left, doesn’t care if he disrespects the military. Just look at their response. “Bush did it too.”

  2. I remember being alarmed by Gore’s global-warming views during the 2000 election, so it wasn’t that he’s only shown his hand since then.

    The 2000 election was also when I first heard the quip “If Bush wins the election, it will be a disaster; if Gore wins, it will be even worse.” Every election since then has been the same, at least from my point of view: If the Republican candidate wins, it would be a disaster; if the Democrat wins, it would be even worse.

    Certainly Obama has proven to be worse than a disaster, but I wonder just how things would have fallen out with a President McCain, or President Romney, or even, possibly, a President Palin. My conjecture is that McCain would turn out to be more Carter-like than one might expect, but I don’t have even a conjecture wrt Romney or Palin.

  3. In our system, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force respond, in principle, to the monarch, the Army to Parliament (which must pass a suitable Act every five years or the Army ceases to exist). In reality, of course, they all respond to the Cabinet.

    We would most of us be rather horrified to see some elected jack-in-office buggering about saluting with soldiers: we expect that job to be done by a figurehead i.e. the monarch or her deputies. Elected politicians already have far too high a conceit of themselves.

    Some of us of a certain age are also rather appalled to see American presidents not only saluting, but saluting when not wearing headgear. Tut, tut.

  4. I fear the the Dems generally aren’t Jacksonians any more, with regard to war – they try and wage it by making tiny adjustments to the dial. Either do it full out, or stay home. With this clown … it’s like he’s playing battleship or something, or just telling his immediate audience what they want to hear at the moment.
    It is kind of ironically delicious, seeing the pacifist protesters coming unglued about him in the last few days. Welcome to our world, ya morons – the Lightworker isn’t any better than that Cowboy Bush.

    Personally, Dearie, I’d accept that a non-veteran c-in-c acknowledging the salute with a brisk nod would be acceptable, hat or not.

  5. I’ve read that POTUS saluting is recent, maybe since Reagan.

    Few know that Reagan was a reserve Army officer all through the 1930s and failed the physical for active duty when the war started. He learned to ride Army style and had been a cavalry reserve officer.

    The left has made hay calling some Republicans “chicken hawks.” Ward Bond, for example, nearly lost a leg in an auto accident in the 1930s and was in constant pain from it. John Ford, who had a bit of a sadist streak, used to make Bond ride horses which made his leg hurt. John Wayne was also troubled with football injuries.

    Cheney, who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, was honest about his PhD studies which resulted in accidentally making him a Congressional staff member. That was his “other priorities.”

  6. I am under the conviction that the US Code has been changed in the past few years to allow veterans to render the hand salute during the National Anthem and rendering of honors. It is not required that they be “covered”, that is wearing head gear, to do so. By the way, in the US military, reporting indoors requires saluting without head gear, so saluting without head gear is not any gross violation of our traditions. I know of nothing that allows a non-veteran president to return a military salute with a half-assed wave of his hand, with or without a styrofoam cup in the past or even under the recent change of the US Code. Bubba and Barry are the only two presidents without any military service (active or reserve) since the custom of the presidents returning these salutes began. Other than the prerogative of the Commander in Chief to render an acknowledgment of the military salute rendered to his office by using the same gesture, there was no legal authorization for presidents to use the military hand salute. Now there is, for those who are veterans with an honorable discharge. That does not mean that by force of accepted custom, non-veteran presidents may not legitimately render the hand salute. Perhaps some of our flag officers will adopt the new styrofoam cup standard, (or cigarette in the right hand while saluting (I saw that a couple of times)- maybe even a reefer when the military legalizes pot).

    I personally agree with the comments that Barry actually means no respect toward the soldiers he salutes. Given it is just an absentminded gesture while looking down, I believe they take it for what it is worth- any empty coffee/tea cup.


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