Obama’s Insensitive Photo Op: Coffins and Cameras…

by Clio

This morning I watched flag-draped coffins carried past an honor guard and Barack Obama at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Mr. Obama recently rescinded the ban on photographs and media coverage of the arriving coffins.

The ban was put in effect by former President George H.W. Bush in February 1991 during the first Gulf War (there are reports that the ban may have started earlier, in 1989). Using a split-screen technique, the media broadcast images of the President at a news conference, appearing to joke, while juxtaposing the solemn ceremony reserved for fallen soldiers at Dover. Media coverage was curtailed after that insensitive stunt.

President George W. Bush further tightened the ban on media coverage at Dover, preferring to meet in private with the families of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. President Bush was often accompanied by First Lady Barbara Bush.

While Mr. Obama stood at attention amidst the honor guard at Dover, delivering a slow, solemn (and nicely choreographed) hand salute to the flag-covered caskets, the photographers snapped away and film crews documented the event. Mainstream media reporters submitted their homage to Mr. Obama’s pre-dawn attendance at the base, lamenting that he “inherited two wars” and was bearing witness to the results of war “directly.”

I reviewed reports from ABC, AOL, Associated Press and numerous blogs that characterized this “historic” occasion as noble, pivotal, heart-rending and a “dramatic image” not seen in years. Gushing with tributes and honor for the great sacrifices by Mr. Obama (he pulled an “all-nighter” in order to make the visit the Dover, Delaware base), this was a perfect occasion for the Obama administration to do a little image-polishing after his popularity and health care initiatives were tarnished by performance disapproval, Tea Party demonstrations and strong opposition to health care reform and a myriad of other issues on his agenda.

The reporters were correct in their description of the return of our soldiers’ remains; it is a heart-rending, solemn and moving experience. However, the media also took this somber moment to condemn former President George W. Bush for not allowing media coverage of the caskets; President Bush preferred to respect the privacy of the grieving families.

President Bush was noted for private visits, without fanfare or media entourages, to military families, wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the survivors of the September 11th terrorist attacks and other victims of disasters:

This is my duty,” he said. “The president is commander in chief, but the president is often ‘comforter in chief,’ as well. It is my duty … to try to comfort as best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish.”

Comfort can come in many different forms, the president said. “Comfort means hug, comfort means cry, comfort means smile, comfort means listen,” he said. “Comfort also means, in many cases, assure the parent or the spouse that any decision made about troops in combat will be made with victory in mind, not about my personal standing in the polls or partisan politics.”

Some military families objected to the ban, but most appreciated the consideration for their privacy shown by President Bush.

I was disturbed and saddened as I viewed today’s reports and video footage of the caskets; many members of my family have served in the Armed Services. My brother, who segued from a tour in the Army to the National Guard (he recently retired after 20 years of service), was called up to serve at the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. I’m grateful for his service and safe return to our family.

Along with other Americans, I honor the men and women who fight and die for the cause of liberty and offer prayers for their families.

However, what I find inexcusable is using such a serious moment – a soldier’s final return to his family and nation – for a photo op, mainstream media accolades and adoration and public relations maneuvers. Real leaders don’t stage-manage their images at the expense of our fallen warriors and their families.

9 thoughts on “Obama’s Insensitive Photo Op: Coffins and Cameras…

  1. 11 out of 18 okayed the media coverage before they found out obama was coming. After they found out only 1 family allowed for the body transfer to be filmed by the media.so 1 family subjected all the other familys to media harassment. The media is respectful? No they were their for personal gain and no other reason. They were not their to honor or mourn the fallen soldiers. There was a media ban on the reciving of fallen soldiers from Dover for almost 2 decades. There is a difference between showing the cost of war and disrespectiong someone's dead remains. To put it bluntly, What is coming is home are unprepared remains of men in ice crates with a flag draped over them and their is a silent solute for no other reason than to simply honor the soldier and not for the public to make a spectical out of it. it is suppose to be a humbling event. The media takes away from the whole purpose of the ceremony. Their is a difference between showing the cost of war and disrespectiong someone's dead remains. To tape a funeral of a fallen soldier with the permission of the family members is one way to show the cost of war with out disrespecting the fallen soldier.

  2. Thanks for the comment and insights, BiteSizeMelly. I do research for every blog, but you provided some details that I couldn't find – thanks. My blogs are very personal and based on my feelings and opinions — which are meaningless unless backed up with facts and details. I do my best to provide those to my readers. Thanks for the assist : )

  3. Clio, thank you for your thoughts. I have lost family members in War and am married to a retired Air Force Officer. I have many family members who have served in the armed forces. This is my thought. There is very little to be gained by televising caskets of fallen soldiers draped in flags. It emboldens our enemies in my humble opinion. Families are in mourning and are not in the business to make statements about the cost of war, that is what the political hacks and media do. I see no benefit at all. If any sitting President wishes to pay respects to fallen soldiers, it should be done OUT OF THE PUBLIC EYE for to do so in the public eye, just takes the attention away from the soldier who has fallen and the mourning family. It is a time for the soldier and their family. The President becomes irrelevant in a time so personal and sad. Chris B.

  4. I had no doubt from the moment I heard this news that it was for his own personal gain and a photo op moment. I'm a veteran (I got out in 1992) and my husband is as well, he served 20 years in the Air Force before retiring in 1998. Neither one of us have any respect for Obama. None what-so-ever. Nothing he does seems sincere. It's all staged to meet his agenda at the time.

  5. Melly, you have said a good bit and help others understand the politicizing and constant campaigning that Obama does on a daily basis. He is far too busy trying to get on TV and have his back slapped with a "Good-Ol' Boy" "That-a Boy" to understand or even to comprehend in the slightest what being President means.I'm glad I didn't watch the media feeding frenzy over the soldiers' return.Good comment and well said, however, to be nit-picky over one thing, watch how you use Their and There, please.

  6. Like others here, I am a veteran. I'm also from a large military family with a nephew in Iraq now and another soon to be deployed.You can choose to look at this as a photo op, that's certainly your right, or you can choose to look at this with a less-cynical eye and see that America needs to be reminded of the cost of war.Fewer than 1% of our nation have any direct connection to the men and women on active duty. I think the president was using this moment to show the sacrifice of that 1% and to show his own respect for the soldiers and DEA agents who died for us.Notice, he lets families make that decision for themselves instead of making it for them. I'd say that show the families the utmost respect.You may call that naive. I prefer to give the president the benefit of the doubt.And you'll notice, I'm brave enough to put my name to my opinion.

  7. David, I appreciate your feedback. My position isn't cynical, but is certainly skeptical. I based my opinion on my observations of Obama's behavior over the years; this was clearly a photo op moment and a diversionary tactic. However, our nation does need to be reminded that war has real consequences. My brother was called up to serve (National Guard) about a year into the Iraq war. We expected and waited for that call for at least a year and knew there was a strong possibility that he could be sent to Iraq. It was an anxious time for my family. My brother served stateside, but it doesn't diminish our pride in his service. Many members of my family have served in uniform, so I AM sensitive about showing respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. If Obama wanted to show his respect, the appropriate place would have been at a funeral or memorial service, with the family's consent. That's my opinion and I thank you very much for sharing yours.

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