Dowd's Bogus Grief Deficit

Obama at Dover to Honor Fallen Soldiers

EDITOR'S NOTE: I know it's not "tech" but I thought I'd throw this Op-Ed I wrote your way as food for thought before I post some techy stuff later today. Hope you like the new layout!

It was a shockingly inaccurate statement that discredited an accomplished columnist. No matter where you stand on The New York Times editorialist Maureen Dowd's political bent, it's hard to deny her reach and talent.

But in the reactionary defense of her anointed one -- President Obama -- on last weekend's Times op-ed page, she strayed far from reality and embraced a mythology made soft by the facts.

Yes, the president's Oct. 29 trip to Dover Air Force base in the dark of night to greet a C-17 carrying fallen Americans killed in Afghanistan was a vivid example of the reality of that war and should pause to those who call for increased commitment there. And it was honorable of Obama to see for himself the human cost of his decisions -- as every commander and chief should.

But to reflexively defend the photo op engineered to create news about the president's "sobering reminder" by claiming that the man who got us into Afghanistan in the first place never faced them is just plain bunk.

I had the honor to speak with nearly a dozen families of Marines killed in Iraq and Afghanistan a few years ago as part of a project with the Military Times newspapers. We wrote a wide-ranging investigative piece on the conduct of the services during the killed-in-action notification process and the support they provided along the way.

It was an intimidating assignment, but one I cherish to this day. For, unlike Dowd, who I doubt has ever spoken with the family of a fallen servicemember, I was forced to confront the world I obliquely reported from afar -- to hear the quavering voices of mothers whose sons had been obliterated by roadside bombs.

And you know who else did that very same thing dozens of times in his eight years as president? The same man Dowd falsely accuses of declining to confront the reality of his war dead.

In my conversations with those who sacrificed a son, a husband, a brother, or a boyfriend, all were universally grateful for George W. Bush's sincere -- and private -- conversations with them either before or directly after an event or speech at a military base. As a routine, Bush would meet behind closed doors with family members who'd lost loved ones as part of his stop at military installations.

These were not simply pro-war, anti-war, pro-Bush or anti-Bush families -- they were all of the above. Some were against the Iraq war; others were steadfast, despite their unimaginable sacrifice, for victory there. But to a man and women, these grieving Americans appreciated the president's heartfelt compassion and deep understanding of their sacrifice -- and of the weight of the decision to send potentially more of America's young to their deaths.

So, to pull a quote from a "Good Morning America" interview of a grieving parent to make her case, Dowd winds up doing the reverse.

"Unless we can see the images and look into the eyes and the faces of those that are sacrificing, we forget," said the mother of Army Spec. Dale Griffin who was honored by Obama in the Dover show and used as an example of Bush's callous denial of war's price.

But Bush looked deep into the eyes of women like Mrs. Griffin many, many times without the glare of cameras showcasing their grief for tomorrow's front page. And in them he saw the cost of war.

Their words, not mine.

So what if Bush never solemnly saluted the caskets at Dover with the White House press corps in tow. How is it relevant that he didn't attend one family's private funeral of their child killed in America's war? Talk to the parents of the dead who witnessed the former president's remorse first hand. They'll tell Dowd just how offensively wrong she is.

-- Christian

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