Fort Hood: A Tale of Two Presidents
Last Thursday, the country watched in shock as news broke of a shooting at Fort Hood, an Army base in Texas. The nation crowded around their TVs, radios, and computers as the number of dead and injured climbed, and speculation began about who or what was behind it. Was this an act of international terrorism or an isolated incident? Was there one gunman involved or three or more, as some witnesses were insisting? While there were so many questions, there was one thing I’m pretty sure most everyone could agree on: our soldiers are some of the greatest people in this country and we’ll do whatever it takes to see to it that they are taken care of.
Words of sympathy, bulletins about donating blood, and prayers were offered almost immediately. Former President Bush issued a statement and every Congressman or Senator who appeared on the news that afternoon, Republican or Democrat, offered their condolences. President Obama stepped up to the microphone to speak and the country watched, ready for him to unite us with his words, to comfort us, to reassure us, and vow to find out who messed with our precious military and not let them get away with it under any circumstance. Instead, we got a “shout-out.”
Instead of addressing the situation at hand and essentially being a team player, the President took the opportunity to do what he does best, make it all about him. He started by thanking a round of people for something that had little or nothing to do with Fort Hood. You’d think he’d just won a Grammy (though when you’re given frivolous Nobel Peace prizes, I guess it’s hard not to develop that mentality). And then he gave a “shout-out” to some guy, who as best I can tell, had little or nothing to do with the tragedy at Fort Hood and all to do with health care for Native Americans.
After making his “shout-out,” he adjusted his tone from his habitual cocky to a nearly suitable level of somber and read a prepared statement about how sorry he was and so on and so forth. It was like watching a rough rehearsal of a television show on which a shooting would happen at the nation’s largest Army base and the actor who plays the President would be required to speak. The European press even took notice. Toby Harnden of the Telegraph described it best,
When the television networks cut to the President, viewers listened to him spend more than two surreal minutes talking to a gathering of Native Americans about their ‘extraordinary’ and ‘extremely productive’ conference, pausing to give a cheery ‘shout out’ to a man named Dr Joe Medicine Crow. Only then did he briefly and mechanically address what had happened in Texas. On Friday, when most of the basic facts were available, Mr Obama tried again. It was scarcely any better. He began by offering ‘an update on the tragedy that took place’ – as if it was an earthquake and not a terrorist attack from an enemy within – and ended with a promise for more ‘updates in the coming days and weeks.’ Completely missing was the eloquence that Mr Obama employs when talking about himself. Absent too was any sense that the President empathised with the families and comrades of those murdered.
Meanwhile, President Bush issued a statement almost immediately after the news broke,
“I was saddened to learn of the tragic incident at Fort Hood. Laura and I are keeping the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
But he took his sympathy a step further and did something no one expected of him. He made a quiet weekend visit to Fort Hood to visit the wounded soldiers and their families. Yes, while President Obama’s weekend saw him going for some R&R at Camp David, former President Bush went beyond his call of duty and offered some comfort to those who are suffering. I suppose you could argue the former President lives just about half an hour from Fort Hood while the current President resides all the way up in the White House, but if I recall, distance wasn’t a problem when Obama needed to secure the Olympics for his old pals in Chicago.
Another day, another sign that Obama’s self-interest trumps all. Thinking back to previous years, when President Bush showed so much emotion as he did everything from vowing to hunt down whomever caused the events of September 11, 2001, to the time he broke down as he presented the Medal of Honor to Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor, who was killed in Iraq, I wonder if there is ever a day when President Obama will be able to make me feel as safe or as comforted or as patriotic as President Bush did? Or will he continue his journey to becoming one of the most heartless Presidents this country has ever seen? Though I don’t agree with him on much of anything, even former President Clinton managed to shed a tear after the bombing of a United States Embassy in Kenya, in 1998. As Pat at And So It Goes In Shreveport says,
“…Obama would do well to show the American people that he cares about them, whether he does or not.”