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Bush thrills troops, overshadows Hillary's trip to Baghdad

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted December 1, 2003

U.S. President George W. Bush in IraqWe all love a good holiday story and it arrived this year courtesy of President Bush and his whirlwind trip to Baghdad. Approximately 600 stunned troops spontaneously jumped to their feet, expressing loud cheers and joyous tears when their commander-in-chief unexpectedly dropped by for a Thanksgiving celebration. Foremost, Bush was there for the purpose of demonstrating America's keen support and gratitude for our troops, who are doing a magnificent job in Iraq. And, from all indications, it had the intended effect of providing a much needed morale boost to the soldiers. In the president's prepared remarks, there were other messages sent to the Iraqi people, the American people, the entire world for that matter, but the focus of the visit was clearly on the troops. Bush himself was noticeably teary-eyed as he espoused heartfelt words. The scene was electrifying by most eyewitness accounts. Due to intense security, the taped coverage was released only after Air Force One left Baghdad.

Well, it certainly didn't take long for the media elites to embark on their usual grousing about President Bush. Instead of lauding the president for his stealth mission to Baghdad, as they would have surely done if Bush were a Democrat, many members of the Fourth Estate were on the attack. For instance, CNN was terribly cynical, suggesting that the trip was essentially a political stunt and photo op with troops in an election year. Yes, of course, "that's the ticket", the president placed himself in harm's way for a political stunt – now it all makes sense, right? And the left-leaning crowd even had harsh words for the small band of reporters and photographers that cooperated with the clandestine trip and recorded events in Baghdad. Media analyst Howard Kurtz gathered some great quotes from journalists and others that work in the mainstream media for his November 28th piece in the Washington Post. Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said of the entire episode, "That's just not kosher…Reporters are in the business of telling the truth. They can't decide it's okay to lie sometimes because it serves a larger truth or good cause."

What the heck is this guy Rosenstiel talking about? The reporters didn't "lie" to the public – they just kept the president's perilous trip quiet for several hours for safety and security purposes. These same reporters who accompanied President Bush then had the inside scoop and were able to report back to their readers with the entire riveting story. Common sense dictates that the White House could not let many reporters in on the visit ahead of time – it would have been too risky. No, the real deal is that reporters often can't keep a secret! Rosenstiel and other journalists spouting similar drivel couldn't care less if Air Force One was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile as long as the entire press corps was privy to the president's trip in advance. These are the type of petty mentalities that are out among the mainstream press.

And then there was the really vicious and wrong-headed statement from former White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, who worked for President Bill Clinton: "My problem with this is not that he misled the press. This is a president who has been unwilling to provide his presence to the families who have suffered, but thinks nothing of flying to Baghdad to use the troops there as a prop." Hello? The president not only writes to the families of all those troops who have forfeited their lives, but he meets with them (President Bush just met with 26 families of deceased soldiers last week). Lockhart's words are part and parcel of the vile claptrap being promulgated by the Left-leaning crowd, who often can't get the story straight even if they're smacked over the head with it. And what about the smear that the president is using the troops as a "prop"? Let me reference presidential historian Stephen Hess, who noted that Bush's visit was "uniquely appropriate" for embattled troops on the frontlines. Many other presidents have made similar trips including his father President George Bush (41), President Johnson and President Clinton. In essence, it's the job of the president to visit our troops during times of war and boost morale, period – end of story.

However, there's one tremendous quote from the Kurtz article that came from retired Col. Ken Allard, military analyst on MSNBC: "You underestimate George Bush at your peril. It was a gutsy call, a Hail Mary pass, and he pulled it off." And to that I say, Bravo Mr. President.

Here's the crux of the matter -- The liberal press is particularly churlish since their standard bearer, Senator Hillary Clinton, was upstaged by President Bush and his trip to Baghdad. Oopps! Bush stole Senator Hillary Clinton's thunder in her whistle stop tour that included Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. She was initially poised to shine in her Thanksgiving visit with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, replete with photo ops, but the president "preempted" her. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men (and women for that matter) often go asunder. Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera reporting from Afghanistan noted that the soldiers were impressed with Hillary Clinton and the dignitaries, but more impressed with the "full blown" turkey dinner. In a New York Daily News piece dated November 29th it stated: "Arriving in Baghdad hours after President Bush's star turn, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said yesterday the troops were happy to meet her, too. It's a positive for the commander-in-chief to visit troops in the field, Clinton said, yet the troops [also] seemed to appreciate seeing myself and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)". Really, no matter how Hillary tries to spin it, she and her entourage rate a weak second to President Bush. The overall troop reaction to Senators Clinton and Reed was polite and friendly, but nothing on par with the heartfelt delight generated by President Bush. And Hillary received a comparably friendly, but not effusive, response in Iraq.

However, Senator Hillary Clinton of the Senate Armed Services Committee has only herself to blame, given her political positions and past history. Sure, she made clear that she is in favor of the mission in Afghanistan, which has her full support. But what about Iraq? Hillary didn't exactly enthrall the troops in Iraq or boost their morale for the simply reason that she is a staunch critic of the overall policy in Iraq and the troops overwhelmingly believe in the mission. And the unfortunate reality is this -- Hillary and Bill Clinton have a terrible reputation among many members of the military, a reputation well-earned by the fact that the "co-presidents" used and abused the military when they reduced it by about half, and demonstrated abject contempt for military personnel during their White House years.

Just read the eyewitness account of retired Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson's tenure as a White House military aide in his bestselling book Dereliction of Duty for an insightful glimpse of what Hillary and Bill are really like behind the scenes. This tome is rife with details. For instance, it was Hillary who didn't want the military aides to wear their uniforms at the White House – it offended her. As Buzz Patterson noted, "Common sense and security finally prevailed, at least at official functions with the president. At all other times, however, we were expected to be in business suits or civilian clothes in order to downplay the military presence at the White House". And there is no question that the uniform directive came directly from Hillary. This is only one small snippet, to be sure. However, the long and short of it is that the Clintons, and their like-minded liberal cronies, don't understand the military culture nor do they respect military personnel – Make no mistake, Republicans have heard this time and time again from multiple sources.

I don't think there's any question that the so-called "smartest woman in the world", who wants to run for president in 2008, has made a significant tactical blunder by largely alienating military personnel and, by extension, their families as well. And this is particularly salient, given that most Americans have a tremendous respect for the military in these troubled times. Can Hillary capture the presidency in 2008? Yes, but only if this "war on terror" is largely won and resolved. If it's still ongoing, which it very well might be, (we are currently tackling the "war on terror" in various capacities, including sharing intel and surveillance, in about sixty nations), then America will turn to another Republican president. Hillary better watch out for a new-styled warrior who thoroughly comprehends national security issues and terrorism such as Condoleezza Rice.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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