Much Ado About Nothing

Saturday, May 29, 2010
It seems that people are UP IN ARMS and MASSIVELY DISAPPOINTED because President Obama has chosen not to visit Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.

He's disrespectful! He hates the military! He's a communist! A socialist! A liberal black president!

Whatever.

The fact of the matter is that while the President visited Arlington last year, this year he will instead be visiting the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago. You know - the National Cemetery that bears the name of the President who actually established our National Cemetery system? Vice President Biden will be attending the memorial at Arlington.

I don't get why everyone's so wrapped around the axle over this. It's not like the President isn't paying his respects to our war dead by, say, going to his California ranch for the weekend.

Here's the thing. I'm a veteran. I have deep feelings about what the Commander in Chief owes our men and women in uniform, both living and dead. I recognize that Arlington is the country's most prestigious National Cemetery. But I'm also from the center of the country, and prestigious is not necessarily synonymous with important. In spite of what some east coasters think, there are other National Cemeteries in this country, and the men and women buried there are equally deserving of our respect and remembrance as those buried in Arlington. For the families whose loved ones are buried at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, that cemetery is far more important than Arlington.

In my view, the President's decision to visit Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is incredibly respectful. By spreading his much-sought-after attention to other National Cemeteries, he's showing the country that he also recognizes the sacrifices of those who aren't buried at Arlington, and it's not just about photo ops in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

This Memorial Day, I want to recognize and remember all those who fell, regardless of where they're buried, and I respect the President for wanting that, too.

7 comments:

vince said...

I missed this story, but you're dead on target.

Too many politicians use Memorial Day as a photo op for points with the voters. I prefer someone who shows some actual knowledge and respect without feeling a need to impress or score points with anyone.

Eric said...

Oh. Good. Grief.

In addition to all of the points you make, Janiece, there's also frankly the fact that there's something symbolic, poetic and appropriate in the first black President Of The United States visiting a national cemetery named after the man who issued the Emancipation Proclamation (even if the President's ancestors were not themselves slaves).

And honestly: the Presidency is a tough job and this Presidency is a tougher job than most with the mess its inherited and with the Gulf spill we're certainly dealing with more than the usual level of crisis; if the President wants to honor America's military dead by visiting a national cemetery that just happens to be near his hometown where he's taking a brief-but-deserved break during the holiday weekend to take his kids home, shoot some hoops, and touch base with his old political network--I have no problem with that. It sure as hell makes a lot of sense to me to do it that way, and it's not a sign of disrespect to schedule things that way.

The man really can't win right now, can he. Sheesh.

Janiece said...

Eric, I thought of the Lincoln and Chicago connections, as well, but my writing chops failed me and I couldn't figure out how to include them without it sounding all "nanny-nanny-boo-boo!"

Thanks for bringing them up.

WendyB_09 said...

Yeah, really, the man wants to take his family on a long holiday weekend, just like the rest of the country. Considering how much time he devotes to the rest of us masses on a daily basis, I think it's extremely generous for him to be making any official public appearences at all.

Now, if there is a sighting of them at Eduardo's Deep Dish Pizza, that I'd want to know about!
Priorities!

Paul said...

Other recent Presidents who missed Arlington (and notice they're Republicans):

In 2002, President George W. Bush was in France on Memorial Day and participated in ceremonies at Normandy (site of the D-Day landings) honoring the U.S. soldiers who fought and died in World War II. In his place, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

President George H.W. Bush (himself a World War II veteran) attended no ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery during his four years in office. In 1989 he was in Rome on Memorial Day (where he led observances at an American military cemetery south of that city), and from 1990 through 1992 he spent the Memorial Day weekend vacationing in Kennebunkport, Maine, while Vice-President Dan Quayle laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

President Ronald Reagan was away from Arlington on Memorial Day on four occasions during his eight years in office: In 1981, he (who had been seriously wounded in an assassination attempt six weeks earlier) spent the Memorial Day weekend at his ranch in Santa Barbara, California, while Vice-President George H.W. Bush laid the wreath at Arlington. In 1983, he attended a summit meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, while Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Thayer represented the administration at the wreath-laying ceremony. In 1987, he spent Memorial Day at the Camp David presidential retreat while Navy Secretary James Webb participated in the wreath-laying ceremony. And on Memorial Day 1988, he was out of the U.S., attending a summit meeting in Moscow.

Janiece said...

Paul, thanks for the synopsis.

Like Eric, I just think our current President can't do anything right for, well, the right.

Anne C. said...

The man really can't win right now, can he. Sheesh.

Seems that way. And considering the fact that the far left are also peeved at him (I noticed a "maybe he won't kow-tow to big oil any more" and "do you think his family's being threatened for him to act this way?" recently), as a moderate myself, that tells me he's walking a good fine line right down the middle (OK, it's probably slightly left of middle, but that's ok by me).