Just in case you needed a break from the Cindy Sheehan media blitz.
Aug. 22, 2005 issue – The grieving room was arranged like a doctor’s office. The families and loved ones of 33 soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan were summoned to a large waiting area at Fort Bragg, N.C. For three hours, they were rotated through five private rooms, where they met with President George W. Bush, accompanied by two Secret Service men and a photographer. Because the walls were thin, the families awaiting their turn could hear the crying inside.
President Bush was wearing “a huge smile,” but his eyes were red and he looked drained by the time he got to the last widow, Crystal Owen, a third-grade schoolteacher who had lost her husband in Iraq. “Tell me about Mike,” he said immediately. “I don’t want my husband’s death to be in vain,” she told him. The president apologized repeatedly for her husband’s death. When Owen began to cry, Bush grabbed her hands. “Don’t worry, don’t worry,” he said, though his choking voice suggested that he had worries of his own. The president and the widow hugged. “It felt like he could have been my dad,” Owen recalled to NEWSWEEK. “It was like we were old friends. It almost makes me sad. In a way, I wish he weren’t the president, just so I could talk to him all the time.”
Bush likes to play the resolute War Leader, and he has never been known for admitting mistakes or regret. But that does not mean that he is free of doubt. For the past three years, Bush has been living in two worlds–unwavering and confident in public, but sometimes stricken in private. Bush’s meetings with widows like Crystal Owen offer a rare look inside that inner, private world.
Last week, at his ranch in Texas, he took his usual line on Iraq, telling reporters that the United States would not pull out its troops until Iraq was able to defend itself. While he said he “sympathized” with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, he refused to visit her peace vigil, set up in a tent in a drainage ditch outside the ranch, and sent two of his aides to talk to her instead.
Privately, Bush has met with about 900 family members of some 270 soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The conversations are closed to the press, and Bush does not like to talk about what goes on in these grieving sessions, though there have been hints. An hour after he met with the families at Fort Bragg in June, he gave a hard-line speech on national TV. When he mentioned the sacrifice of military families, his lips visibly quivered.
Read the whole thing.
Lets take a moment to appreciate the fact that our nation’s leader has taken the time to meet with the family members of 270 of the 1,853 soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. Which means that Bush has met with the families of 14.5% of all the soldiers who have died. Including Cindy Sheehan and her family. And not including the multitude of wounded soldiers he’s met with.
Has any American leader ever done more? I don’t know for sure, but if there has been Presidents who have done I can’t imagine there are many of them.
And you know what makes these gestures by the President all the more appealing? The fact that he rarely politicizes them. A lot of politicians would make a really big deal out of missing with the families of fallen soldiers, yet with Bush we hardly ever hear about it.
Bush critics will wave this off as meaningless gestures, but are they really?
Do you think they’re meaningless to the family members who sit down with the President to mourn?
By Rob Port of Say Anything.