A tale of two presidents with American troops *UPDATED*

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  And when you have two pictures you can compare, the meaning multiples exponentially.  First, from the White House’s own Flickr site, here’s Obama greeting the troops:


Let me reiterate that this is the image the White House itself chose to represent the relationship between the Commander in Chief and his military.  He looks like he’s carefully approaching animals at the petting zoo.  While they probably won’t bite him, they might spit.  The “animals” look simply bored.  They’re not even going to bother to spit.

Contrast that with the way President Bush happily dove into the crowds of troops, and they enthusiastically reached out to greet him:


Photos, of course, capture exquisitely small moments in time.  These pictures, however, jive perfectly with the video that made the rounds last year of Marines greeting both presidents:

I wonder if the difference in approach has something to do with the fact that our current president castigated these troops as stone cold killers:

It’s entirely possible that the troops resented that characterization.

Hat tip:  Lorie Byrd, Blackfive, and Top of the Ticket

UPDATE:  Steve Schippert caught the big lie in Obama’s speech to the troops (hint:  it has to do with chronology).

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  • SGT Dave

    While I agree that the second part of the “two Presidents” video is telling, there is a major reason why there was no applause.  The band was playing “Hail to the Chief”; as a military member, one stands at attention if indoors or renders a salute outdoors until the song ends.  The hubris of doing a formal entry tells the story – they didn’t trust the troops’ reaction, so they made it a formal event.  Applause would have been out of order for the military folks – and that admiral on stage showed what a stooge he was by clapping.  Nevertheless, the photos tell a tale, too – Bush never had to go to the troops; we came to him.  Obama has to close the gap on his own, we know he’s not one of us.  Another, more important point, is that Bush never required (or rather his security never required) a stand-off area or barrier between the president and military members.  What does it say about the frame of mind of the current administration that they are uncomfortable with the thought of the president being within arm’s reach of the troops without a clear boundary?  We’d not stain our honor in that way – and they should know it.  It shows how little they understand the military mind; even if we hate the man, we still respect the office.  The current administration cannot separate action from emotion – and projects that lack onto its detractors and everyone around them.

    Anyhow, off my soap box and back to work.
    SSG Dave
    “I’ve served under good and bad leaders.  That some were bad does not give me the right to dishonor the service by serving badly.”

  • JKB

    In the Obama photo, I get the feeling there is a gulf between him and the troops.  A barrier if you will.  But now that the troops have their backs against the wall and are hemmed in, Obama is willing to reach across the divide to embrace those who reach out to him.
    Whereas, Bush is a man among them, a symbol in a vast sea of camouflage.  Although, I’m not sure what he is doing rubbing that soldiers bald head.

  • SGT Dave

    Rubbing a bald head or a recently buzzed short haircut is actually a long-standing activity among military guys, especially marines and soldiers that deploy.  We grow our hair as long as we can get away with when in garrison or stateside, then buzz it off for ease of care and hygene issues when we deploy or go in harm’s way.  It is something I’ve seen or done hundreds of times in my career; I’ve seen everyone from privates to generals do this.  The gesture is one intimately familiar to military personnel – it didn’t even register to me as unusual.  It says, more than any words can, exactly how much he was “one of us” not an outsider. 

    SSG Dave
    “If you haven’t been there I can’t explain it; if you have been there I don’t need to.”

  • patriot13

    SGT Dave,
    Thanks for your words about the honor of those who serve, even if they don’t like the leader.  My brother is in the Army and has told me similar stories.

    Bookworm, thank you for showing the disparity between how these two Presidents view the troops and how they are viewed by the troops.  All I can say is that I would feel safest in a room full of Marines (or any other military group).  Intimidated, probably, but safe!  No need to treat them like wild zoo animals!

  • JKB

    Didn’t even think of that, it has been that long.  I didn’t consider it a bad thing in any case as it is part of the intimate interaction between Bush and the soldier.  The eye contact and embrace all signal a connection that is absent in Obama’s rope line work.  It’s a gift politicians have but from all I’ve heard Bush’s was sincere and generally kept private.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    Bush wasn’t good with words, but his actions stood on its own.
    The military, after the long drawn out demoralizing periods under Carter and Clinton, had lost much of its purpose to bureaucratic and peace time general officers. They were in danger of becoming just another branch of the government welfare budget, easily replaced by technology.
    Iraq and Afghanistan were hard tasks, but those that joined the military and took on blood and toil training and duties didn’t do so because they wanted an easy and comfortable life. For their honor to shine, they had to fight. And if that ended up getting a lot of them killed, that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ Ymarsakar

    Bush never made the mistake of a commander when it came to sending people in harm’s way to risk death or dismemberment. Unlike Johnson, who couldn’t muster the moral fiber (probably due to his personal corruption) to send people to their deaths and thus was crushed by the overwhelming guilt that lead to a reinforcement of his ‘micromanagement’ style of warfare, Bush could care yet not refuse to hobble the military simply because of his personal worries over the consequences of failure. Unlike Clinton and Obama, Bush didn’t try to pretend the people in the military were the Other or non-humans, so as to rationalize away the cost of war and death.
    No commander that either despises the people under his command or cares too much that he tries to protect all of them from the exigencies of war, will be a help to anyone, civilian or military, in war.
    People like Bush aren’t rare. What’s rare is that leadership positions are taken by such people. Historically, it has always been venal, corrupt, and self-aggrandizing megalomaniacs that come to power. The reasons are many and tragically all too human. Even in the United States, one can see how a system can become warped so that people start choosing evil leaders. Eventually that cycle cannot sustain itself and evil leaders destroy their own people. For those that have read Book’s recent posts, they know of that which I speak of.

    Putting bad leaders in power isn’t a matter of Left and Right political differences. It isn’t the case where a person on a fence, like Ozzie, can watch from the shore the struggles of Democrats and Republicans while proclaiming a pox on both their houses.
    A bad or evil leader once in power will destroy all of you, down to the last member of your extended family or clan with enough time. It is only modern Western delusion that believes they can get the crocodile to eat them last, long after they have benefited from the fruits of their treason, the bag of silver, the Judas goat.
    Being in the military gives people, perhaps, a more vibrant understanding of the hang man’s noose that comes with bad leaders in charge of combat and war strategy. But even militarily democracies are not invulnerable to the eventual rot of the Left. Neither was Athens or Rome or any other empire, democratic or otherwise.