Monday, August 15, 2005

Various notes: Jennings, FDR, liberal think tanks, etc.

Sadly, conservative columnist Suzanne Fields adds to the wrongheaded criticism of Dr. Dobson that I wrote about here. (Once again, the complaint is the difference in motives.)

Mike Adams: What taxpayer money is being spent on (porn films?).

John Leo reflects on the late Peter Jennings, apparently a decent man and probably the best of the "big three" network anchors that ruled for so many years.

The fight for Social Security reform is looking tougher than ever. On SS's 70th birthday, FreedomWorks notes that FDR himself was rational enough to favor private accounts.

Star Parker: The new liberal think tank effort won't work until liberals understand that they're losing, not because they haven't sufficiently copied conservatives when it comes to such things as the alternative media and an advanced network of public policy organizations, but because of their ideas. Democrats have to be willing to give up "the big-government themes and moral relativism that define their party." Only "reconciliation with the truth that traditional values and ownership are the best ticket into the American middle class will open the door to fresh thinking and new ideas in the Democratic Party and build new bridges to traditional Democratic constituencies."

Newsweek - yes, Newsweek - reports positively about emotional meetings between President Bush and military families (
"Family members interviewed by NEWSWEEK say they have been taken aback by the president's emotionalism and his sincerity"), making the whole Cindy Sheehan thing seem pretty foolish (unfortunately, the article fails to note that Bush has already met with Sheehan).

Some excerpts:
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 routinely asks to see the families of the fallen when he visits military bases, which he does about 10 times a year. It does not appear that the White House or the military makes any effort to screen out dissenters or embittered families, though some families decline the invitation to meet with Bush. Most families encourage the president to stay the course in Iraq. "To oppose something my husband lost his life for would be a betrayal," says Inge Colton, whose husband, Shane, died in April 2004 when his Apache helicopter was shot down over Baghdad. Bush does, however, hear plenty of complaints. He has been asked about missing medals on the returned uniform of a loved one, about financial assistance for a child going to college and about how soldiers really died when the Pentagon claimed the details were classified.

And later still:
The most telling - and moving - picture of Bush grieving with the families of the dead was provided by Rachel Ascione, who met with him last summer. Her older brother, Ron Payne, was a Marine who had been killed in Afghanistan only a few weeks before Ascione was invited to meet with Bush at MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Fla.

Ascione wasn't sure she could restrain herself with the president. She was feeling "raw." "I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me why my brother was never coming back, and I wanted him to know it was his fault that my heart was broken," she recalls. The president was coming to Florida, a key swing state, in the middle of his re-election campaign. Ascione was worried that her family would be "exploited" by a "phony effort to make good with people in order to get votes."

Ascione and her family were gathered with 18 other families in a large room on the air base. The president entered with some Secret Service agents, a military entourage and a White House photographer. "I'm here for you, and I will take as much time as you need," Bush said. He began moving from family to family. Ascione watched as mothers confronted him: "How could you let this happen? Why is my son gone?" one asked. Ascione couldn't hear his answer, but soon "she began to sob, and he began crying, too. And then he just hugged her tight, and they cried together for what seemed like forever."

Of course, perhaps the real idea behind this piece was to somehow demonstrate that Bush himself believes the Iraq War was a mistake (the president admits liberals were right!). I'm confident that's not the case.

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