Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One "Last" Thing...

by Libby Sternberg

I was going to do a funny/snarky post rewriting the president's speech yesterday about the country's credit rating downgrade. It would have involved reposting the entire speech here with strikethroughs and revisions, all aimed at suggesting the president himself shouldn't have used the occasion to snark at democracy (all that "gridlock" is to blame, after all), but to reassure investors and the general public.

But when I went to compose this witty note, my first "revision" made me stop...and gag. You see, the first edit I would have made would have been to move to the front of his speech the president's words about the recent military personnel killed in Afghanistan. After acknowledging their ultimate sacrifice, after speaking on behalf of all Americans in offering condolences to their loved ones, he should have paused and moved on to the news he knew everyone was waiting for him to address, the credit downgrade -- that would have been my suggestion.

Instead, here, at the end of his remarks, is how the president handled the loss of 30 military personnel:

"One last thing.  There is no one who embodies the qualities I mentioned more than the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  And this weekend, we lost 30 of them when their helicopter crashed during a mission in Afghanistan.  And their loss is a stark reminder of the risks that our men and women in uniform take every single day on behalf of their county.  Day after day, night after night, they carry out missions like this in the face of enemy fire and grave danger.  And in this mission –- as in so many others -– they were also joined by Afghan troops, seven of whom lost their lives as well...."

One last thing? As if this were an aside, an "oh, by the way..."? And why does he refer to their helicopter crashing and not to the reason for the crash -- they were fired upon by the Taliban. The crash wasn't due to faulty equipment or pilot error -- they were killed in battle. By not acknowledging this, by skimming over it with the bland "when their helicopter crashed," he doesn't adequately pay tribute to their sacrifice. They weren't on that helicopter for a jaunt. They were there fighting our enemies.

Yes, I know he talks about their work in the "face of enemy fire," but again, this feels tacked on, the words he knows everyone expects him to use.

I had a lot more to say about the speech, as I mentioned above. But phooey on all that. Pundits from the left and right are covering my main points anyway -- how his remarks once again demonstrate his poor leadership skills during crises that require superlative ones. But for me the "one last thing" coda to his speech is the starkest illustration of his leadership lack.

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