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NewsReal Sunday: How Should Fallen Soldiers Affect the Press, the President and Politics?

November 1, 2009


How the press and US presidents should treat the returning bodies of fallen American soldiers has long been a topic of debate. But when a hero — a soldier — comes home in a box draped with an American flag, it’s time to let presidents and the families of soldiers do what they think is best.  It is not the time to throw political grenades.

This issue of playing politics with fallen soldiers was covered on CNN this past Friday, when Liz Cheney (daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney) said:

“I don’t understand sort of showing up with the White House press pool, with photographers, and asking family members if you can take pictures.  That’s really hard for me to get my head around.”

Different presidents have handled things in different ways with fallen soldiers.  Liz Cheney adds her voice to the chorus of other conservatives who have called out President Barack Obama on how he does things.

I am not saying it isn’t a debate worth having at some time.  What I’m saying is, now is not that time. Don’t try to fight the President on this one while he and the families are trying to honor the dead.  It’s just not the time.

Up until recently there had been an 18-year ban on the media covering the transfer of the bodies of fallen soldiers. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush all followed that approach since the first Gulf War.  Bush 43 got a lot of criticism during his presidency for meeting with families of fallen soldiers in private rather than in forums covered by the media. Many on the Left thought he was trying to hide the cost of war. Now President Obama has allowed for families to decide whether the media can cover the “dignified transfer” (the military does not call it a ceremony, for there is nothing to celebrate) of a soldier’s body.

The picture above shows the coffin of Sgt. Dale Griffin of Terre Haute, Indiana. Dale and I graduated from the same high school (Class of ’99 and ’96 respectively).  I knew who Dale was, but I didn’t really know him. He had two older brothers who were about the same age as me.  I knew them both well in high school though we weren’t best friends. From all I have seen and experienced, the Griffins are a great family and are now in mourning.

The Griffins were asked in a very respectful manner if the press could cover the transfer of Dale’s body. They felt it would honor their son to show the transfer. It was their personal decision and was not forced on them. The Griffin family was the only one, of the 18 that Obama honored that day, to agree to let the press cover the transfer process. The President treated all 18 fallen heroes with equal respect. I think it honored those soldiers, and it gave Dale’s mom Dona a chance to tell the President her hopes for Afghanistan.

“I leaned up to his ear and said, Mr. President, don’t leave our troops hanging,” Dona Griffin said.

The Scriptures tell us there is a time for everything:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Right now is the time to mourn and to honor our fallen soldiers.  It is not time to play politics. Thank you, Griffin family, for your great sacrifice for this great country. I have been praying for you and will continue to do so.

  1. David Forsmark permalink
    November 1, 2009 7:02 am

    Excellent and touching article, Paul. Thank yo u.

    In defense of Liz Cheney, In his classic book on the modern military, Imperial Grunts, Robert Kaplan found there is a strong view among combat troops that if the President is seen making a huge fuss over casualties, that it makes them more valuable targets for the enemy.

    In my 2005 review, I summarized this way:

    “The biggest complaint from Marines and Special Forces is not about being put in harm’s way – rather, Kaplan writes, they sneer about “the tyranny of the single casualty” that makes politicians so risk-averse that it actually increases danger in the long run. “Force protection is force projection,” is the soldiers’ refrain.

    And while the media focus on casualties and goad President Bush to show he cares, the troops beg for the opposite, saying every fuss made by the media – and especially a politician – makes Americans more appealing targets and their job even tougher, Kaplan reports.”

    It’s an interesting look into how a combat soldier’s perspective is far different than ours. This book also contains my all-time favorite passage on the difference between civilians and soldiers:

    “Running into the fire rather than seeking cover from it goes counter to every human instinct – trust me … I had started deluding myself that they weren’t much different from me. They had soft spots, they got sick, they complained. But in one flash … I realized they were not like me; they were Marines. It is no exaggeration to say that Capt. Smith and Bravo literally RODE TO THE SOUND OF THE GUNS.”

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 1, 2009 7:23 am

      I have to agree with Liz Cheney as a veteran of Vietnam. I believe they should go back to the ban that was lived by the former Presidents. I find it very unsavory that he would appear and drag along the press corp. He needs to know there is a time and a place and it is not with these men of honor at this time.

  2. David Forsmark permalink
    November 1, 2009 7:50 am

    Not to drag Kaplan into this again, but another theme of his Imperial Grunts books is the revulsion combat soldiers feel at the liberal attempt to show sympathy for the troops by portraying them as victims. It goes counter to every instinct of a civilian not to think was Obama did was terrific. W visited wounded soldiers all the time, but didn’t take the pool with him.

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 2, 2009 4:29 am

      The vast majority of GI”s revere GW Bush and still do because they knew his affection and regard for them was real. They just know like they know some officers are just there to get there ticket punched and others are there because they are soldiers as well and want to be and truly are concerned about the welfare of there men.

  3. MaryAnn permalink
    November 1, 2009 8:09 am

    God bless all of our fallen heroes and their families. America needs to thank them for their sacrifice; and thank God that we are still able to produce young men and women like them.
    Perhaps if Mr. Obama displayed the same concern for our soldiers still alive and fighting, he would not be criticized as much. He brought it on himself. There is little the Left loves more than showcasing their compassion over the bodies of our fallen soldiers.

  4. Mike permalink
    November 2, 2009 12:59 am

    First of all, thoughtful and well written post, as usual. As for agreeing or disagreeing I don’t think anyone can answer it for sure. One above writer is certainly coming at it from the aspect of some soldiers; but others don’t necessarily see it the same way. That is why it should be left up to the family of the dead soldier, not the press corps, nor the president (except for availability to be there) nor anyone else. To say otherwise is to fail to show honor to their deaths and the pain the family felt/feels.

    As for Bush, I DO believe he liked keeping the coffins hidden; and I’m not sure how much he did for the individuals who died outside of a letter. Please be specific when some of you correct me. I was an anti-war person then and now; and I don’t know that I would have paid attention to the question at the time.

    I tend to want to stir the pot; but I am deliberately not doing it here. No matter what I think of warfare, the men and women serving in the military are doing the best they can for our country in their roles. For that we all should be thankful.

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 2, 2009 5:53 am

      I have never met a soldier that was not anti war let me assure you. Bush I do not believe was keeping the coffins hidden as was giving them the privacy they deserve. These men and women have given the final measure of devotion to this country so there is not a lot GW Bush could do other than a heartfelt letter or a private visit as most of his were. He also respected them by not using there coffins as a stage prop other than that what would you expect him to do? I would suggest to you know one is more anti war than those that bare the burden of the battle as some wise individual once said.

  5. Sam Deakins permalink
    November 2, 2009 3:44 am

    It makes me more than a little uneasy to see Obama use this occasion for another photo op. I would not be surprised to see a close-up of a tear running down Obama’s cheek pop up soon.

    • Mike permalink
      November 2, 2009 12:34 pm

      So if the president is so touched by the situation of the soldiers that it brings him to tears that would just be him PRETENDING to be sorrowful?

      That sounds like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” look at reality to me.

  6. Mike permalink
    November 2, 2009 12:37 pm

    Seems to me that you are saying that Bush’s concern is real rely mostly on Bush being a Republican.

    He sent the soldiers into harm’s way based on a lie and bad theology. Over 4,000 soldiers have paid the ultimate price for his lies.

    Is there any reality at all behind your belief that Bush REALLY was concerned about the soldiers. I could see very little concern in his opposition to LOTS of things that would have helped the soldiers, from the lack of armor on vehicles to VA processes.

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 2, 2009 2:22 pm

      Bush being Republican has nothing to do with it. You do not have a clue about soldiers logistics or supply much less devolopment in a war. As a matter of fact you sound like an echo chamber of leftist lies. I do not believe you can point to0 one lie he told about that war. Do not try the old weapons of mass destruction crap it will not fly. There are several things I diagree with Bush on several things I believe he should have been impeached for failing to secure the border and saving the lives of thousands Americans.

  7. David Forsmark permalink
    November 2, 2009 1:27 pm

    Mike, I think that if you think REAL hard, there may be a cliche you have left unturned. Come on now, get on the stick.

    • Mike permalink
      November 2, 2009 1:34 pm

      So you have no real reason to believe that Bush was MORE concerned for the soldiers than Obama?

    • In the Know permalink
      November 2, 2009 1:41 pm


      Do you have a secret crush on GW Bush. Every one of your posts references him in some way. I think you suffer from Bush derangement syndrome or you are a victim of unrequited love. Anyways, I agree. If Bush loved the soldiers, he would not have sent them into harms way. Instead, he could have just eliminated our military, then we wouldn’t have any enemies and no reason to be attacked. Correct?

      • Jack Hampton permalink
        November 2, 2009 2:25 pm

        In the Know
        You are a hoot. I think you have him pegged but don’t ask so he won’t tell. Oh I picked up that thumb drive. Thanks

  8. Mike permalink
    November 2, 2009 1:55 pm

    I am not the one who brought up Bush.

  9. Mike Mansfield permalink
    November 3, 2009 12:28 am

    I find it interesting that no one ever actually answers my questions, even though they are quite valid.

    Perhaps that is because you have no answer except to ridicule the opposition, especially when they are right.

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 3, 2009 5:38 am

      Your questions were answered they were just not the answers you wanted. As a matter of fact several went out of there way to explain to you but you are confusing fact with fantasy. Bush was brought up as well as Clinton and his predecessor because they followed the same policy in regard to filming the coffins. You actually lied intentionally or not when you stated that Bush opposed rearmouring the Humvees and or the supply of anything that would benefit soldiers and the vast majority knows that. Also he did not lie to send troops into harms way unless you think that Al Gore lied and Hillary and Bill Clinton lied and all the Intelligence agencies in the free world. You lie about that so what is your excuse? It sounds more and more like you are the run of the mill left wing hack that will say and do anything that is not based in fact. As someone that uses the VA there will always be problems because it is run like the post office by the Government but I am sure you are for nationalizing the medical system. Look I do not want to be to harsh but you appear to be ignorant 0f the military and how it works and about those that serve in it.

      • Mike Mansfield permalink
        November 3, 2009 9:12 am

        I believe congress simply was afraid to go any other way at the time because they believed the lies. You remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks lead singer when she criticized the president? Yet no one seems to have any problem at all criticizing the current president.

        Bush lied, period. He KNEW the truth but told us something different. .. Signaled victory when we are still at war…changed his mind about why we were there over and over again, etc. That isn’t selective memory.

        As for armored Humvees, for example, why weren’t they available BEFORE we got into this mess?

        I have not served (4F; and if you saw my scars you’d know why); but I take my information from soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and who have served during peace time as well. A few are literal friends; but many more I know through FB and the Democratic Party. I read enough to know the logistics problems involved with military force; but just having been there doesn’t necessarily make someone else more knowledgeable.

        As for socialized medicine, I am 100% in favor of a single payer system.

        Now what that has to do with Paul’s post, I don’t know; but it is a response to some of the other posts.

        Oh! One lie is easy: WMD. There were none. There never were any. There was zero tie to Al Quada. In fact Saddam Hussein HATED Al Quada types.

        So we went to war against Just War Theory and International law based on a lie. Where is the patriotism in that? There isn’t any.

        • David Forsmark permalink
          November 5, 2009 8:48 pm

          Bush knew? You have proof of that? I guess that made him the smartest man in the world!

          BTW, “WMD. There were none. There never were any. There was zero tie to Al Quada. In fact Saddam Hussein HATED Al Quada types.”

          You don’t even watch mainstream media outlets, you must only read lefty blogs. So, a hundred thousand Khurds dies HOW? Swine flu? Never were any is the statement of a fool.

          It’s the same over reach you make with “no al Qaeda ties.” It’s true that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, But then like a party game of gossip, liberals take that to say no ties to al Qaeda. Saddam harbored terrorists who had hit U.S. targets. There were training camps. Zarqawi was based there already… etc, etc.

          Saddam hated SHIA types, but both Saddam and al Qaeda are Sunnis.

          • Jack Hampton permalink
            November 6, 2009 3:10 am

            Forgive the intrusion but Saddam was constantly in violation of the cease fire that was signed by Iraq and fired on coalition planes flying in the no fly zone that he agreed to. Bush stated this provacation from day one and spoke about it to the UN which passed a resolution that freed Bush to act. However I do not believe that Bush or any American President need permission from the UN to do anything to protect out national interest. i just cannot figure out Mikes problem other than blind hate.

  10. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 3, 2009 12:39 pm

    I think I understand why you did not serve we used to call it a Section8. Sorry but you are lying. Bush did not lie. You evidently do not know what a lie is.
    “As for armored Humvees, for example, why weren’t they available BEFORE we got into this mess” Because no one in the military had ever dealt with the type of improvised shaped charges (IED) till after they were there in theater as a matter of fact the IED was developed with Iran’s help. It was then they realized they had to what was called up armor the Humvees You have to adapt for the situation on the ground. I do not believe you talk to anyone that is credible that is involved with the war I think you just make crap up as it suits your purpose. Also who gives a crap about the Dixie Chicks they did not visit the coffins at Dover or any GI any place. I also warned you not to try the old WMD lie that it would not work. If you build houses and your foreman and experts tell you that the houses are sturdy and have a firm foundation and you have that certified by an inspector then relate to a prospective buyer the house is sound and it collapses that does not make you a liar. Bush relied on the CIA the Moussad and every intelligence agency in the world including the leaders of your lousy democrap party. They all said the same thing that Saddam had the weapons. Guess what he did have them we know because he used poison gas on his own people and the soldiers of Iran we have seen the photographic and film evidence, Bush made a mistake and screwed around with the UN to long and they moved the stuff out. I belittle no one because they did not serve or could not serve but I have scars as well and they are not from being 4F. Your problem is you are intentionally 4F with the truth. I really pity you in a way.

  11. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 3, 2009 12:41 pm

    If this does not beat all if I could of I would have prosecuted Bush for failing to secure our nation and now I am having to defend him against a congenital liar.

  12. Mike Mansfield permalink
    November 3, 2009 12:35 pm

    You do not know me, Jack Hamlton; and yet you seem to think you know lots about me. I could not have served, period. You don’t have to believe it; but it is the truth. I actually tried to sign up with the National Guard as a sophomore in college.

    You do not know what a lie is, apparently, either. Bush lied. He lied more than once as he kept changing the reason we were there. In 2007 he was asked what Iraq had to do with Al Quada. Bush’s direct answer was this: “NOTHING!” (My emphasis.)

    Have you seen the weapons of mass destruction? I haven’t. You know why, don’t you? Because this war had nothing to do with Al Quada or national safety. It had to do with oil and Bush’s own desire to outdo his Daddy. Some of that is option. Most of it, if not all, is fact.

    It was a lie, not a misspeak; and, even after it was obvious there were no WMD he continued to lie about it.

    As for protection for the soldiers there were frequent attempts to improve the situation for the soldiers on the ground without success; and it wasn’t the Democrats stopping it from happening.

    You have no reason to pity me. I have scars of my own; but I cannot brag about mine like you did. You DID belittle me; and you continue to charge me with telling lies when I am not.

    Were there WMD? NO! Were there WMD several years before” Of course. But that had nothing to do with our reason to go there. Even the chief UN inspector said they weren’t there. IRAQ was 100% a war of choice. It violated International Law and was against Just War Principle. I know some folk think that means I am saying their sons or daughters gave their lives for nothing; but I am not. They did right. Bush did wrong. For heaven’s sakes, even the Republicans are opening up about their disgust for the man.

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 3, 2009 12:56 pm

      I can read the lies you type. I believe you have comprehension problems as well. I believe you could not serve and yes I know what a lie is you have proven you do not. So now it is about oil. You skip over the facts stated above in regard to your own party claiming the weapons were there which they were. You lied about the armor for the humvees. No one alleged a misspeak but that he relied on the intelligence given him by assorted Intel agencies of this country and others. Yet you want to throw up the Dixie Dicks which had nothing to do with anything. Your convoluted comments belie reality.
      I bragged about nothing I stated a fact. I did not belittle your failing to serve I belittle your willing lies and bearing false witness. As for the pity I am rapidly losing that for you as well. Now I question your integrity so no I do not know you and I am more than sure I would not care to.

    • Sam Deakins permalink
      November 3, 2009 12:57 pm

      Off the meds, dude, your head is going to implode from all the trash you are emptying out of it.

  13. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 3, 2009 1:06 pm

    This guy talks about some scars and yet if I mention mine I am bragging. If I were a druggie I would want some of the stuff you are on. Is there anyway you could bequeath your gall to the Republican party they could use it.

  14. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 3, 2009 1:25 pm

    I would also add that most Republicans are upset with Bush in regard to spending and failing to secure the border. His handling of Iraq showed integrity and character had he listened to you and Harry( the war is lost) Reid we would have abandoned the field now this cretin is having to eat his words as well. Americans are not quitters the seeds have been planted in that part of the world that may actually bring real peace inj the future based on dignity and respect.

  15. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 3, 2009 2:45 pm

    Also since you brought Bush up lets not forget he is a former experienced military man and probably understands the military mind set.

    • Mike Mansfield permalink
      November 3, 2009 8:23 pm

      Really? His Dad got a plum “avoid Viet Nam” place for him to serve; and he disappeared the last month he was supposed to be serving.

      Now I cannot prove that. It seems the papers related to all of this “disappeared” if they ever existed in the first place.

      The guy was a drunk at the time. I guess he is still a drunk because you cannot cure addiction, only manage it. Some manage it better than others. I doubt if Bush has anywhere near the understanding of the military that you have (assuming YOU are telling the truth, like I am.

      And, please listen to Sam Deakins words about your head. He has the right idea there.

  16. Jack Hampton permalink
    November 4, 2009 4:55 am

    Mike Mansfield
    Mr. Deakins was directing that comment at you. It must be that comprehension thing again. You see Mike you are a hater and it is more than obvious you hate President Bush because he handed you liberals your ass on so many occasions starting with defeating the former democrat drunkard that was Governor of Texas and then defeating Al Gore the man that could not even carry his home state because we already knew what a liar he was. Then he defeated the phony hero and gigolo John Kerry so by that time your hate was raging.

    Now to your other false assertions we will clear this up right now.
    “I doubt if Bush has anywhere near the understanding of the military that you have (assuming YOU are telling the truth”, I entered the US Army at the age of 17 all my life I wanted to be a soldier just like my father and his father. When I entered you were assigned a service number not your social security number as it is now. It either began with RA or US. The US was someone that was drafted the RA denoted someone that enlisted mine started out RA12—- I turned eighteen in basic training at FT. Benning GA. The first weapon I qualified on was an M14. I was at a place called South Harmony Church still living in the old WW2 type barracks. I went from there to a place called Chapel Hill for jump school because I needed the extra sixty bucks a month it paid. My basic pay for a PVT E1 was $97.50 a month so even you can see why the sixty extra bucks came in handy. From there I was sent to Advanced Infantry Training one other training school and I hit Vietnam one month before Tet that was my first tour. By the way we were paid there with what was called MPC or funny money no greenbacks I was back again in 1970-71. We did not even have Humvees we still had the old M151 Jeep utility. I was wounded up near the Laotian border on an little deal called Lam Son 719 I had 18 days left in country till rotation or DEROS I ended up in the Hospital in Japan for almost a month before being sent to a military hospital in the US for another month.

    Now to this next bit of slander “Really? His Dad got a plum “avoid Viet Nam” place for him to serve” Do you know that Bush was a fighter pilot right and his father did not have to get him the position. Did you also know that Bush volunteered to go to Vietnam that was right from the mouth of his squadron Commander but at that time there was an excess of Pilots most wanting to serve and other senior men were picked for those slots.

    “Now I cannot prove that. It seems the papers related to all of this “disappeared” if they ever existed in the first place” More slander and lies those papers exist remember Dan Rather found them some cooked up phony ones that got him and his producer kicked out on there asses are those the ones you refer to? You truly are a shameless liar The records in regard to his service exist and is well documented they will never go away. Did you know we are still waiting for John Kerry to release his records like he promised to do a dozen times but never has?

    “The guy was a drunk at the time. I guess he is still a drunk because you cannot cure addiction, only manage it. Some manage it better than others. I doubt if Bush has anywhere near the understanding of the military that you have”

    Bush did a dangerous job he flew a jet fighter not something a drunk could do and survive very long it was basically a jet fuel tank with a motor strapped to it. The mental and physical acuity to perform this task is not something that a drunkard could do. We also know that he was given special dispensation by the Guard to do some political work this was not uncommon for guard units. His mother says he never was an alcoholic and so does his wife he was though he admitted drinking to much. President Bush however stopped drinking what about you Mike can you stop hating and spreading lies? I will admit I have no use for Al Gore or John Kerry or Barack Obama but my opposition to them is based on there political positions and in truth I find Al Gore to be a special kind of imperious hypocrite. You however begin your comments benignly claiming to not want to, “I tend to want to stir the pot; but I am deliberately not doing it here”
    Then you swiftly move to attack mode and lies. I am by no means young but I hope I never become the miserable hater and purveyor of false information that you are.

  17. Mike Mansfield permalink
    November 4, 2009 12:11 pm


    I still find it comical that you can direct so much nastiness at me, personalizing it at the level you do when you don’t know me.

    You need to realize that your ignorance is contributing to this argument as much as mine is. Neither of us knows everything about this; and, even if we did, we would likely not agree because we come from different perspectives. My perspective is toward the common good and common humanity, to live in peace.

    I’ll bet you were spanked even more than I was as a child.

    • Jack Hampton permalink
      November 4, 2009 12:59 pm

      I believe you need to read your above post. Correcting untruths is not nastiness and I received one spanking in my life. But I have had to deal with a lot of liars. Your last statement is just nonsensical. Good luck

    • David Forsmark permalink
      November 5, 2009 8:52 pm

      Jack probably was spanked more as a child. That’s why he turned out a moral person with a disciplined mind, instead of a self-indulgent boomer who thinks he can change reality by shouting a lie often enough.

      • Mike Mansfield permalink
        November 5, 2009 10:13 pm

        No, that boomer would be Karl Rove.

        I am NOT a boomer. I am part of the so-called “greatest generation.”

        I’m sorry that you don’t read Bush’s own words; but I have.

        • Jack Hampton permalink
          November 6, 2009 3:29 am

          I am sorry that you do not evidently understand what you read. I have dealt with a lot of people that are difficult but there is a visceral hatred in you for a man you probably have not ever met and for reasons that are simply not true. You are doing yourself or cause what ever it might be no service.

      • Jack Hampton permalink
        November 6, 2009 3:22 am

        Mr Forsmark
        Let me assure you that you only wanted one spanking from my father and that was enough. Then there was the wood pile and sawing for hours and cutting wood. But guess what? I wanted to be just like him he was the hero in my life had to have two seperate funeral services for my father because of the number of people.


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