Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama's Memorial Day "Vacation" in Context

Earlier today I started noticing a the following poll (sponsored by the "Being Conservative" page on Facebook) showing up in several Facebook friends' statuses:

Do you approve of Obama's decision to skip the Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to go on vacation?
1:No
2:Yes


In response to which, I posted the following:
I don't have a problem with political disagreement. I think it is healthy and essential to a working democracy (or democratic republic, as the case may be), but the deliberate spread of misinformation and the willingness of most of us to uncritically pass it along really gets under my skin and makes me cringe for the future of our nation.

This is in response to the hubbub over Obama's Memorial Day trip to Chicago.

Well, in recent memory, Reagan skipped the ceremony in 1983, Bush41 skipped it in 1992, and Bush43 skipped in 2007. Do those matter, or is this just a problem because Obama is a Democrat (or something else)?


Unfortunately, "shoot first, fact-check later" has become the modus operandi of the Washington establishment. I think we can thank Karl Rove and 24-hour news channels; Rove's particular genius was to establish a nasty, dual-edged politics of deception during the Bush43 administration and the news establishment is constantly looking for anything to fill time, the more salacious the better. The Rove political game goes something like this:

1. Offense: Throw the nastiest, baseless accusations you can. The news media will run with the speculation, and your opponent will waste valuable time and resources denying and disproving whatever is untrue. By the time they manage to vindicate themselves, the viewing public is tired of the conversation and no longer cares. The only thing they will remember is the scandal.

2. Defense: Deflect, Distance, Dismiss. When the mud gets hurled at you, downplay the importance of the news. If possible, create something bigger to catch the news media's (and viewing public's) attention. Look for any and all ways to place blame outside of your immediate locus of control. When the public has tired of the scandal, act as though it is old news and not worthy of anyone's time.

We as information consumers bear a great deal of blame in this game, as we are not willing (or able?) to critically evaluate what is being fed to us. So, when I was challenged by my uncle about whether or not Clinton had made the date every year or what Bush and Reagan were doing when they did not make it, I had to admit to myself that I, too, had simply passed along information (thanks to Politics Daily). I now present, for your review, criticism, and discussion, the location of the president on each Memorial Day going back through Nixon (and who stood in when he wasn't at Arlington National Cemetery) along with news sources. I will also admit that these sources may not be the most authoritative; in most cases I chose the first available source with relevant information available in free preview. (With apologies for my ugly table code).












































Memorial Day Presidential Wreath Laying
Year

President Memorial Day Location Source(s) At Arlington for Ceremony
2010

Obama Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery - Elwood, IL Source Biden
2009

Obama Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Obama
2008

Bush43 Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Bush43
2007

Bush43 Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Bush43
2006

Bush43 Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Bush43
2005

Bush43 Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Bush43
2004

Bush43 Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Bush43
2003

Bush43 Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Bush43
2002

Bush43 Normandy American Cemetery, France Source Source Wolfowitz
2001

Bush43 Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Bush43
2000

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Clinton
1999

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Clinton
1998

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Clinton
1997

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Clinton
1996

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Clinton
1995

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Clinton
1994

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Clinton
1993

Clinton Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA & Vietnam War Memorial Source Clinton
1992

Bush41 American Legion Post 149 - Kennebunkport, MN Source Quayle
1991

Bush41 Yale University Commencement - New Haven, CT Source Source Quayle
1990

Bush41 Kennebunkport, MN Source Source Quayle
1989

Bush41 NATO Meeting - Brussels, Belgium Source Quayle
1988

Reagan Moscow? Source Turnage
1987

Reagan Washington? Source Webb
1986

Reagan Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Reagan
1985

Reagan Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Reagan
1984

Reagan Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Reagan (Wreath? Internment of unknown Vietnam casualty)
1983

Reagan Summit of Industrialized Nations - Williamsburg, VA Source Thayer
1982

Reagan Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Reagan
1981

Reagan Santa Barbara, CA Source Bush41
1980

Carter USS Nimitz Homecoming
Source Alexander
1979

Carter Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Carter
1978

Carter Camp David, MD Source Source Brown
1977

Carter St. Simon’s Island, GA Source Source Claytor
1976

Ford Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Ford
1975

Ford Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, VA Source Ford
1974

Nixon Key Biscane, FL Source Ford
1973

Nixon Key Biscane, FL Source Source Schlesinger
1972

Nixon Moscow, USSR Source Scott
1971

Nixon Camp David, MD Source Rogers
1970

Nixon San Clemente, CA Source Tower
1969

Nixon Florida Source Agnew


Counting this year, 19 times out of 42, someone other than the President has laid the ceremonial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 15 of those times, the President has been Republican. Only Clinton and Ford have been at the ceremony every year of their presidencies; Bush43 only missed once; Bush41 (as president) and Nixon never made the ceremony.

Thanks to commentor "Grey" who noticed the error I had made, listing Reagan as president on Memorial Day in 1980...that was probably why I had so much trouble finding a reference to his whereabouts that day. Also thank you to commentor"Budd" for pointing out the sloppy language I used; Bush41 did in fact attend the ceremony, just never as CIC.

4 comments:

Grey said...

Great work and thanks for the effort to show the facts. It is hard to get "just the facts" in todays media without an agenda spin. I just saw one little error, and this is not a criticism, just the old teacher in me. I hope you can correct it before you get ambushed by some zealot on either the right or the left. Reagan was not President in 1980, Carter was. Reagan was elected in November of 1980 and took the oath of office in 1981. Once again, great work and thanks for the effort.

Budd said...

Bush 41 went as VP.

It looks as though it was treated kind of like the Lincoln Bedroom and just kind of given to someone to do as a politcal favor for a long time. Dan Quale apperantly took it quite seriously and so did clinton and bush43.

Having been to Arlington, it would be a great honor to participate in any ceremony there. While Lincoln Cemetary is a National Cemetary. Obama had to know he was going to get pummeled for this. It is a bonehead move.

J. Kotinek said...

Grey,

Thank you for the appreciation and constructive criticism. I've made the change. I appreciate your taking the time to read my post!

Jon

J. Kotinek said...

Budd,

Thank you! I've cleaned up my assertion regarding Bush41.

Jon