Much has been made of the fact that President Obama did not attend the wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery this Memorial Day, choosing instead to take a vacation in Chicago. Some even claimed it was the first time a wartime president had failed to pay his respects to the fallen at the nation’s most esteemed military cemetery.
Upon first reflection this seemed like a terrible slight to our armed forces. But after further research and analysis it seems that on at least two scores this may have been overblown and factually incorrect.
To begin with, this not the first time the President of the United States has been absent from Arlington on Memorial Day—even during wartime. Ronald Reagan had a deputy defense secretary fill in for him. In 1992, while the Gulf War was taking place, George H.W. Bush (a WWII Veteran) missed the annual event, but actually spoke to a veterans group in Kennebunkport, Maine. Years later in 2007, while our troops were fighting valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan, George W. Bush sent Vice-President Dick Cheney to Arlington in his place.
This year President Obama attended a ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois, hardly ignoring this important day of remembrance. Vice-President Biden, the father of a son that has served in Iraq, laid the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington in the president’s place.
Second, those that take issue with our commander-in-chief might consider that Biden, a man who has had a son in combat, might be better qualified to understand the feelings of veterans and their family members than Obama who does not share that experience.
If critics of Obama, his administration and his policies are to maintain credibility we must take care to keep our criticisms based in facts and not in the kind of irrational hyperbole that the left so often engages in.
There is cause for criticism to be leveled at President Obama for taking another vacation at this time, but it should be for the fact that he does so while there is an environmental disaster occurring in the Gulf Mexico and along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and while millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to pay their essential expenses. It seems heartless, elitist and tone-deaf for Obama to be taking yet another vacation while so many Americans are suffering and losing so much.