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August 11, 2011

Families Of The Fallen: We Don't Want Any Media Coverage Of Our Loved Ones Return To Dover. White House To Families: We Don't Care What You Want

Ben has this in the sidebar but it's worth a post too.

All press coverage was banned because not all the bodies could be identified and that meant individual families couldn't give consent. Before officials realized that was the case, 19 of the 30 families had already said no to media coverage.

But that didn't stop the White House from dragging along their own personal photographer and releasing an artsy shot of Obama at the ceremony.

Doug Wilson, head of public affairs at the Pentagon, said the department did not know the White House photographer was present and had no idea a photo of the event was being released until it became public. He said the photographers who routinely travel with the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not allowed to go to the event, and no official Pentagon photos were taken or released.

The Associated Press did not transmit the White House photo to its customers, in accordance with its policy of refusing government handout images of events it believes the media should have access to.

When asked about the photo Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the picture was carefully taken so that it did not show the cases containing remains.

"The White House routinely releases photos taken by the White House photographers in specific circumstances where it would be inappropriate to include members of the media," Carney said. "In this case, the White House released the photo, in the interests of transparency, so that the American people could have as much insight as possible into this historic and sobering event."

I got into a discussion with a number of people on Twitter about whether or not Obama should have even gone. President Bush didn't attend any of the return ceremonies because he couldn't attend them all. My position was, and is, while some casualties may be more newsworthy than others, none are more important or tragic than any other. The individual casualty who came home the day before or the day after Obama went to Dover are no less worthy of the honor of having the President see them home. I don't see how you can draw a distinction between them.

Having gone to Dover, I did hope the families were able to draw some comfort from his being there.

Now I fear any good he may have done was undone by the way he violated the rules laid down by the Pentagon and the express wishes of the majority of the families. It's simply unconscionable that Obama allowed the photo to even be taken, let alone distributed. As always, Obama has to make everything about him (think of the photo from the Situation Room during the bin Laden raid). A few rules and the wishes of the families mean nothing compared to the importance of advancing his goals.

When it comes to honoring our heroes, I'd like to be able to give any President, Obama included, the benefit of the doubt that they care more about doing the right thing by the fallen and their families (even if I might disagree with their choices). Obama's decision to allow this solemn and private moment to become a political spectacle shows he simply is doesn't deserve that consideration.

January 20, 2013 can't come soon enough.

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posted by DrewM. at 09:41 AM

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