Staged Military Photo Ops Suddenly Awesome
posted at 6:54 am on April 14, 2009 by Jim Treacher
Back in 2003, the left was astonished and dismayed that George W. Bush got such a warm Thanksgiving welcome from our troops in Iraq, even after he was evil enough to send our troops to Iraq. So what did our friends on the port side do? Oh, the usual: They concocted a controversy out of whole cloth.
“Hey, that Thanksgiving turkey Bush was carrying looked pretty fake. Wait a second, I know… It was plastic! What a perfect metaphor for this whole fake war! Plastic turkey, plastic president. Am I right, people?”
They weren’t right. They didn’t even bother to find out if they were. But that didn’t stop this weird, fact-free, too-good-to-check meme from oozing through the Internet until it finally dripped onto the desks of our finest bastion of journalistic certitude, the New York Times. Here’s what Richard L. Berke said about it on July 4, 2004, in the middle of a thumbsucker about John Kerry (remember him?) trying to find some way to grab the nation’s attention. Kerry was having a tough time because, well, he’s John Kerry. But also because the wicked and nefarious George Bush kept stealing the spotlight:
And how does Mr. Kerry top the suspense-filled plot line of this White House, which regularly negotiates hairpin turns? Just last week, the handover of Iraq happened two days earlier than expected.
There are also the manufactured surprises, like Mr. Bush’s cloak-and-dagger Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad, which drew praise even from Democrats. (The public relations bonanza fizzled after the press reported that Mr. Bush had posed with a mouth-watering – but fake – turkey.)
It took a week for the NYT to issue a correction, but at least they finally did:
An article last Sunday about surprises in politics referred incorrectly to the turkey carried by President Bush during his unannounced visit to American troops in Baghdad over Thanksgiving. It was real, not fake.
Which would seem to be no small matter, considering that this “fact” was being used far and wide to triumphantly prove the fundamental fakeness of the Bush administration. But then, this is the same newspaper that, just two months later, would run the headline “Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says.” Fake, real, accurate, inaccurate… whatever!
Despite the NYT’s correction, the meme of “Bush’s plastic turkey proves he sucks and stuff” survives to this day, still popping up occasionally on the Internet and in “reputable” publications all over the world. Just ask the great Tim Blair, who has served as Turkey-Tracker #1 ever since the first outbreak of this particular form of mental illness.
Which brings us to 2009, and a new president who’s on record as saying our troops in Afghanistan are “just air-raiding villages and killing civilians” indiscriminately. A president who opposed the Iraq War and, during his brief, stepping-stone tenure as a senator, voted against the surge. A president who’s even more image-conscious than most (mainly because it’s his one and only qualification for the job), and who’s obviously stung by the rather lukewarm reception he’s received from military audiences in the early days of his presidency.
So you’re the president, you’re making a surprise visit to Iraq, and you want to look good. But so far, the troops haven’t really been falling all over themselves whenever you glide into the room. What do you do? How do you shut up those pundits who dare to take note of reality? Well, according to Macsmind:
…about that “surprise visit”.
It wasn’t. The visit was communicated a full 24 hours in advance and a small contingent of soldiers – not screaming hordes – were rustled into a meeting place at Camp Victory.
Got this email from a sergeant that was there.
We were pre-screened, asked by officials “Who voted for Obama?”, and then those who raised their hands were shuffled to the front of the receiving line. They even handed out digital cameras and asked them to hold them up.
Take a look at the picture at AP and notice all the cameras are the same models. Coincidence? I think not.
How do you make sure a crowd likes you? Screen out anybody who didn’t vote for you. Even if they’re serving their country under your watch.
Guess it all depends on how eager they really are to flush out a fake turkey.
Update: Whoops, sorry, I forgot… Allegedly.
Update: In the comments, somebody points to “Different Presidents, a Different Corps.” I’m not sure that video is really fair, because it’s comparing two different kinds of events. But it’s the sort of thing that would bug me enough to stage my own celebratory photo op, if I were a narcissist.
Update: “Our people are doing the vetting. Even if some of it is hitting dead ends, other ones are striking direct hits. My role is to sit back and let the citizen journalists do their job, and I amplify the stuff that shakes out.” So said noted thinker Markos Moulitsas, regarding the stories on the Daily Kos about Sarah Palin faking her pregnancy. If that newsgathering system is good enough for attacking the mother of a small infant, why isn’t it good enough for questioning the authenticity of a photo op?
Update: Hey, did you know that if anybody in the crowd had a different kind of camera, that proves the Obama team couldn’t possibly have handed out cameras? Good catch, Greg Sargent! I missed the part where the Obama team was accused of confiscating everybody’s cameras before handing out their own, but it’s good to see that pros like Sargent are on the case. (If it seems like I’m putting the burden of proof on the accused, see previous update.)
Update: Is it just me? Maybe it’s just me.
Update: The Right Knight raises a good point… “My concern, however, would be the chilling effect on the (albeit constrained) political rights of these soldiers when they’re asked by the elected Commander-in-Chief (through his staff) whether they voted for him. Someone please explain how in the hell that is his or anyone else’s business? Has military service officially become a matter of political favor from top to bottom?” And: “Little do these Obama-loving soldiers know, they’ll soon be monitored by Homeland Security upon their return from Iraq, much to the chagrin of the American Legion.” But at least they got a hug out of the deal!