Dissecting President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Dover, where he saluted America’s war dead on camera, right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh echoed the words of Elizabeth Cheney, falsely implying that President George W. Bush had done the same, but without the cameras.
“I don’t know why he went to Dover,” Cheney said during a Fox News radio interview on Thursday. “I think that it is clearly important for a commander in chief, whenever he can in whatever way possible, to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers, our fallen military folks. But I think, you know, what President Bush used to do is to do it without the cameras. And, um, 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.”
“President Bush used to do it!” said Limbaugh, as though to imply that the former president would visit Dover to honor the war dead, much as President Obama did earlier this week. “Boy, we didn’t know it! She just told us something we didn’t know. Bush used to do it, but there were no cameras. He did it privately with the families.”
While Cheney’s statement that President Bush used to “pay tribute” to fallen soldiers “without the cameras” is technically correct, it is deceptive in the context of President Obama’s actions. Speaking about Obama’s visit to Dover, then claiming that Bush “used to do it” sans media, is wrong because President Bush did no such thing.
“Mr. Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, visited the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers but did not attend any military funerals or go to Dover to receive the coffins,” CBS News reported on Friday.
President George H.W. Bush was first to institute a policy banning media coverage of America’s war dead returning home for burial. President Obama repealed that rule after just over a month in office.
During the early hours of Wednesday morning, President Obama gave a very public tribute to Army Sergeant Dale R. Griffin, of Terre Haute, Ind., who died in Afghanistan. It was the first time in decades a U.S. president and the media have been present to observe American caskets being unloaded.
Speaking to The Oregonian, the family of fallen soldier Pfc. Christopher “Ian” Walz — who was also received during Obama’s visit to Dover, but was not photographed by the media — called the president “very genuine.”
“[Ian] would have been really proud,” Katrina Walz told the paper. “He really liked Obama.”
Under the Obama administration’s rules, individual families are given control over whether or not the caskets of fallen loved ones may be photographed by media. During Obama’s visit to Dover, only one family authorized the media’s presence.
“A majority of Americans favor allowing the public to see pictures of the military honor guard receiving the war dead at Dover, with about 60 percent responding positively and a third answering negatively in polls posing the question in 1991 and 2004,” The Washington Post reported in February.
This audio was cut from the Oct. 30, 2009 edition of Rush Limbaugh Show, courtesy of watchdog group Media Matters.
This video is from CNN, broadcast Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009.