In a response to the State of the Union Address published at Time.com, I concluded that Barack Obama's invocation of injured soldier Cory Remsburg was "morally dubious" because the president elided "any responsibility for placing the young man in harm's way."
"Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings," Bob Dylan once sang, updating Samuel Johnson's dark maxim. Obama's gesture in the State of the Union will only accelerate the cynicism that already understandably dominates public opinion. There is no more serious decision that a government makes than to send its citizens a war. And there is nothing more disturbing than a president using soldiers' sacrifices as a way of selling a grab-bag of domestic policy agenda items.
Over the past couple of days, reactions to the use of Remsburg in the speech has emerged as something of a litmus test toward Obama, the military, and foreign policy. At Time.com's comments section, this is very much on display, where responses from Obama supporters and boosters of the military responded favorably and libertarians reacted negatively to the invocation of Remsburg.
For sheer moral obtuseness in the service of Obama fanboyism, check out The New Yorker's John Cassidy who writes,
Obama's underlying message has been that too much of what happens in Washington is an insiders' game that ignores, and often tramples upon, the wishes and interests of ordinary Americans….
By inviting Remsburg…Obama was taking part in what's now a traditional ritual for speech-givers. But he was also trying to bridge the gaping chasm between politics and political decision-making as experienced by its practitioners in the nation's capital and by the grunts out there in the factories, offices, and Army battalions.
He was also invoking the concept of public service, which, in Washington these days, is routinely subjugated to partisan advantage. And, finally, he was saying that we can do better, and we know we can—just look at this young man.
This, Cassidy argues, is "the meaning of Cory Remsburg." Equating sending men and women to war with "grunts out there in the factories" and offices?" Or public service more broadly? Are you freaking kidding, man? That's a pretty weird interpretation. Given that Obama has failed at every turn to explain precisely what the U.S.'s goals were in Iraq and Afghanistan especially (where Remsburg was injured and where Obama tripled troops during his first year in office), I'd like to offer a different and I think more accurate interpretation, one unburdened with trying to constantly say good things about the president.
Obama, just like Bush before him, sends a guy—hundreds of thousands, actually—to war where they put their bodies and lives on the line. Obama, just like Bush before him, doesn't bother to articulate the pressing national security interest in sending soldiers to the far corners of the globe. He doesn't give yardsticks for success or failure or anything. Instead, he stumbles along: War is war, you know, and it's hell—just look at this guy in the balcony. Now please clap for him—me, really—and good night America. The meaning of Cory Remsburg? It's that Obama and Washington is more than happy to use citizens for whatever political purpose they deem worthy of pursuing. And then when those same citizens return from a tour of duty, politicians are still ready, willing, and able to use them again, without serious regard for their well-being. Contra Cassidy, "the meaning" here isn't about public service, it's about the government's grotesque exploitation of its citizens.
What a disturbing moment and what a way to end a speech otherwise dedicated to forgettable gestures such as the "MyRa." Obama should be ashamed of himself, especially when you factor in that Obama's Veterans Administration is currently backlogged on 63 percent of benefits claims made by returning soldiers:
Among talking heads, one of the most interesting discussions came on Fox News' The Five, where the hosts grappled with their conflicting feelings about Obama (generally negative) and the military (generally positive). Along the way, Greg Gutfeld mentioned my piece in passing and averred (in Mediaite's gloss):
"This heroic man was somewhat disconnected from the limp litany of grad school garbage that came before, and it felt like it was placed at the end of the speech to armor against scrutiny." He added, "Everyone walks away thinking about this amazing hero and not how lame the president's speech was."
"It was really moving at the end, but I felt like I was being used," Gutfeld said.
I suspect that more and more people, especially upon a couple of days' reflection will feel that way.
Watch the segment below: