Barack Obama

The "Meaning of Cory Remsburg" Isn't What Obama and His Supporters Think It Is.


In a response to the State of the Union Address published at, 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.

Read the whole thing.

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'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:

NEXT: White House Asking for Suggestions on Drug Convicts to Give Clemency To

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  1. “”Equating sending men and women to war with “grunts out there in the factories” and offices?””

    Person @ DMV: “Look, I’m not getting in another line, the last person told me that…”

    DMV Worker: “Oh yeah, smart guy? Lenny! Bring out Brain Damaged Ranger!”

    [DMV Employees wheel out decorated military vet in wheelchair. He waves feebly.]

    DMV Employee: “Tell it to him buddy, *tell it to him*. Because this is WAR my friend, and its one shit sandwich and we’re all going to have to take a bite. Now you get your goddamn form IV2R9, and get in line #4 and thank god for men and women like him.”

    1. The Dude: God damn you Walter! You fuckin’ asshole! Everything’s a fuckin’ travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Vietnam? What the FUCK, has anything got to do with Vietnam? What the fuck are you talking about?

      That was really the only response needed.

    2. I couldn’t help but read Randy Marsh from South Park’s voice into the DMV Employee response.

    1. This guy deserves to be shunned forevermore.

      Everything has come easy for Obama. It’s just now that people actually expect him to perform, and aren’t quiet about him not performing, yet that is somehow translated as a personal struggle.

      Fuck these Obama fellators. Tarring and feathering is the best of what I can think of that this guy deserves.

      1. *shrug* For EVERY politician, every issue is “It’s about me!”

        Realistically, this is no different than the use Bush made of the widow of one of the Flight 93 victims.

    2. “Defending this nation.” Yeah, sure, if that’s what you want to go with.

  2. “the meaning” here isn’t about public service, it’s about the government’s grotesque exploitation of its citizens.

    That and a complete abrogation of the oath of obeisance to the Constitution these jagoffs mouth the words to on inauguration day.

  3. While I wouldn’t wish Remsburg’s injuries on anyone (well, almost no one), this is a guy who voluntarily enlisted, re-upped and did 10 tours in combat zones. I’ll give Remsberg this much: his balls are much bigger than mine.

    Whatever his motivation were, it’s hard to have any more sympathy for him than another guy who plays in traffic for kicks. He knew what the risks were and he rolled the dice every time he re-upped and toured. He lost on that last roll.

    I’m really tired of being told that I have to show a respect boner for soldiers and cops, who bravely lay their lives on the line every day. Really? Do I? When do commercial fishermen get their day in the SOTU? I at least know why they do what they do. How about farmers? Loggers? Construction workers? Electrical line workers? All of them run a very high risk of dying or being injured on the job every day, more so than cops or soldiers, but they don’t get reach-around.

    No? They don’t cut the cockle-warming mustard? No good money to be made off of the saps, for people who just show up to work every day, I suppose.

    1. Good point. While I can empathize with him, it was still a choice. Despite our long history of misguided foreign wars, he still decided to enlist.

    2. And that’s the other thing; if Remburg was a political prop–and the SOTU has become nothing else if not a glorified campaign speech–then it’s because he consciously chose to be so. The elite can tell themselves whatever they want about the symbolism, but all I saw was a guy who had the bad luck of serving under a CiC who refused to pull out of Afghanistan after completing the main objective. If Obama had any balls, Remburg never would have been in that position to begin with.

      Personally, if some politician wanted me to stand up in the chamber so a bunch of other politicians could applaud me, I’d probably tell them to fuck off as nicely as I could. Personally, I was always embarrassed when someone came up to me when I was in uniform and said “thank you for your service.”

      I find it a little crass when veterans are willing to have other people tell them how wonderful and amazing they are. Yes, there are traditions that deserve respect, but the lionization gets ridiculous.

      1. Personally, if some politician wanted me to stand up in the chamber so a bunch of other politicians could applaud me I’d wear a suicide vest to the show because that would be the only cause worth sacrificing my life for outside of my family’s well being.

        I doubt if you mind I fixed that up a bit.

    3. The military fatality rate –for 2010 —( report_number_serve.xhtml)
      is about 4 times higher than the highest category (agriculture, forestry and fishing) for 2011 ( archives/cfoi_09202012.pdf).

      LEO rates for 2013 were 120 deaths (less than in 1915!) which is about 13/100K (my calculation)….less than for ‘transportation and warehousing’.

      Also, interesting to note that only about a third of military fatalities are due to combat. Now there’s a story…..

      Risky or not, though, it (should be) and WAS his choice and the consequences not a reason to celebrate choice. Still, our culture is still overcompensating for Vietnam and, besides, we have a fascination with those who get shot at and get to kill people.

      1. our culture is still overcompensating for Vietnam

        Head of the nail just got whacked by the hammer.

    4. Lumping LEOs in with military personnel isn’t fair.
      Once you take them out of your equation and factor in the risk and generally low pay in the military, it might make more sense.

  4. JohnnyVBoykins 3 hours ago
    I love these self-righteous libertarian types who have never served a day in their life in the military who have an audacity to launch personal attack on the President’s celebration of one of America’s heroes all because they “don’t like the president” get the hell out of here…I stop reading this crap with..”to use such a soldier as an applause line in a political speech…” I like how you reduce a soldier who deployed 10 times to an applause line—I am sorry if that soldier makes you uncomfortable…its the true cost of war that we have been in for 12 years….

    Yeah, Nick. Stop reducing this soldier to an applause line.

    1. Don’t lock eyes with them, Warty! Never look them straight in the eye!

    2. Gillespie like many cynics, sees only negatives in anything – such folks suspect the intentions of any human and for reasons unknown, believe every action of every human has an ulterior and ugly self serving motive.

      Nick is just a negative Nancy.

      1. And this:

        Nick you didn’t serve, your opinion is dust.

        Yeah! Why is he writing an article in the first place!?

        1. Not like Obama, or any of his speech writers!

    3. It’s seems to me that about 50% of this board served in the military.

      1. Guilty. ’72-’75. USN.

        For me, it was a pretty good move. It gave me the dicipline I needed. I got to see countries I never would have otherwise. And I met a lot of good people.

        I also met my first wife, but *shiver* let’s not go there.

        1. Didnt Ron Paul lead in military donations back when he ran?

          1. Yes he did. As an active duty Marine at the time, I can tell you why. The idea of a commander in chief that cares enough about you to think very carefully before sending you to fight/kill/die is very refreshing.

    4. I love these self-righteous libertarian types

      Self-righteousness is a registered trademark of the liberal establishment, any infringement thereon is punishable by extreme whining and hissy-fits.

      1. Don’t forget the foot-stomping!

    5. The DNC talking points going out tell them to be more patriot than thou to compensate for being communist pond scum mucking up this nation with their authoritarian agenda.

      1. And all they did was take RNC talking points from 8 years ago.

        1. Not really. Republicans have never had to overcompensate for their patriotism. Their ingrained sense of nationalism is their most exploitable virtue.

    6. Former Marine Captain. Served in Iraq as a combat advisor. I agree wholeheartedly with this article. These people are the sons and daughters of America and shouldn’t have their lives so carelessly thrown away to the meat grinder for political gain.

  5. Interesting Nick you telling us all about the perils of a disastrous foreign policy. You’re right…that is the real meaning behind this man.

    But yet here you are, nary saying a word about the bi-partisan attempt to scuttle negotiations with Iran over their nuclear research. What may be our last best chance at avoiding just another one of those catastrophic Mideast wars is being actively put on the chopping block with the Menendez-Kirk bill on increasing sanctions. And you say nothing. In fact, on this website, other than the Richman article weeks ago, nothing. Not very proactive about stopping that disastrous foreign policy, are we?

    But then, for you to take that stance, you would have to support the President, and that would trump everything else.

    1. Because there’s not much more to be said than the Richman article?

      No, no, you’re right, it’s totally because We Hate’s The Obama.

      Except when We Love’s The Obama.

      (I really wish people would just make up their mind if Reason is too hard or too soft on Obama and the Dems.)

      1. It really doesn’t matter…the fact is it is always hard on Obama, which is fine.

        My point is that when the President does things that support in any small or large measure Libertarian principles, people like Nick would do well to support him. When he doesn’t, and avoids the topic altogether (that being the Menendez bill), it makes his criticisms seem somewhat shallow.

        Surely there would be a lot of space here given to the issue if it was a Libertarian President attempting to find peaceful negotiations rather than war, particularly if both Republicans and Democrats in Congress were actively attempting to stop it.

        1. Surely there would be a lot of space here given to the issue if it was a Libertarian President attempting to find peaceful negotiations

          What would a Libertarian President be negotiating with Iran about? Their nuclear research is none of our business.

          1. You may want to consider that Ron Paul has said sanctions are an act of war, and the sanctions we have on Iran were put there by Congress.

            So, any President…Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian…presides over what some Libertarians already insist are an act of war, and technically can only be removed by Congress.

            In addition, Congress could declare war on Iran at anytime. So you see, it would behoove that Libertarian President to find ways to avoid that next catastrophic war that could occur with or without his blessing. Unless, of course, he was totally unaware of how all this works.

            1. Yes but now we have a new precedent, a Libertarian president could just stop enforcing the sanction via executive order. Thank you, 0bama.

    2. Yes. If only a few more libertarians would write the right articles, we’d have Iran under control and pretty soon world peace.

      1. Just like all the articles posted here daily are going to repeal Obamacare.

        1. Not very proactive about stopping that disastrous foreign policy, are we?

          Your own words.

          1. Indeed they were. The ACA is already enacted law, and we have not started that troops on the ground war with Iran yet. My words.


      1. “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.”

        Nick said that. And Nick doesn’t bother to articulate why we should take all steps now toward negotiation rather than war with Iran.

        1. Perhaps you can tell us, what is the Obama policy for Iran? His administration is not exactly open about the goals they are trying to accomplish. We hearabout, say, embargoes being quietly lifted months after they occur. If that is the only way they can be realistically lifted and progress also be made on security concerns, fine, the administration is doing the right thing in that case, but you can’t blame anyone not privy to the goals for not being in a position to support them.

          1. One clear goal for all to see is to negotiate with Iran before any real war could occur over their nuclear ambitions. That is clear, and those negotiations have started. The Menendez bill would undermine that effort and more than likely bring an end to said negotiations. And it is easy to see how the outcome would then be eventual war.

            I am just taking the opportunity to remind Nick that its best to find ways avoiding those wars that create the kind of catastrophe visited upon Remsburg (and our country)before it happens all over again. Encourage the negotiations, argue over the give and take, but don’t neglect an attempt that would keep those negotiations from even occurring.

  6. Oh the comment section:

    that applause you heard was solely for that army ranger and for the countless others who have sacrificed so much, NOT for obama and his “domestic policy agenda”

    I don’t agree with this whatsoever and think it is ignorant for Time to comment on Obama “using” a soldier for political backing? He was honoring his sacrifice. Not doing so for his own political gain or loss, he was being a human.

    So glad Nick Gillespie made similar judgements during the exponentially more craven Bush Administration (he wrote, keyboard dripping with sarcasm).

    Those were 3 separate comments.

    1. Instead of honoring their sacrifice, it makes a hell of a lot more sense to not ask them to make those sacrifices for poorly thought out and unnecessary wars.

      1. Indeed.

  7. It’s a well worn tradition for pols to mention or drag out injured ets as a shield from criticism of their actual policies. It won’t stop until the country stops worshipping the military.

    I’m tired of the unchallenged notion that they are protecting our freedoms. Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, North Africa, et al were not a threat to our freedoms.

    1. I’m tired of the unchallenged notion that they are protecting our freedoms. Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, North Africa, et al were not a threat to our freedoms.

      I agree. However to suggest that is to doubt the integrity of the troops. Which is stupid. Sure, the troops believe the lies from the politicians they serve and truly believe they are protecting our freedoms. Except that they’re not. They’re not serving the people. They’re serving the politicians.

      And that’s something that really bothers me. I mean, politicians are the scum of the earth, right? So why is committing acts of violence for politicians the scum of the earth the most noble thing a person can do?

      I suppose the answer lies with why Congress has such a low approval rating with 95% of incumbents being reelected.

      1. Other than perhaps an 18 year old E-1, and a general on camera, no one in the military believes they are in Afghanistan fighting for Liberty.

        1. As a onetime 19 year old E-1 (1976), I can tell you that few of my fellow, E-1’s had any illusions about “fighting for liberty” but maybe the circle of guys I knew were just, like me, particularly cynical. But then again we were in the Air Force so we did spend a lot of time packing the china and crystal for possible deployments.

  8. “Obama’s underlying message has been that too much of what happens in Washington is an insiders’ game”

    News flash Cassidy: Obama has been an insider since day fucking one.

    Jesus Christ it baffles my mind that they still try to paint him as some tireless warrior trying to break down the insider machine.

  9. Damned fine gloves off article Nick.
    Does getting published at make you more relevant or Time less relevant?

  10. Boy, that kid took a hit though.

    I watched the VA video. Such massive incompetence it’s staggering.

    How about this for starters? Slow down the wars or engagement thereof?

    As for the comments on Nick’s piece, it’s like the assholes who say “you never played ‘x’ sport, so why are you writing about it?’ They completely ignore the fact that just because you played doesn’t give you the ability to offer unique insights into a sport. Sometimes it’s best left to more articulate and enlightened minds. Most sports guys make for terrible insights but are best used for other stuff like locker room culture, relationships between certain players not privy to the public, thoughts on X’s and O’s (and even then, most don’t possess tactical minds as they are largely there to execute a coach’s game plan) and so on.

    Fin rant.

    1. it’s like the assholes who say “you never played ‘x’ sport, so why are you writing about it?’

      Especially good given that Obama and most of the people in that arena never served in the army. So by that logic they shouldn’t have had the guy there in the first place since none of them served.

  11. I do thank military personnel for their service. I realize many of them agree with the U.S. government projecting power overseas and that these soldiers believe that willingly participating is tantamount to “preserving our liberties.” But, in a very real sense,
    they nevertheless preserve our liberties by being trained and in place to defend real threats to the United States. Not many libertarians would do away with a military limited to defending against invasion. If one has served, or knows anyone who has, one understands military service is ten parts boredom and routine and one part terror at having to kill or be killed because of the uniform on one’s back. I can see a difference between what they are volunteering to do and what most any other job holder is expected to do.

  12. He was also invoking the concept of public service…

    “We should all be willing to take shrapnel to the head as long as it serves whatever president Obama says is for THE GREATER GOOD. Just like this guy here. Anyone who isn’t willing to do the same is a bad person, and a bad American. THE GREATER. GOOD.” – what Cassidy really said.

    I used Google to translate from Obamafluffer to English.

  13. ” …”the meaning” here isn’t about public service, it’s about the government’s grotesque exploitation of its citizens.”.

    An exploitation made infinitely easier if those citizens are unarmed.

    In this same speech did Obama exclaim his persistent desire to do more to facilitate that?

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  15. The Worst Part – Afghanistan is part of the ongoing opium Wars.

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  17. Tommy*
    Oh it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ Tommy go away;
    But it’s “Thank you, Mr. Atkins” when the band begins to play…
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
    — Rudyard Kipling

    *Tommy Atkins — British slang for a soldier.

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