President Obama and a number of other dignitaries were on hand when the remains of 30 American troops killed in the weekend’s Afghanistan helicopter attack were returned to Dover Air Force Base. As the Associated Press relates, no media coverage was allowed, by request of the families:
Pentagon officials had said that because 19 of 30 of the American families of the dead had objected to media coverage of the remains coming off a plane at Dover Air Force Base, no images could be taken. In addition, the Pentagon rejected media requests to take photos that showed officials at the ceremony but did not depict caskets.
Most of the officials who attended the ceremony, including the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, routinely travel with photographers, but they honored the wishes of the families and left their photo people behind… with one notable exception.
Guess who. Take as much time as you need before scrolling down to find the answer.
(the suspense is killing you, isn’t it?)
None other than our humble President, Barack Obama, had a lovely photograph of himself raising a salute in silhouette. The White House distributed the photo among the media, and posted it on the official White House web site as Photo of the Day. The Associated Press made a point of not running it, because they said they won’t publish government images of events the media has been denied access to.
White House spokesman Jay Carney blew the photo off as no big deal, hastily pointing out that no caskets were visible:
“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.”
Does a photo of the President saluting in silhouette add “insight” into the sobering events that took place in Afghanistan last weekend?
The Pentagon says it didn’t know Obama had a photographer with him, and didn’t find out about the silhouette picture until it was released to the public. That seems like a rather significant oversight.
This is a sharp contrast with President Bush’s respect for the privacy of military families. He was not happy when photos of flag-draped coffins were dragged into the public domain with Freedom of Information Act requests.
“America knows full well that our men and women are serving and serving brilliantly both in Iraq and around the world. … America is aware this is a war against terrorism,” Bush spokesman Trent Duffy said in April 2004. “The message is [that] the sensitivity and privacy of families of the fallen must be the first priority.”
President Obama evidently has a different set of priorities.