US President George W. Bush said in an interview out Tuesday that he quit playing golf in 2003 out of respect for the families of US soldiers killed in the conflict in Iraq, now in its sixth year.
“I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal,” he said in an interview for Yahoo! News and Politico magazine.
“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander-in-chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them.”
The US president traced his decision to the August 19, 2003 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, which killed the world body’s top official in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
“I remember when de Mello, who was at the UN, got killed in Baghdad as a result of these murderers taking this good man’s life. And I was playing golf — I think I was in central Texas — and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, it’s just not worth it anymore to do,” said Bush.
And while the statement “I give up golf for the troops” does sound bad without the context being included, the heat being generated by the left is not deserved. No one can say this man has not felt the pain of the families over there.
One anti-war widow said she used the opportunity to voice her objections to Bush’s policies.
“I said it’s time to stop the bleeding,” said Hildi Halley, whose husband, Army National Guard Capt. Patrick Damon, died June 15 in Afghanistan. “It’s time to swallow our pride and find a solution.”
She said Bush responding by saying “there was no point in us having a philosophical discussion about the pros and cons of the war.”
The president became emotional, Halley said, when she tearfully described the impact her 41-year-old husband’s death has had on herself and their two kids, ages 12 and 14, both of whom attended the meeting.
“He wept and hugged me and apologized for my pain,” Halley said.
Bush, though, has privately visited families at Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Polk, La.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Lewis and Camp Pendleton, Calif., among others. In most cases, families are placed in separate rooms in a building on a military base. The president shuttles from room to room, meeting privately with each family. That leaves only secondhand accounts of how the president acts when he has to look a grieving mother in the eye.
Former White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan has described the private meetings as an “appropriate” way to meet with the families of fallen soldiers, so the president can “express his appreciation both as commander in chief and on behalf of the American people.”
Some families praised Bush. “He was very personable,” Sherri Orlando said in a telephone conversation from Fort Campbell, Ky., where she works in the Fort Campbell public affairs office. Orlando’s husband, Army Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando, was killed when a group of Iraqis opened fire on him and fellow soldiers on a road near a mosque in Karbala, Iraq, in October 2003. “He was very sincere. He was very sympathetic. It was delightful meeting with him.”
Tears rolled down George W. Bush’s cheeks. Twice, Hildi Halley handed him a tissue. Otherwise, she didn’t let up on the president.
“I hold you responsible for my husband’s death,” she says she told him as they sat facing one another, alone in a teacher’s lounge, their knees almost touching. “You made a mistake, and it’s your responsibility as a Christian man to end this war.”
“I’m really not here to discuss public policy with you,” she says Bush told her at the meeting in August 2006, two months after her husband, Army National Guard Cap. Patrick Damon, died in Afghanistan.
As the president rose to leave after 20 minutes, he said he hoped the visit would help the Falmouth, Maine, woman heal. Halley, 42, replied, “What would really help my healing is if you’d start finding a way to bring our troops home.”
Bush, 61, has so far met with more than 1,500 relatives of the 4,255 American troops who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to White House officials. As he travels around the country, the president often makes the time to console them — one family at a time, often including children — in sessions that he calls “one of the hardest things” about his job.
In most of the meetings, the aides say, he hears support for his policies, hardening his resolve to stay the course in Afghanistan and Iraq. Little is otherwise known about the meetings, and the White House doesn’t disclose the names of participants.
Amy Galvez, 46, whose Marine son, Adam, 21, was killed in Iraq, says she told Bush that she supports the war and believes in his sincerity. “The worst thing that could happen is if we quit this war before we finished it,” she says she told Bush during her Aug. 31, 2006, meeting in Salt Lake City. “He promised me that would not happen.”
Few average citizens get such close-up, unmediated access to modern presidents. Access to Bush is rarer still because his aides go to great lengths to shield him from unpleasant encounters or criticism.
Participants and witnesses say the sessions provide a window onto Bush’s compassionate side. “There are few things as heart-wrenching,” says former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who attended many meetings. “Every single time, he’d be moved to tears.”
And I have documented some of the moments myself when Bush has been moved to tears during ceremonies for slain soldiers.
Tell me, what IS he supposed to do to support the troops other then fight to ensure the losses have not been in vain. To ensure they get the support they need and the leaders they deserve. THAT is how he supports the troops and all he is saying is that he gave up something he loves to do because it would look disrespectful. Ace puts it eloquently as usual:
Certainly Bush’s sacrifice lacks the gravity of what our soldiers sacrifice. But that’s the nature of gestures, after all. You can name your kid after the doctor who saved your life, but that’s hardly full and fair repayment of a debt, either.
I guess I would ask this of the left: What, precisely, have they given up in solidarity with our troops? Why are these special obligations only imposed vindictively on their political opponents and never themselves? They all claim to be in favor of “fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan;” what symbolic gestures have they themselves made in support of our troops?
Apart from writing snarky blog posts and issuing Important Action Alerts and Pretty Vicious Rants, I’m having trouble remembering any lefty doing anything at all to support our troops. Oh yeah, except to agitate for defunding them.
Its a gesture for the troops. Nothing wrong with that at all. In the end we all know what this is about:
GWB could spend all of his time attending the funerals of service men and women, give money to their spouses, establish trust funds for their children, cook dinner for their extended families, bathe their dogs and gas up their cars and the left would accuse him of trying to buy his penance and salve his conscience so he could keep killing “our children” and innocent Iraqis.