Allyn Harvey: Presidential sneaking
Aside from the standard accusations that we lean toward the liberal side here at The Aspen Times, Ive had very few comments made directly about my political biases in nine years as a journalist.But over the weekend I received a telephone message from a woman who had read the headline in our World & Nation section in Fridays paper. She was offended by the fact I had chose the word sneaks to describe what Bush did to reach Iraq and serve Thanksgiving dinner to the troops. The full headline read Bush sneaks into Iraq for dinner and visit with troops.The woman, who didnt leave her name, said shed been watching our coverage of the president and wasnt surprised that wed choose such an ugly word as sneaks. She thought the president deserved better than that for being such a good commander in chief.Ill admit its not the best headline Ive ever written, but I thought it accurately portrayed what happened. And to be honest, Im surprised that it was an issue at all. I actually thought I was being gracious to the president and his supporters by selecting a big picture of him holding a platter of turkey in front of a smiling soldier. I also nuked the second story on the World & Nation page to make more room for the story about Bush.The fact is, Bush snuck into Iraq for Thanksgiving and then snuck out before telling anyone. To quote New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller: In one of the most secretive presidential trips in American history, George W. Bush flew to Baghdad under intense security Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with U.S. troops …Bush, the first U.S. president to visit Iraq, was the surprise guest for Thanksgiving dinner in the mess hall at Baghdad International Airport, where he told about 600 stunned, whooping soldiers that he was happy to be with them I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere and that he was grateful for their service.The story went on to report that only a few reporters were allowed to accompany the president, and that the administration did not announce the trip until after Bush had left Baghdad airport.I thought in spite of all the doubts and cynicism this president stirs in me that the trip to Baghdad was a very cool thing to do. In my opinion its one of the very few genuine actions hes taken with regard to Iraq.This is a president who has shown very little compassion for the hundreds of American soldiers, many of them part-time reservists, who have given their lives. He doesnt attend their funerals. He wont even let their arrival home, in a coffin, be televised in the communities they called home.That the president could find it in his heart to take a few days off from his vacation in Crawford, Texas, and his busy fund-raising schedule to fly to Iraq and spend Thanksgiving with 600 soldiers who face a bleak and frightening future is big news. And its good news. And The Aspen Times portrayed it that way.Maybe the offense over the word sneaks in that headline has less to do with the liberal media here in town, and more to do with what many Republicans and Bush supporters suspect at the bottom of their souls: President Bush is a sneak.[Allyn Harvey is associate editor of The Aspen Times. His column appears every other Tuesday]
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Columnist Paul Andersen continues to hope that the moral arc of the universe trends toward justice.