The Blog

Cynics and the USS Abraham Lincoln

The pundits are so sophisticated that they see the Abraham Lincoln speech as nothing more than a campaign stump.

5:00 AM, May 2, 2003 • By DAVID BROOKS
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

BOY AM I in a terrible mood. I watched and listened to the punditry on President Bush's speech on the USS Lincoln. The people he was standing before have been away from their families for ten months. That's mothers away from their kids, fathers away from their kids, men an women away from their spouses, their mothers, fathers, and siblings. One hundred and fifty fathers on the Abraham Lincoln missed the birth of their child.

That's called sacrifice. Most of us are basket cases if we're on a business trip away from our families for four days. These people were gone nearly a year. And they did it to defend the country. They did it to liberate the people of Iraq, so that 25 million Iraqis would be emancipated from a sadistic regime, the greatest victory for human rights since the defeat of the Soviet Union.

And what do my fellow pundits say? They sit in the studios and point out sagely that the speech was a tremendous photo-op, and then they go home to the safety of their beds and the comfort of their families.

Somehow the sacrifice of those men and women never registers. It's not worth commenting on. The only thing that matters is that this was a campaign event and it's to be judged as just another rally on the way to the convention. The ship, the soldiers, the ocean--all of it is treated as mere bunting, as a Deaveresque device to provide pretty pictures. This is what passes for wisdom.

Now I'm not denying that this was in part a political event or that President Bush is a politician. But this was first an American event, a recognition of the noble deed this country is accomplishing. And it was an act of recognition for those soldiers, and through them all the soldiers who fought, including those who were injured and died.

And much of punditry treated those soldiers as mere props, as not even human. I understand that most pundits don't know too many of the people on that ship, but it doesn't take a huge act of imagination to feel what they have been through and to at least register their idealism and what they have suffered for it.

Somehow the cynicism and the churlishness of the savvy campaign commentator makes that impossible.

As I say, I'm in a terrible mood. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.

David Brooks is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.