Absent-in-Chief: Obama MIA for Memorial Day, Vacationing as Spill Worsens

Wednesday, 26 May 2010 08:40 PM

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Already under increasing fire for his handling of an oil spill that many experts now say will be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, President Barack Obama is riling conservatives and veterans with his decision to skip the traditional Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

Instead, he will vacation in Chicago.

The decision not only has angered conservative pundits such as Glenn Beck but also has riled military families and others who expect the president to follow tradition on the day reserved for honoring the sacrifice of America’s soldiers.

On Jacksonville.com, run by the Florida Times-Union newspaper, a blogger who identified himself as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy blasted Obama for being missing in action.

“He is not only MIA for Memorial Day,” wrote Luke Memminger, identified as a professional pilot. “The economy is faltering. The stock market is ready to enter a worldwide dive. North Korea is precipitating a war with South Korea that will involve us. Iran will destabilize the Mideast by developing a Nuclear weapon soon.

“The coastline of Louisiana is being contaminated through inaction and inept leadership from the government,” he continued. “A mosque will be dedicated at Ground Zero on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 massacre. We still have military deployed and fighting in two war zones.

“Where is Obama? Chicago,” Memminger wrote. “Where are those brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for Freedom and Liberty? Arlington Cemetary.”

Traditionally on Memorial Day, the president lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington. But Obama plans to speak at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Chicago instead.

Vice President Joe Biden intends to take the president's place at the Arlington Cemetery.

Obama will convene a press conference on Thursday at which he is expected to announce stringent new offshore oil regulations, as political pressure mounts amid the gulf disaster.

Obama will take questions from reporters in the East Room of the White House, an official said. The media appearance will take place a day before the president's next visit to the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, The Associated Press reported.

The White House has insisted it has done all it can to mitigate the spread of the massive oil slick, which is beginning to clog the southern U.S. coast.

Officials will watch closely on Wednesday as BP makes a fresh attempt to plug the gushing oil well, more than a month after an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon Rig that set off an environmental catastrophe.

At KSLA News 12, which covers a region including parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, Web posters also were angry at Obama’s decision to skip Arlington.

“I am a black woman, and I feel this is so wrong for the president to do,” one commented. “There is no excuse not to do this. This country already doesn't do enough to help or take care of people who serve in the military and this is just an additional slap in the face. The United States is more than capable of taking better care of those who serve and who have served.

“It's not all President Obama's fault about not taking care of veterans, this has been going on for years in this country,” the poster continued. “Yet you still have men and women who continue to serve, bless them all.”

Beck blasted Obama over skipping the wreath laying, saying he is "sick and tired of people believing the lie" that Obama "has respect for the soldiers."

“Obama is skipping out on a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery because he'll be in Chicago on vacation, I'm sorry, I don't ever, ever question the president's vacation,” Beck said Tuesday on his nationally syndicated radio show. “I didn't under Bush, I didn't under Clinton, I don't under Obama . . .

“I have no problem with the man taking a vacation. But I am sick and tired — sick and tired — of people believing the lie that this administration has respect for the police or has respect for the soldiers of our country. I'm tired of it."

"Obama skipping the Tomb of the Unknowns this weekend for Chicago is offensive," added Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator for the RedState blog and CNN. In a Twitter post he wrote, “Obama skipping the Tomb of the Unknowns this weekend for Chicago is offensive. Chicago can wait. The Commander-in-Chief has a job to do."

Erickson did acknowledge that a president's missing a wreath laying is not unprecedented. But in the most recent examples in modern times, President Ronald Reagan was involved in a contentious economic summit in 1983, and George H.W. Bush was on the campaign trail in 1992. He instead spoke at an American Legion event.

“Barack Obama wants to go on vacation — the second vacation he has had since oil began spilling out of the gulf,” Erickson noted. “That’s okay though because the oil spilling is George W. Bush’s fault, just like all the new dead soldiers are George Bush’s fault, too. Why should he care?

“The problem for Barack Obama is simple,” Erickson continued. “The troops don’t like him no matter how much the White House propaganda machine tries to gin up staged pictures of Obama voting soldiers fawning all over him. But see the tepid response from cadets at West Point or talk privately with lots of soldiers and sailors and you get something else — they fundamentally do not respect their commander in chief.

“There was no question they respected and loved Ronald Reagan. Same with George H.W. Bush, the last veteran of World War II to serve as president.”

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