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Times Downplays Obama's Surge Opposition, Has Yet to Lecture Him on Attending Soldiers' Funerals

The Times downplays Obama's opposition to the successful troop surge in Iraq, and repeats the old smear that Bush "refused to attend soldiers' funerals." Yet the Times no longer brings up the issue, even as the pace of soldiers fatalities escalates in Afghanistan under Obama.

Peter Baker's front-page piece on Sunday set up Obama's Tuesday night address to the nation on declaring an end to combat in Iraq with a statesmanlike photo of Obama at Dover Air Force Base saluting a coffin that held the body of an Army sergeant killed in Afghanistan: "A Wartime President's Steep Learning Curve."

The Times also used the address to smear Bush over not attending the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though presidents, including President Obama, traditionally don't attend the funerals of soldiers in wartime.

Baker doesn't get to the troop surge - the 2007 infusion of more troops into Iraq, which Obama opposed and predicted would fail - until three paragraphs from the end, and did so without mentioning it was Bush's strategy:

Perhaps more important was his selection of General Petraeus to take over. The choice brings Mr. Obama full circle. As a senator, he opposed the Iraq troop increase led by General Petraeus, and the two had a wary encounter in Baghdad when Mr. Obama visited as a candidate in 2008. After Mr. Obama came to the White House, General Petraeus no longer had the regular interactions he had with Mr. Bush.


Helene Cooper's piece Tuesday on Obama's then-forthcoming address, "Obama to Speak of Kept Promises in Address on Ending Combat Mission in Iraq," did mention the surge, but not before emphasizing how

Mr. Obama will steer clear of the "mission accomplished" tone that President George W. Bush struck so famously seven years ago - and that subsequently came back to haunt him as Iraq fell into further chaos. "You won't hear those words coming from us," said the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs.


Obama's Oval Office address declaring an end to combat operations led Wednesday's paper. Reporters Helene Cooper and Sheryl Gay Stolberg noted in paragraph four that Obama as a U.S. senator had opposed the successful troop surge, yet framed it as a partisan attack from Republicans that Obama tried to gloss over in his address:

Seeking to temper partisan feelings over the war on a day when Republicans pointed out that Mr. Obama had opposed the troop surge generally credited with helping to bring Iraq a measure of stability, the president offered some praise for his predecessor, George W. Bush. Mr. Obama acknowledged their disagreement over Iraq but said that no one could doubt Mr. Bush's "support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security."


The Times lead editorial Wednesday on the speech seethed with anger toward Bush, repeating the smear promulgated on all fronts by the paper in 2003 and 2004 that the former president didn't attend soldiers' funerals.

President George W. Bush tried to make Iraq an invisible, seemingly cost-free war. He refused to attend soldiers' funerals and hid their returning coffins from the public. So it was fitting that Mr. Obama, who has improved veterans' health care and made the Pentagon budget more rational, paid tribute to them.


As an article at the History News Network explained at the time, it's almost unheard of for sitting presidents to attend soldiers' funerals during wartime.

There's no public record of President Obama attending the funeral of a soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq. (Obama did attend a memorial service for the 13 soldiers killed by a Muslim terrorist in Ft. Hood in Texas.) Yet even as the pace of fatalities escalates in Afghanistan, the issue is no longer an obsession of Times reporters, editorial writers, and columnists. In fact, a Nexis search indicates the issue of Obama attending soldiers' funerals hasn't even come up during Obama's presidency. What happened?

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