Below is USN (Ret) CDR Lewis F. McIntyre's letter to Senator Byrd about President Bush's visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln.
As a retired Naval Officer, with two Gulf carrier deployments under my belt, I find your criticism of President Bush's visit to the Lincoln offensive in the extreme! This is the first time that the Commander-in-Chief took time out of his schedule to pay a visit to thank those who served in the line of fire, in a way that was both dramatic and meaningful to those on the carrier.
Perhaps if LBJ got off his fat ass to do something similar, our troops' morale in Vietnam might not have been so low.
As a Naval officer, I am extremely sensitive to styles of leadership.
That is, after all, our stock in trade. And it was not lost on me that the President spent about thirty seconds shaking hands with the Admiral, CO, and CAG (If you don't know these abbreviations just look them up in your Funk &Wagnalls!) He then spent the next forty-five minutes putting himself at the disposal of the people who make that ship work, the yellow shirts, the green shirts, thepurple shirts, the chiefs, the sailors.
If you don't know the significance of those colored shirts, look it up in your Blue Jacket's Manual. Not dressed out in formal uniform (I understand at Bush's request), but in their greasy, smelly, sweaty working uniforms ... working a flight deck is hot, hard work. And yet he, in his flight suit, put himself at their disposal, this was their moment for 19 or 20 something year old kids a few years out of high school, to get a picture of themselves with the President of the United States, his arm draped around their shoulder.
That is a moment that those kids never dreamed would ever happen to them, maybe not even when they knew he was coming aboard. Surely, he would see the brass, not the troops. But it was the troops to whom he gave his time ... and it was the most natural moment in the world. You might have thought it was a family reunion, and in a way, it was...
Bush is one of them, the common man, and while he is still the most powerful man on the planet right now. He hasn't lost his touch for them.
Was it a political moment?
What moment of a president's life is NOT a political moment? Was it grand standing, to come in to an OK pass to a 4 wire, a bit high in close, correcting, left of centerline? Well, hell, he didn't fly the approach anyway, though I understand from the pilots who flew him that he did a pretty good job at formation flying, tucked in close for a lead change. You can always tell a fighter pilot, you just can't tell him very much. And, apparently after thirty years, it all comes back, with a little coaching, I am sure. Frankly, I would have liked to see him come aboard in an FA-18, but the Secret Service vetoed that, and Bush accepted their judgment ... again, a mark of a good leader.
If you had spent some time in the service, instead of the Klan, you might understand the significance of that moment to all the men and women aboard the Lincoln, and indeed to all the men and women in the service who shared that moment vicariously. But you chose the bedsheet instead of the uniform, and so you don't.
I am half-tempted to move to West Virginia just so I could vote against you in your next election.
Lewis F. McIntyre
CDR, USN (Ret)