CBS: NY Daily News Reporter Hails Obama’s Arlington Visit

James Meek, CBS On CBS’s Sunday Morning, New York Daily News Washington correspondent James Meek related President Obama’s visit to the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead at Arlington National Cemetery: “Now, cynics may say this was just an Obama photo-op. But they weren’t there looking him in the eye. I saw a man fully carrying the heavy burden of command on a weighty day.”

In an article Meeks wrote for the Daily News on Thursday, he used harsher terms to denounce any “cynics” critical of Obama’s visit: “If they’d been standing in my boots looking him in the eye, they would have surely choked on their bile. His presence in Section 60 convinced me that he now carries the heavy burden of command.” To use such a personal experience to promote the current administration and attack critics seems rather cynical.   

In the Sunday Morning piece, Meek almost poetically described the President’s appearance at the section of the cemetery reserved for Iraq and Afghanistan war dead: “I was in Section 60 that morning when he made an unscheduled stop before huddling with his war council on sending more GIs into harm’s way. In a bone-chilling drizzle, he and the First Lady walked through the rows of gleaming white headstones. I saw the President embrace grieving widows, mothers, and battle buddies tending to the graves of loved ones. He asked about each one.”

Meek later noted the risk Obama took in paying his respects: “He didn’t have to go to Section 60. And White House aides didn’t screen any of us. If a widow or grief-stricken parent had chewed him out, the press there would have reported it.” He concluded his CBS commentary by retelling the President’s words on comfort to him: “I did tell him I’m a journalist. You know what the President said? ‘Just because you’re a journalist, James, doesn’t mean you can’t honor your friends here.’”

In an April 22 article for the Daily News, Meek reported on former Vice President Dick Cheney defending aggressive interrogation tactics used on terror suspects: “U.S. counterterrorism officials are reacting angrily to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim that waterboarding 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed 183 times was a ‘success’ that produced actionable intelligence. ‘Cheney is full of crap,’ one intelligence source with decades of experience said Tuesday.”

More recently, on November 2 Meek took on Republican critics of Obama’s indecision on Afghanistan: “With the Afghan presidential election decided today, and Hamid Karzai remaining in power, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama ‘has no further pretext for delaying the decision on giving Gen. McChrystal the resources he needs to achieve our goals in Afghanistan. Delaying the decision puts our men and women fighting there in greater danger every single day...There are no more excuses.’ Maybe not, but what excuse did Boehner and the rest of the Congress have over the past eight years while the shamefully under-resourced war in Afghanistan was deteriorating into a possibly unwinnable disaster? It’s not as if the war began on Jan. 20, 2009.”

Here is a full transcript of the Sunday Morning segment:

10:15AM

CHARLES OSGOOD: This past week’s Veterans Day observances had deep personal meaning for countless Americans, not least, our guest contributor James Meek.

JAMES MEEK: I hear ‘Taps’ playing every night. I live near Arlington National Cemetery. I’m a Washington correspondent for the New York Daily News, but when I visit the Gardens of Stone, I go as a friend and relative of our honored dead. Men like Korean War veteran Ed Lenard, who was in our family; and Pearl Harbor fighter ace Ken Taylor, who was like family; and Iraq War hero Dave Sharrett, whose father is a close friend.

Ken and Ed survived their wars and died as old men. But Dave was twenty seven when he was killed last year in battle. He’s buried in Section 60, with the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Obama laid a Veterans Day wreath on Wednesday at the Tomb of the Unknowns. I was in Section 60 that morning when he made an unscheduled stop before huddling with his war council on sending more GIs into harm’s way.

In a bone-chilling drizzle, he and the First Lady walked through the rows of gleaming white headstones.

I saw the President embrace grieving widows, mothers, and battle buddies tending to the graves of loved ones. He asked about each one. And then the President suddenly extended his hand as he strolled over to Dave Sharrett’s grave. I gripped it and told him who I was visiting.
He read Dave’s headstone carefully and asked about him.

Dave’s father was my high school English teacher. And we knew his son as a funny kid we called ‘Bean,’ who used to crawl around at our feet. We used to look after Dave, but when he grew up, he watched over all of us. He was one of the toughest troopers in the 101st Airborne, I told the President.

What I didn’t tell him was that Dave was killed by friendly fire, or that the Army tried to whitewash it. It wasn’t a moment for complaint; it was all about a young hero’s ultimate sacrifice.

Now, cynics may say this was just an Obama photo-op. But they weren’t there looking him in the eye. I saw a man fully carrying the heavy burden of command on a weighty day. He didn’t have to go to Section 60. And White House aides didn’t screen any of us. If a widow or grief-stricken parent had chewed him out, the press there would have reported it.

I did tell him I’m a journalist. You know what the President said? ‘Just because you’re a journalist, James, doesn’t mean you can’t honor your friends here.’

OSGOOD: Commentary from James Meek.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC