Updated Aug. 10 at 10:37 ET
While I’m critical of his wife’s absence, President Obama’s presence at Dover Air Force Base yesterday was a welcome salute to fallen heroes, done right.
The White House was correct to largely bar the press from the event and not to stage remarks by the president. This should be a private affair for families in mourning – and for SEALs whose identities even in death remain secret – not an attention-getting event for a president who needs help with his popularity.
Some have complained that Obama’s sole mention of the servicemen who died came toward the of a speech Tuesday in which he also spoke about the economy. But this was the right way to do it. To certainly talk about what happened, but not to overreact.
Because there’s another reason to low-key Obama’s activities related to the killings, and to no overdo our public reaction.
As awful as this is, and as much as many of us are mourning, we cannot signal to the enemy that we are unable to tolerate loss. Because this is what they seize on, what gives them sustenance, what stirs their vicious souls to draw even more American blood. Signs of weakness could help lead to further deaths and similar incidents.
Osama Bin Laden, for example, claimed that the collapse of U.S. morale in Somalia after the 1993 Black Hawk Down tragedy and our subsequent withdrawal convinced him that the United States was a “paper tiger,” encouraging him in planning his future attacks. Jackals perceive an injured prey, and then they pounce.
So the president handled this correctly. He helped our military families and the nation mourn, but not in a manner that will make the enemy think we are weak.
UPDATE: Several of you have noted that families of those who died requested that photos not be taken, and you’ve argued that the photo released by the White House should not have been taken. The photo is not of any of the caskets. But given the objections of the families, and that the White House forbade the press from even photographing the leaders, I agree, Obama’s personal photographer should not have been there. This photo was unnecessary and wrong. They should have at least erred on the side of decency.