Griffs Notes 2/14/07

I was going to write about the House hearing on Global Warming today, but the snow and ice storm that hit here last night caused it to be canceled. Go figure?!

However, no one bothered telling the President that it was a snow day, so he proceeded with what has become a monthly root canal for those of us who cover press conferences in Washington.

It’s not that President Bush is THAT bad of a speaker – it’s that there are no good answers that he can give to the pressing questions of the day. So he shouldn’t bother doing it in the first place. The only possible motivation to doing it must be that he promised to hold monthly press conferences with the press. But even then, a broken promise in Washington is about as common as rainfall and I hardly think the press corps would make a big stink out it when they have the lovable Tony Snow to inform and entertain them weekly.

If I had just ten seconds to offer advice that the man would heed, it would be this: They don’t like you and if you don’t have something good to tell them, then don’t talk off the cuff with them!

Then President Bush treaded down what I would consider to be dangerous territory in answering a “throw away” question about troop morale.

Q: As you know, a growing number of troops are on their second, third or fourth tour in Iraq. There have been a growing number of reports about declining morale among fighting men. I spoke personally to an infantry commander -- tough guy, patriot -- who says more and more of the troops are asking, questioning what they're doing here. Does this come as a surprise to you? Are you aware of this? Is it a minority opinion, is it a growing opinion, and does it concern you?

THE PRESIDENT: I am -- what I hear from commanders is that the place where there is concern is with the family members; that our troops, who have volunteered to serve the country, are willing to go into combat multiple times, but that the concern is with the people on the home front. And I can understand that. And I -- and that's one reason I go out of my way to constantly thank the family members.

Now I give the President the benefit of the doubt here and imagine that what he was trying to do was simply point out the fact that troops are worried about their loving family members back home who are undoubtedly concerned for their well being. But I think the way in which he answered it was at best awkward because if I didn’t know better, I might construe his comments to mean that there is an issue with our troops worrying about nagging wives? And that serves no purpose when we are so incredibly blessed as a nation for the tremendous sacrifice that our military families are making in this crucial moment in our history.

Ask anyone who served towards the end of Vietnam about morale issues. They’ll tell you what real low morale is like – and that’s not what we have with today’s most impressive all-voluntary military in history.

For comparison, I spoke this morning with Marine Major Dan Whisnant of Alpha Company, 1/24, in Fallujah. I asked him if anyone was ready to throw in the towel or had privately expressed concerns that they couldn’t continue the mission. Here’s what he had to say:

“None whatsoever. In fact, it’s just the opposite… we’re coming towards the end of our tour and things are starting to click, we’re seeing things that we’ve been working at for the last few months coming to fruition and it’s too bad we have to leave so soon… some guys even probably said they wish they could stay a little longer – don’t tell their wives that – but stay to see things come fully to fruition.”

God Bless the troops who are committed to the mission. I bet if you asked any one of them “if they’d like to come home soon?” They’d answer affirmative. But I challenge you to find any one of them who would say they’d prefer to pick up and leave before the mission is completed.

Happy Valentine’s Day to every military spouse out there – you deserve a box of chocolates and an extra red rose today!

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