Among all the inaugural hoopla this week, there were a few incidents that we found disturbing–if not down-right offensive–because they took a direct shot at the nation’s military heroes, and the out-going commander-in-chief.
And we’re not referring to the smattering of boos and the refrain of “nah-nah-nah-nah, hey, hey…goodbye” that greeted George Bush as he arrived at the inauguration on Tuesday morning. These events occurred after Mr. Bush left town, at galas that commemorated the swearing-in of Barack Obama.
If you haven’t heard about these incidents, don’t feel bad. They’ve been all-but-ignored by the mainstream media (what a surprise). The only place you’ll read about these affronts is in papers like the Washington Times, or the conservative blogosphere.
Flash back to Inauguration night, and the “Heroes Red, White & Blue Ball,” sponsored a non-profit group called Citizens Helping Heroes. A number of wounded warriors from Walter Reed Medical Center were in attendance, along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, JCS Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and CNN host Larry King.
Headlining the evening’s entertainment was funk musician George Clinton and his band. At one point, a vocalist with Clinton’s group unfurled a white towel with the large letters that read “F–K GEORGE.” A number of military guests interpreted that as an insult to their former commander-in-chief and they began to walk out. Event organizers were quick to apologize:
Obviously we and the Heroes Ball coordinators were unaware that the sign existed and did not support their actions, especially considering our non-partisan mission and treasured military audience,” said ball spokeswoman Carrie Foster.
A spokesman for the group claimed the sign was aimed at George Clinton–not Mr. Bush. But, as Carrie Sheffield of the Washington Times observed, many attendees clearly didn’t get the “joke,” and began heading for the exit. Another member of Clinton’s band quickly tore down the sign, but that didn’t stop the exodus.
Unfortunately, the expletive towel wasn’t the only inaugural insult endured by military members. The FBI and Secret Service are currently looking for Dante Hayes, promoter of a black-tie gala for active duty military personnel and veterans. Army Times reports that Mr. Hayes was promising “three or four action-filled days,” culminating in a gala that would (supposedly) be visited by the commander-in-chief.
But Hayes disappeared about a week before the inauguration, leaving a string of unpaid bills and disappointed veterans. As you might have guessed, money collected for the event is also missing. No one has said how much money is involved, but tickets for the ball were selling for $385 for veterans and $500 for non-veterans.
By comparison, the quadrennial “Salute to Heroes Ball” went on as planned, just as it has on every Inauguration Night since 1953. But this year’s event was noteworthy for its most prominent no-show: the new commander-in-chief. Barack Obama was the first president to skip the event, breaking a tradition that began with Dwight D. Eisenhower.
To his credit, Mr. Obama did attend the Commander-in-Chief’s ball, but the Heroes gala is no ordinary event. It’s been a staple of the inauguration for six decades and it’s chief sponsor is a powerful organization (the American Legion) that has been courted by every recent president and presidential candidate. Among those honored at the Heroes ball are the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients. This year, 47 of the 99 living MOH winners were at this year’s ball, where they were honored by Vice-President Joe Biden and other dignitaries.
Obviously, the president can’t make it to every inaugural event, but nine commanders-in-chief found time to attend. As for President Obama, he found time to attend something called the “Neighborhood Inaugural Ball,” aimed at D.C. residents. Apparently, living inside the federal district puts you higher on the social register than winning the nation’s highest decoration for military valor.
Change we can believe in.