A Fly By Night President

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Even the President’s harshest critics will have to admit that his secret Thanksgiving Day flight to Baghdad was a PR coup.

It was a script right out of Hollywood: a President literally sneaking out of his compound, past his own security people (does this raise questions of their competence?), traveling in an unmarked car, actually obeying traffic signals!!! — and arriving at the airport, where he surreptitiously boarded his aircraft, which, on a pretext of flying off for maintenance, flew him to Baghdad, observing radio silence, and without lights. Gosh!

And it worked beautifully. Like his landing aboard an aircraft carrier (another absolutely necessary Presidential function), it was carried on the front page of the newspaper, with glaring headlines, and a large picture of a beaming President chowing down with his minions. By contrast, it wasn’t until page nine of the local rag that we saw a picture and read the story of Hillary’s visit to Afghanistan. What a stunning triumph of PR!

No one, at least as of the next day, dared raise the question, "Why?" It wasn’t that the troops expected him, or needed him, to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner. No requirements of diplomacy, or exercise of American military might, required it. It didn’t even provide the excuse of a meeting with a foreign head-of-state, as in his recent photo-op in London.

And did the elaborate secrecy serve any purpose other than to lend an air of dash and daring to this mundane exercise? We are told that the President, had word of his flight leaked out, would have turned his aircraft back, aborting the mission. But his "mission" to London was hardly a secret, and it wasn’t aborted. None of his various jaunts to foreign locales have been secret, so why the hush-hush flight, by night, to Baghdad? Is our vaunted security so poor that it cannot guarantee the President’s security if his destination is known to be in hostile territory? But why hostile? Isn’t the President fond of reminding us that we have liberated the Iraqis? They should greet him with smiles and embraces!

It seems to me a dangerous precedent that our President has set for himself. What is he going to do to top this? Where will he go at Christmas? And what about next Thanksgiving? There will, of course, be some trouble spot next year. Government thrives on crises, and if necessary, one will be invented to justify some new government incursion. Will he secretly fly to Iran, or North Korea, to have some turkey and dressing with the troops that have liberated those oppressed folks? But by next year, such a trip will be anticipated; secrecy will be much more difficult. Will he stay home, and appear the coward, or so insecure about his own security forces that he dare not risk it?

I’m betting on a domestic crisis next year. Much as he would love to join our boys and girls in uniform in Ulan Bator, or wherever, he’ll be needed at home to steer the ship of state through turbulent domestic waters. On page one, of course, with pictures.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a semi-retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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