I know many of you have strong feelings on the subject
of President Bush's visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln,
so I thought you might appreciate CDR McIntyre's
letter to Senator Byrd.
As a retired Naval Officer, with two Gulf carrier deployments
under my belt, I find your criticism of President Bush's visit to
the Lincoln offensive in the extreme! This is the first time that
the Commander-in-Chief took time out of his busy war-time
schedule to pay a visit to thank those who served in the line of
fire, in way that was both dramatic and meaningful to those on
Perhaps if LBJ got off his fat ass to do something similar,
our troops' morale in Vietnam might not have been so low.
As a Naval officer, I am extremely sensitive to styles of leadership.
That is, after all, our stock in trade. And it was not lost on me that
the President spent about thirty seconds shaking hands with the
Admiral, CO, and CAG (If you don't know these abbreviations
just look them up in your Funk &Wagnalls!) He then spent the
next forty-five minutes putting himself at the disposal of the people
who make that ship work, the yellow shirts, the green shirts, the
purple shirts, the chiefs, the sailors.
If you don't know the significance of those colored shirts, look it up
in your Blue Jacket's Manual. Not dressed out in formal uniform (I
understand at Bush's request), but in their greasy, smelly, sweaty
working uniforms... working a flight deck is hot, hard work. And
yet he, in his flight suit, put himself at their disposal, this was their
moment for 19 or 20 something year old kids a few years out of high
school, to get a picture of themselves with the President of the United
States, his arm draped around their shoulder.
That is a moment that those kids never dreamed would ever happen to
them, maybe not even when they knew he was coming aboard. Surely,
he would see the brass, not the troops. But it was the troops to whom
he gave his time... and it was the most natural moment in the world.
You might have thought it was a family reunion, and in a way, it was...
Bush is one of them, the common man, and while he is still the most
powerful man on the planet right now ...
he hasn't lost his touch for them.
Was it a political moment?
What moment of a president's life is NOT a political moment?
Was it grand standing, to come in to an OK pass to a 4 wire,
a bit high in close, correcting, left of centerline? Well, hell, he
didn't fly the approach anyway, though I understand from the
pilots who flew him that he did a pretty good job at formation
flying, tucked in close for a lead change. You can always tell a
fighter pilot, you just can't tell him very much. And apparently
after thirty years, it all comes back, with a little coaching, I am
sure. Frankly, I would have liked to see him come aboard in an
FA-18, but the Secret Service vetoed that, and Bush accepted
their judgment... again, a mark of a good leader.
If you had spent some time in the service, instead of the Klan,
you might understand the significance of that moment to all the
men and women aboard the Lincoln, and indeed to all the men and
women in the service who shared that moment vicariously. But you
chose the bedsheet instead of the uniform, and so you don't.
I am half-tempted to move to West Virginia
just so I could vote against you in your next election.
Lewis F. McIntyre
CDR, USN (Ret)