Monday, June 9, 2014

Honor and Distinction: A 'Throwaway Line'?

    National Security Advisor Susan Rice's dubious assertion on ABC's "This Week" that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl "served with honor and distinction" has further tarnished her Sunday morning news show reputation. In a with-friends-like-these-who-needs-enemies attempt at a defense of Rice, the American Prospect's Paul Waldman, blogging for the Washington Post (via James Taranto,) wrote:
Conservatives are up in arms over the fact that Susan Rice said Bergdahl "served with honor and distinction" before he was captured by the Taliban. But how many times have we heard that phrase? It's become a meaningless throwaway line.
    If "honor and distinction" has become a meaningless throwaway line, then Susan Rice has a lot of company in the Obama administration throwing it. The White House website is replete with examples, among them:
Barack Obama, on Memorial Day, 2011: "From Gettysburg to Kandahar, America's sons and daughters have served with honor and distinction, securing our liberties and laying a foundation for lasting peace."
Barack Obama, on Memorial Day, 2012: "...our veterans are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction."
Barack Obama, on Memorial Day, 2013: "America has been blessed with an unbroken chain of patriots who have served our country with honor and distinction."
Valarie Jarrett, about gay soldiers: "...many patriotic servicemembers who were forced to live the same kind of lie that David [Hall] lived, and were discharged, despite serving our country with honor and distinction." 
Barack Obama, proclamation in 2009 about Hispanics: "Hispanics have served with honor and distinction in every conflict since the Revolutionary War, and they have made invaluable contributions through their service to our country." 
Michelle Obama, about the Coast Guard: "And I have no doubt that you will carry on the proud Coast Guard tradition and serve our country with honor and distinction." 
White House on Iraq War soldiers: "American troops served in Iraq with honor and distinction from March 19, 2003 until December 2011." 
Barack Obama, on Marine survivors of Beirut, Lebanon barracks bombing: "They were faithful to their comrades in arms and served with honor and distinction in the finest tradition of the U.S. military." 
Barack Obama, on veterans, including those from upstate New York, where he happened to be giving a speech: "Our men and women in uniform have served this country with such honor and distinction -- a lot of them come from upstate New York." 
Barack Obama, on Native Americans: "Native Americans have also served in the United States Armed Forces with honor and distinction, defending the security of our Nation with their lives." 
Barack Obama, on Richard Holbrooke: "For nearly 50 years, Richard served the country he loved with honor and distinction."
    Over on the State Department's website, examples abound as well, including this one:
Hillary Clinton, September 13, 2012: "Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were both decorated military veterans who served our country with honor and distinction."
    Perhaps Paul Waldman could review the above list and determine which instances were also in his view "meaningless throwaways." Or perhaps he could just acknowledge that in the case of Susan Rice's ill-advised use of the words, political considerations and an attempt to justify President Obama's much maligned and possibly illegal prisoner swap led to a different throwaway: the truth.

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