I had the honor to speak with nearly a dozen families of Marines killed in Iraq and Afghanistan a few years ago as part of a project with the Military Times newspapers. We wrote a wide-ranging investigative piece on the conduct of the services during the killed-in-action notification process and the support they provided along the way.
It was an intimidating assignment, but one I cherish to this day. For, unlike Dowd, who I doubt has ever spoken with the family of a fallen servicemember, I was forced to confront the world I obliquely reported from afar — to hear the quavering voices of mothers whose sons had been obliterated by roadside bombs.
And you know who else did that very same thing dozens of times in his eight years as president? The same man Dowd falsely accuses of declining to confront the reality of his war dead.
In my conversations with those who sacrificed a son, a husband, a brother, or a boyfriend, all were universally grateful for George W. Bush’s sincere — and private — conversations with them either before or directly after an event or speech at a military base. As a routine, Bush would meet behind closed doors with family members who’d lost loved ones as part of his stop at military installations.
These were not simply pro-war, anti-war, pro-Bush or anti-Bush families — they were all of the above. Some were against the Iraq war; others were steadfast, despite their unimaginable sacrifice, for victory there. But to a man and women, these grieving Americans appreciated the president’s heartfelt compassion and deep understanding of their sacrifice — and of the weight of the decision to send potentially more of America’s young to their deaths.