There were over 1000 articles on Google news about the President’s visit to Arlington Cemetery on Veteran’s day this year.

No problem. Such ceremonies are part of the job, after all.

But then, according to ABC news:

his car came to an unexpected stop by the gravesites of casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan. The president and Mrs. Obama  got out and wandered amid the headstones, reaching out with a handshake to families they encountered,

Unexpected? Excuse me.

Even those of us only mildly knowledgeable about security matters know that no Secret Service person would allow the President to “wander” among families who (how should I put this) might be angry at a president who won the election by dissing the sacrifices of their loved ones?

Oh well, maybe he did comfort families there. I’m being too cynical, right?

But then there is this: a touching essay on the New York Daily News by someone who met the president on his spontaneous tour.

First the president greets the mourners, precisely two women.

And then? (again from ABC news):

The President patted backs of a dozen other Gold Star relatives and troops visiting buddiesnow in the ground.

He gave hugs. He shook wet, chilly hands. He wanted to know something about each fallen warrior…

And then Obama noticed a tall, bearded figure. He probably didn’t see the mud-caked combat boots I trudged around Afghanistan in a few years ago.

“What’s your name?” a somber President asked as he extended his hand.

James Meek, sir,” I replied, struggling to pull off my wool glove and pull my hood back from my head. “I’m here visiting a friend, Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, who was killed in Iraq last year.”

That’s when my “cariboufertilizer” detector went off full blast.

The president just happens to stop and visit the newest graves in Arlington. He does what every politician does, shakes hands and pretends to show sorrow. Normal politician stuff.

And then? He  just happens to “notice” a “tall bearded figure” and goes over to shake his hand.

The man is a reporter, and not just a reporter, but one from a New York Paper, and to make things even more suspicious, an investigative reporter who works on their Washington Bureau. And this reporter isn’t an ordinary one working the police beat: Nine of his last ten stories are about war on terror/war related subjects.

This reporter just happens to take time off during an ordinary working day to visit the grave of a high school friend.  (Note for non American readers: Veteran’s day is a holiday for government and bank employees but not for ordinary folks).

This brings up all sorts of questions.

Does this reporter visit the grave of his friend often, or did he “just happen” to be there in the middle of the day on Veteran’s day? After all, this was not a close high school friend, like my classmate who was reburied in Arlington last year. Nor was it the grave of a soldier who knew him when he covered Afghanistan. This was the grave of a son of one of many of his high school teachers. Nor could he say that he visited the grave on Veteran’s day at the request of a family who lived many miles away: He admits the family comes from McLean Virginia, which is a suburb of Washington DC.

Oh, yes, this wasn’t a photo op at all.

But someone just happened to take a photo, this photo (not shown due to copyright). Note that the photo was taken from behind the reporter who wrote the article, in order to show the President putting his hand out in sympathy?

Yet if the visit was “spontaneous”, wouldn’t the reporters be left behind in the motorcade, or maybe trailing behind the president?

My final question: where are all the secret service guys in the photo? Here is the president, going over to shake hands with a suspicious looking civilian wearing a baggy parka that is loose enough to conceal an Uzi. (Photo of Mr. Meek HERE.)

So, Mr. Meek: Is the Secret Service incompetent? Or is it a cynical photo op?

Take your pick.

But if the set up sounds like a cynical photo op to a sentimental patsy like myself, one wonders why a famous investigative reporter would fall for such a cynical act of manipulation.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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