This morning, President Obama made an appearance in the White House Rose Garden to provide remarks about the new unemployment numbers and the tragedy at Fort Hood. This time, Fort Hood came first. Yesterday, at around 5 p.m., President Obama stepped to the podium at the Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior and offered thanks to various officials for their participation. He then gave a "shout out" and a little wave to Dr. Joe Medicine Crow, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner. Then he spoke about continuing a dialogue with Native Americans beyond the day's conference. Nearly two minutes into his remarks, Obama finally addressed the massacre at Fort Hood.
It didn't take long before conservative commentators began expressing their disgust at Obama's allegedly out-of-whack priorities. Some even went so far as to compare it to George W. Bush's reaction upon hearing about the 9/11 attacks, the notorious "My Pet Goat" moment (a misnomer, as the book Bush was reading to children is called The Pet Goat). Linda Chavez was the first to make the connection, on Commentary's Contentions blog:
He treated the event like a pep rally rather than a tragic occasion with a wider audience than those gathered in the room. I wonder how many media outlets will compare Obama’s performance to President Bush’s “Pet Goat” moment on 9/11. I won’t hold my breath.
She was hardly the only one, though. National Review's Jonah Goldberg agreed that the media had revealed another "shabby double standard" by criticizing Bush's 9/11 response but letting Obama off the hook yesterday. And Hot Air's Ed Morrissey, also comparing the incident to Bush's "Pet Goat" moment, said that Obama acted as if the "shooting has intruded itself on his daily business."
Indeed, watching the press conference live yesterday, we were a little surprised that Obama didn't jump right into his remarks on Fort Hood. Offering introductory pleasantries and shout-outs just didn't seem to jibe with the gravity of the situation. That said, the comparison to Bush's "Pet Goat" moment seems like a stretch. With Bush, the 9/11 attacks were an ongoing threat, and required immediate action from the president to coordinate a military response. Every second he continued to read to children was a second without a commander-in-chief. On the other hand, the response to the Fort Hood attacker was carried out by base security and local law enforcement, and by the time Obama made his remarks, the gunman had been neutralized. His choice wasn't between action and delay, but between offering condolences at 5:01 p.m. or 5:03 p.m. making his offense not much more than a failure of decorum.