The top story today at Fox News' website (complete with an image set up in the Fox-embraced "LOLCats" style) is about "Bush's Best Kept Secret." Normally, Bush's best kept secrets are about horrible war crimes, and they are revealed by New York Times reporters who are then labeled traitors. In this case, however, Bush's big secret is that "while the nation's commander in chief waged two wars against terror, he -- along with Vice President Cheney -- also was leading a secret mission of comfort." Oy.
Fox's account basically rehashes a recent Washington Times article, re-relating:
According to The Washington Times, the self-described "comforter in chief" said it's his duty as president to try to help as "best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish."
The Times notes that people familiar with Bush's routine say he has written letters personally to every one of the families of the more than 4,000 troops who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. The hours of his time taken to do that and to meet with family members of troops killed in action has forced Bush to rely on his wife, Laura, for emotional support, the president said.
The Times original is similarly hagiographic, but it at least includes the not-trivial detail that the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was "a symbol of controversy earlier in his presidency over the quality of care the veterans were receiving." That quality of care was abysmal, by the way, as documented in depth by the Washington Post.
Of course, both accounts gloss over the shabby treatment veterans have received from the Bush administration. Most significantly, Bush opposed an expansion of the G.I. Bill that drew bipartisan support in Congress until it became clear that he could not scuttle it, after which he brazenly attempted to take credit for its passage. In recent days, veterans' groups have had to sue the Bush administration to procure benefits, the suit "coming on the heels of the discovery that veterans' benefit claims forms [were found] to have been shredded in regional offices nationwide."
In addition, the Veterans' Affairs Department, under Bush, has been notably hostile to voter registration drives at vets' facilities. And veterans seeking medical help for mental health diagnoses continue to struggle to get treatment.
Asked for reaction, Brandon Friedman of VoteVets had this to say about Bush's legacy of "comfort":
Unfortunately for the President, writing 4,000 letters will do nothing to remove the stain of waging an unnecessary and destructive war from his legacy. Nor will 500 family meetings make up for the many substantive lapses in care for veterans and their families over which this president has presided. From the fiasco at Walter Reed, to the opposition to the new GI Bill, to the gross mishandling of care and claims for wounded vets at the VA, this administration has broken faith with its combat veterans time and again. Therefore, proclaiming himself to be the "Comforter-in-Chief" as he visits Walter Reed is just plain insulting. This is reminiscent of the time President Bush decided that his idea of "sacrifice" was to give up golf while the troops were fighting. After eight years in office and seven years of war, it's painfully clear that he still doesn't get the military, veterans, or their families.
Whatever the extent of Bush's "mission of comfort," one cannot dispute that he's done a fine job keeping it a secret.