As we reported earlier — and you no doubt have heard by now in any case — today Islamic State fighters killed one of our Navy SEALs in Iraq, in what was characterizes as an “extremely heavy, extremely intense” firefight with U.S. forces and Kurdish Peshmerga troops.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking from Germany, said of the loss, “It is a combat death, of course. And a very sad loss.” He added, “It shows you the serious fight that we have to wage in Iraq.”
Meanwhile, back at the White House, what do you think the Obama administration is focused on today?
White House spokesman Josh Earnest led off his briefing Tuesday with an announcement about President Obama’s impending visit to Flint, Michigan, but he made no mention of the the U.S. Navy SEAL killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq until questioned on the matter.
First announcement at WH press briefing is about Obama’s trip to Flint, not about the Navy SEAL killed in combat today
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) May 3, 2016
Earnest often begins briefings without announcements, but he made a point of specifically detailing Obama’s trip Wednesday to Flint to discuss the town’s water crisis, as well as tout the administration’s response to the matter.Earnest went into great detail about each of the president’s
“As you all know, the president will travel to Flint, Michigan tomorrow,” Earnest said. “He will stop first at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, to receive a briefing on the response to the crisis from federal officials and members of the unified command group. The food bank has helped more than 300,000 people in the last year and has become a critical hub in the response to the crisis. The facility coordinates the intake of basic supplies like water and food, and packages meals and hygienic products for distribution to the community.”
“The president will then take part in a neighborhood roundtable discussion, where he will hear from Flint residents dealing firsthand with the impact of the crisis,” he continued. “The president will also deliver remarks to a crowd of about 1,000 people at Northwestern High School, which is located in predominately African-American North Flint. At the direction of President Obama, a wide variety of federal agencies have been on the front lines responding to this crisis. FEMA has distributed more than 9 million liters of water and 50,000 water filters. Medicaid coverage has been expanded to everyone under the age of 21 in Flint.”
“HHS has extended funding to expand capacity at Head Start centers and community health care centers in Flint,” Earnest said. “The EPA has surged resources to significantly expand water-testing and to offer additional technical advice as needed, and advantages like SPA and HUD have stepped up their support to the community that’s weathering a pretty significant economic fallout from the crisis as well. As the president noted in his letter last week to Mari Copeny, known around town as Little Miss Flint, Flint residents need to know that when the cameras are gone, the administration’s support for the state and local support response efforts will continue, and the president looks forward to meeting with Mari and her family while he’s in Flint tomorrow as well.”
Obama’s trip would seem designed to portray Democrat leadership as addressing this horrible problem that is now also taking on racial and class undertones. Even the United Nations is considering whether to get involved after U.N. human rights experts in Switzerland said that racism and class discrimination may have played a key role in the scandal.
While we can all welcome something being done about this issue that should never have happened in the first place in the United States, Earnest’s detailing of the president’s trip is an exercise in public relations exercise, not to be mistaken for addressing the root of the problem.
While we might have expected, or at least hoped, the White House could stray from its self-promoting agenda briefly to acknowledge the death of our U.S. Navy SEAL proactively — rather than waiting to be asked — guess we should know better by now where our brave men and women in uniform fit into his priorities.
Not only did Earnest need to be asked about the incident before acknowledging it — and reading rotely from his script, even the part of condolences, which you think could come — the White House still refuses to classify the role of U.S. troops in Iraq as combat. Apparently, they prefer the euphemism, “dangerous work.”
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]