The Dumbest Controversy Ever

The New York Times eats up several column inches on what has to be the pettiest controversy of recent memory — The Case Of The Missing Applause. As I remarked during my live blog, the lack of reaction to George Bush’s speech appeared planned, as Bush spoke at a more rapid pace than normal, without the usual politician pauses that these addresses have. Carl Cameron confirmed immediately afterwards that the audience had been told to hold off on any reaction.
Apparently no one else thought to check that out, at least at the NY Times, which results in this David Sanger report:

So what happened to the applause?
When President Bush visits military bases, he invariably receives a foot-stomping, loud ovation at every applause line. At bases like Fort Bragg – the backdrop for his Tuesday night speech on Iraq – the clapping is often interspersed with calls of “Hoo-ah,” the military’s all-purpose, spirited response to, well, almost anything.
So the silence during his speech was more than a little noticeable, both on television and in the hall. On Wednesday, as Mr. Bush’s repeated use of the imagery of the Sept. 11 attacks drew bitter criticism from Congressional Democrats, there was a parallel debate under way about whether the troops sat on their hands because they were not impressed, or because they thought that was their orders.

Not only was that apparent from the moment that Bush walked into the auditorium — the troops stood at attention, and didn’t utter a peep when Bush had them sit — but as I noted, his delivery made it obvious that he planned on no interruptions. The Fort Bragg soldiers maintained the discipline requested by their officers and the White House. Yet somehow this has become an embarrassment for the Bush administration:

Republicans moved quickly to respond to what was becoming a significant embarrassment.
Capt. Tom Earnhardt, a public affairs officer at Fort Bragg who participated in the planning for the president’s trip, said that from the first meetings with White House officials there was agreement that a hall full of wildly cheering troops would not create the right atmosphere for a speech devoted to policy and strategy.
“The guy from White House advance, during the initial meetings, said, ‘Be careful not to let this become a pep rally,’ ” Captain Earnhardt recalled in a telephone interview. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, confirmed that account.

If the same soldiers had greeted Bush with wild cheers and hoo-ahs, or had repeatedly interrupted the speech with cheers, we’d be hearing that the White House had secretly arranged that reception. Instead, we now have Clapgate, which doesn’t have nearly the fun that such a monicker might suggest, where the big question is who initiated the applause that followed the one line where Bush told the nation that we would stay in the fight to the finish.
Well, this certainly qualifies as a national emergency. Can we say, “Slow News Day”?
If any of the soldiers at Fort Bragg has information on what happened, please e-mail me from your military e-mail accounts before the conspiracy theorists spin this into a passive mutiny against the current Commander-In-Chief. I guarantee readers that within 24 hours, that’s exactly how this meme will be spun in the more radical corners of the political arena.

12 thoughts on “The Dumbest Controversy Ever”

  1. President Bush on Iraq

    You can read the full text of President Bush’s speech at Fort Bragg, NC here.
    Some important parts:
    Our mission in Iraq is clear. We are hunting down the terrorists. We are helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. …

  2. ApplauseGate?

    In a post titled, “The Dumbest Controversy Ever”, Ed Morrissey writes that “The New York Times eats up several column inches on what has to be the pettiest controversy of recent memory — The Case Of The Missing Applause.”:from the…

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