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Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., blasted President George W. Bush on the floor of the U.S. Senate today for landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to give a speech on the successes of the war in Iraq.
“I am loath to think of an aircraft carrier being used as an advertising backdrop for a presidential political slogan, and yet that is what I saw,” Byrd told his colleagues, calling the event “flamboyant showmanship.”
Bush passes through ‘side boys’ after successful trap on USS Lincoln
Thursday, Bush was flown onto the carrier, which was returning to San Diego after duty in the Persian Gulf, aboard an S-3B Viking jet. It was the first time a president has made a tailhook landing on such a vessel. He emerged from the jet dressed in a flight suit, enthusiastically pumping the hands of crewmen. He later addressed the nation from the deck of the carrier to declare an end to major fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Byrd, who at 85 is the Senate’s most senior member, contrasted Bush’s speech with the “dignity” of the Gettysburg Address, delivered by the president for whom the carrier was named.
“I do not begrudge his salute to America’s warriors aboard the carrier Lincoln, for they have performed bravely … but I do question the motives of a desk-bound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech,” he said.
“This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial.”
President Bush poses with sailors on flight deck of USS Lincoln
Continued Byrd, “To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the president to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech.”
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said today Bush wanted “to see an aircraft landing the same way that the pilots saw an aircraft landing. He wanted to see it as realistically as possible.”
Before concluding his floor speech, Byrd referenced a verse in the Bible:
“We are reminded in the gospel of Saint Luke, ‘For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’ Surely the same can be said of any American president. We expect, nay demand, that our leaders be scrupulous in the truth and faithful to the facts. We do not seek theatrics or hyperbole. We do not require the stage management of our victories.”