White Home Says Marines at Biden Speech Meant to Present ‘Respect’ for Army

The White Home is defending itself from criticism of getting two Marines stand behind President Joe Biden throughout a speech Thursday evening wherein he castigated “MAGA Republicans,” saying the president was making an attempt to honor the army.

“The presence of the Marines on the speech was supposed to reveal the deep and abiding respect the president has for these service members, to those beliefs and the distinctive function our unbiased army performs in defending our democracy irrespective of which celebration is in energy,” White Home Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned at a briefing Friday.

It isn’t uncommon for presidents to encompass themselves with the army for a speech, even arguably political ones. Biden’s predecessor, former President Donald Trump, frequently flouted norms meant to guard the army from politics, together with putting tanks on the Lincoln Memorial for a serious political speech. However Biden got here into workplace particularly vowing to revive these norms and protect service members from politics.

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At challenge is a speech Biden gave Thursday evening outdoors Independence Corridor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that the White Home described as being in regards to the “continued battle for the soul of the nation.” Earlier than Biden and first girl Jill Biden got here on stage, two Marines walked by means of a doorway and flanked the doorway. They stayed there, within the body of tv and livestream cameras, during the speech as Independence Corridor was draped in a pink mild.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans characterize an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden mentioned within the speech, utilizing the abbreviation of Trump’s “Make America Nice Once more” marketing campaign slogan.

On the finish of the speech, the Marines saluted Biden as he and the primary girl walked again inside after which adopted them into the constructing. The Marine Band, also referred to as “The President’s Personal,” was additionally on the speech however out of body.

The Marine Corps referred questions on its service members’ presence on the speech to the White Home.

A lot of the criticism of Biden on Thursday evening got here from Republicans who mentioned little when Trump used the army as a prop.

“The one factor worse than Biden’s speech trashing his fellow residents is wrapping himself in our flag and Marines to do it,” tweeted Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who was nominated for a place within the Trump administration however by no means confirmed.

Presidents routinely use the army as a backdrop in speeches, however it turns into a problem when these speeches are partisan, mentioned Peter Feaver, a civil-military relations professional at Duke College who was a White Home adviser to former President George W. Bush.

“It is also not one thing that may be a big scandal or big disaster,” Feaver advised Army.com. “Each president has dedicated this minor foul on civil-military phrases, so in that sense, it isn’t an enormous deal. Nevertheless it additionally would have been no downside by any means to maintain these Marines out of the body.”

“If the president had been giving a speech about the necessity to confront international threats or the necessity to increase the protection finances or a straight nationwide security-related speech, possibly it would not have been inappropriate to have them there,” Feaver added. “When it turns into partisan, that is when the army must be taken out of the body.”

Bush, for instance, was closely criticized for his notorious “Mission Completed” speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, which had the nationwide safety aspect of declaring an finish to main fight operations in Iraq however which critics known as a political stunt.

Trump incessantly politicized the army all through his presidency, from utilizing the Pentagon’s Corridor of Heroes to signal a ban on journey from Muslim-majority nations within the first week of his tenure to advocating the usage of troops to quell racial justice protests in summer season 2020.

Army leaders additionally took warmth for getting into the political maelstrom throughout the Trump administration, most notably when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, whereas sporting fight fatigues, accompanied Trump on a stroll to a photograph op after legislation enforcement violently cleared protesters out of the realm in entrance of the White Home in June 2020. Milley later apologized.

The Marine Corps additionally briefly grew to become embroiled in politics in August 2020 when the Republican Nationwide Conference aired a video of a naturalization ceremony on the White Home wherein two Marines had been seen opening the door for Trump. On the time, the Marine Corps disregarded criticism by saying the service members had been performing their official obligation of “opening doorways for the president.”

It is unclear from video of Biden’s speech whether or not the Marines there have been additionally doing an official door opening, and neither the Marine Corps nor the White Home answered Army.com’s query about whether or not the Marines had been fulfilling that perform. Feaver mentioned it will not be uncommon for the army to journey with the president to carry out a “ceremonial function,” however selecting to depart them in body after that was a “mistake.”

Biden did not mince phrases when he took workplace about not politicizing the army.

“I’ll by no means dishonor you. I’ll by no means disrespect you. I’ll by no means politicize the work you do,” Biden mentioned in a speech on the Pentagon within the first month of his presidency.

Along with saying Biden was making an attempt to respect the army, the White Home additionally pushed again on criticism by arguing his speech was not political and by pointing to different presidents’ use of service members in speeches.

“Standing up for democracy isn’t political,” Jean-Pierre mentioned. “It’s truly regular for presidents from both aspect of the aisle to present speeches in entrance of members of the army, together with President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush. It isn’t an uncommon sight or isn’t an uncommon occasion to have occurred.”

— Rebecca Kheel might be reached at rebecca.kheel@army.com. Comply with her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

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