Fox News is manufacturing outrage over Obama's decision not to attend the commemoration ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and baselessly speculating that Obama's resentment over the nation's unfinished business “in bringing the country and its races together” may be the cause. In fact, William Howard Taft is the only sitting president to have ever visited Gettysburg on the anniversary of the address.
Fox News's Brian Kilmeade discussed with Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger whether it is “inappropriate for our president to bypass” the commemoration ceremony of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address during the November 19 edition of Fox & Friends. At one point Kilmeade asked whether Henninger thought Obama was refusing to attend because “after that address and after the Civil War we still weren't a perfect union? We still had to wait for the Civil Rights Act and so many -- the integration of schools, Brown vs. the Board of Education?” Henninger replied, “I think probably that President Obama does think the unfinished business remains unfinished in bringing the country and its races together.”
But Obama's decision not to attend the Gettysburg commemoration ceremony is typical for a sitting president. President Reagan did not attend the 125th commemoration of the Gettysburg Address - in fact, Reagan never visited Gettysburg during his tenure in office. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also never visited the battlefield as president, and President George W. Bush toured the site in 2008, but did not speak or attend a commemoration ceremony. In fact, according to Hanover, Pennsylvania's local paper, The Evening Sun, William Howard Taft was the only sitting president to ever visit the site on the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (emphasis added):
According to documents supplied by the Adams County Historical Society, 16 presidents have visited Gettysburg while they were in office -- Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863; Rutherford B. Hayes on May 30, 1878; Grover Cleveland May 4, 1885; Theodore Roosevelt on May 30, 1904; William H. Taft on Nov. 19, 1909; Woodrow Wilson on July 3, 1913; Warren G. Harding on July 1, 1922; Calvin Coolidge on May 30, 1928; Herbert Hoover on May 30, 1930; Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 30, 1934, and July 3, 1938; Harry S. Truman on July 6, 1946; Dwight D. Eisenhower on Nov. 13, 1955; John F. Kennedy on March 31, 1963; Richard M. Nixon on April 3, 1972; Jimmy Carter on July 6 and Sept. 11, 1978, and George W. Bush on Sept. 6, 2008.
The National Journal's George Condon reported of presidential visits to Gettysburg, “not all went willingly, and all tried to avoid speech comparisons with Lincoln.”
Attacking Obama for this type of perceived snub is nothing new. In June 2010, Fox host Gretchen Carlson hyped Obama's supposed “perception problem” because he “did not acknowledge the D-Day anniversary as it passed this year,” while ignoring the fact that Obama's D-Day commemorations mirror the Bush administration's; both commemorated D-Day on significant anniversaries but not annually.
In fact, Fox has routinely set up a double standard for Obama, attacking his actions even when they mirror those of previous Republican presidents. Fox News has criticized President Obama for shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, but ignored President Bush's handshake with Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov; scrutinized Obama's church attendance -- while ignoring Bush's infrequent church attendance; and asked whether Obama was “disrespecting the Oval Office,” because of a picture showing him with his feet up on the office's desk, though a nearly identical photo shows Bush doing the same thing.