Should presidents use wounded soldiers as political props?
U.S. Army Ranger Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg gets a standing ovation during the State of the Union. Photo: (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
One of the most moving moments during this year's State of the Union address was when U.S. Army Ranger Sergeant Cory Remsburg received a two minute standing ovation after being praised by President Obama.
Remsburg was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2009. As ABC News reports, the explosion left him in a three-month coma and rendered him partially-paralyzed and brain damaged. After daily physical and speech therapy, Remsburg can walk and speak again.
Obama used the solider as a symbol of how America "never gives up" and "does not quit."
But was he right to invoke Remsburg this way?
The "hero in the balcony" has been a feature of nearly every State of the Union address since Ronald Reagan pointed to Lenny Skutnik in 1982 to commend him for rescuing a woman in the freezing Potomac river after a plane crash.
There's no argument that it was a very emotional moment. As Andrew Sullivan noted, "I've heard several presidents invoke military heroism in their speeches. I cannot recall one so moving."
But there was something also very different about Remsburg.
At TIME, Nick Gillespie (the editor-in-chief of libertarian Reason.com) puts it most clearly:
The politicians who spent two minutes saluting Remsburg seemed to evade responsibility for putting him there in the first place.
Sure Remsburg could be a symbol of a nation that doesn't quit. But he could also be a symbol of a nation that sometimes makes tragic mistakes as well.
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